Bye 2018, hello 2019!

I firmly believe looking back at the old year is the best way to start the new year. What to keep up, where to improve routines, what to avoid. I have to admit, I didn’t achieve all I had set out for in 2018, but it hasn’t been a complete failure either.
Here’s the list I drew up in my post at the beginning of 2018:

1) Finish the first draft of my current WIP — nope
2) Read and write more poetry — done
3) Read more in general, especially non-“on-the-craft” books — done
4) Put work into the blog: take-away-points from webinars, blog posts on story structure and character arcs  — partly done
5) submitting non-novel works – poems and possibly short stories – done
6) Use my time effectively and minimise social media procrastination — partly done

Recapping 2018, I realised I did a lot of poetry. That took up a considerable time that I eventually didn’t spend with my WIP. But I enjoyed writing poems. Some are on the blog, others I submitted to a number of magazines, journals and contests. Nothing ever came off it but I did enjoy the work with words. It helped improve my vocabulary and the sense for the English language.
I did read more in 2018, too and exceeded the 25 books Goodreads challenge by two. (27 books seems few? pls keep in mind that I’m a working mom with 2 kids and a household).
I didn’t finish my WIP, though. The focus on poetry took up a lot of time. But I’m aaaaalmost there. Another month and it should be finished.
In terms of social media, I did well with scaling down on Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t do as well with Twitter, though, partly because of the mess world politics is in right now, partly because many people of the writer community are there. I don’t want to quit Twitter, but working on an adequate time spent there is definitely on the list for the new year.
There’s one thing I didn’t note as a to-do for 2018 but am glad I did: I wrote a 5-Year-Plan to map out How to get to where I see myself in 5 years time. Breaking down large goals into achievable bits has helped me a lot.

Here’s what I’m challenging myself to achieve in 2019

1) Finish the first draft of the current WIP (Déjà-vu again) AND get it in shape for submission in 2020. I’m close to finishing the first draft anyway so the emphasis is more on the second part of this goal. Revisions will take time and since I’ve never done it, this will involve reading a few craft-books on this particular topic.
2) Do Goodreads Reading Challenge again. I read 27 books in 2018. Why not aim high? I’ll set the goal to 30 books in 2019.
3) I want to keep up the good work with the blog, but put up less poetry and more story structure posts.
4) In addition to the work on the WIP, I want to write and revise one short story.
5) In the 2nd half of the year, when I have to set aside the revised WIP, I want to outline a new novel (preferably pre-November) and write the first draft of it during NaNoWriMo.
6) And last but not least, the never-ending story of time management and reduce social media procrastination. I want to join the #5amwritersclub again more often, for a start, and use the time I got more wisely.

Now it’s your turn. What’re your goals for the new year? Anything to add? Write to me in the comments.

 

Bullet Journal – a writers approach

During 2017, I got increasingly frustrated with the progress of my WIP despite my regular attendance at #5amwritersclub. I had trouble getting my daily workload organized in a reasonable way and still get some writing done – all day every day something came up and interfered. So, I was searching for a remedy, something new worth trying. In came my first Bullet Journal.

That was in August 2017 and now, almost half a year later, I’m still using it. I’ve written a guest post for the SCBWI Germany/Austria chapter’s blog. Head over there if you want to know how I personalized my Bullet Journal and organize (not only) my writing.

Got a journal yourself? Any ideas how I could improve my journaling? Write me in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!

Webinar – Three interesting talks @ Agent Day

Last Saturday, on 27th of January, the SCBWI-WI team held a half-day webinar featuring advice from three agents, namely Lauren Spieller, Taylor Martindale Kean and Natalie Lakosil.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the webinar at the time it was streamed but the SCBWI WI crew provided a recording of the talks just 24h later and I watched it the following week. Here’s a quick overview of all three sessions.

Lauren Spieller – How to write a decent query letter.

Author herself and an agent with Triada US Literacy agency, Lauren talked about the art of writing a killer query and get agents and editors to request a full manuscript. To do so, she broke down the structure of a query letter and explained basic information that should be given.

The most important thing is: a query letter is a business letter, therefore you should treat it as such. I knew many of the key points Lauren spoke about but here are a few crucial points to keep in mind: the agent wants to be intrigued, don’t tell the ending, don’t include smash-hits as a comp titles even if you think what you wrote is, of course, the next Harry Potter; and double check the triple checked spelling of the agent’s name!

Taylor Martindale Kean – Voice in MG and YA Fiction

Taylor Martindale Kean is with Full Circle Literacy agency and she gave a talk about voice in middle grade and young adult fiction.

What’s voice anyway? It is, in short, what’s gripping about a novel – a certainly intangible concept – and therefore one of the most sought-after achievements in the craft. Yet, no foolproof method for developing said voice exists. As it seems, it’s a matter of practice and, as Taylor put it, a combination of tone, style, and personality that is unique to the author. But there’s hope. At least there are a few approaches one might try and Taylor went ahead and gave her audience an idea where to start looking for one’s very own voice.

My main takeaway from her talk is to strive for a more tangible prose that fits the character’s origin. And of course, reader bonding by keeping the author intrusion at a minimum.

Natalie Lakosil – Tips and Tricks for Quick Revision

In her talk about how to revise a manuscript, Natalie (of Bradford Lit Agency) first pointed out how she likes to broaden the word revision to re-envision. A valid approach, since we often are stuck with the ideas we conceived first. It’s not easy to pinpoint the shortcomings of a manuscript (MS) if you are still deep within its grasp. So, unsurprisingly the first thing to do is to ignore the whole thing a for a while so you can come back with fresh eyes. I read that so often and still think it’s going to be very hard to do it.

What to do during this time, then? Natalie recommends extensive reading in the genre and researching characteristics the MS should meet. Think word count, for example. But looking up comp titles is vital, too. These help to discern what published books have or don’t have and compare it to your own work.

After the resting period, it’s time to revise at last. I can’t possibly list all the advice Natalie gave. The idea that stuck with me most was the Plot Dot Test – I am definitely going to try that one. Other than that I got some good info on improving the tangibility of the prose and working in motifs and symbols.

Natalie’s best advice, however, was to keep in mind your own idea of your story when you judge feedback by peers, beta readers, and even agents. It’s your story after all and impossible to make it perfect for everybody – so you might as well keep a firm grasp on your own idea and focus.

So. This is it–another webinar done and blogged about. I hope it was a good read and held at least a few new insights. Thanks again the SCBWI Wisconsin chapter for all the work in setting up the webinar.

 

 

 

First SCBWI Meeting of 2018

It had been too long, really! I missed out on the meetings of SCBWIAustriaGermany chapter for the last two times (NaNoWriMo and December-holiday-season did not allow me much time), Yesterday, finally, I was headed to Stuttgart to see my fellow writers and, as always, it was a great success.

We met at our usual spot in Stuttgart library, eight ladies in all, and discussed our work. There’s nothing as inspiring as talking to likeminded people about new ideas and see how far others have come, how well their work is progressing and getting feedback on your own project.

During the day I read a number of PB manuscripts that I’ve seen as mere ideas, read at various stages along the road, and that are nearly perfected now. I’ve read a promising idea of a dystopian story and can’t wait to see it grow into a full-fledged manuscript.

Special shout-out to one of our members for a promising honorary mention in SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices Competition. Even if the manuscript did not make it to the finalist this time, I’m absolutely sure it’s bound to happen soon. Fingers crossed!

And to all SCBWI members here in the Austria/Germany chapter as well as all SCBWI folks around the globe: I am proud to be part of your open and friendly community, happy to give feedback and grateful to receive comments on my own work.

Until next month, ladies!

Scrivener Webinar and 5 features I’ll use

I’ve been using Scrivener since early 2016. Back then, I had been unsatisfied with the regular “word files plus project folder” – setup for my writing projects. It just took to long to organize research, pictures or backmatter. Even with the help of bookmarks and Pinterest, it was still a pain to find stuff again that I knew I had already looked up and saved somewhere. So, I gave Scrivener a try and have not looked back since.

But, just as it is often the case with any given application, I don’t use the tool the full extent of its capabilities. There are always some special tricks, features and hidden functionalities I never needed or just don’t know about.

When I stumbled over SCBWI_Dakotas chapter’s webinar on Scrivener, I signed up, positive I’d learn something new. I wasn’t disappointed. (check out their chapter website here – there’re more webinars to come.)

1) Split Document with ⌘K

When importing an already full or partially written manuscript (e.g. from MSword) to Scrivener, I’ve always assumed I had to specially format the original file with parseable identifiers and import using these to get one text documents per chapter in Scrivener.

Turns out, there’s an easier way: Import the whole text. In the text, click where you want your new chapter to start. Press ⌘K and voilá! Scrivener divides the document into two at this point.

2) Colour code documents and folders in the binder

I had used labels in Scrivener before but these only always showed up as a smallish ribbon on the folder card or notecard when the corkboard view was active. But when I’m actually writing and not outlining anymore,  I rarely use the corkboard view.

Turns out, there’s a way to show the label colour in the binder. In the menu go to the View tab. In the fifth section, you’ll find the submenu “Use label colour in….” Check binder here and say hello to a colourful binder!

3) Drag and drop matter from outside the application directly to Scrivener

It’s not that I’ve never used drag&drop across application before – I just wasn’t aware it would work with Scrivener, too and used the import function in the file menu.

Instead, it’s just as easy as you might imagine. Just plug any other document, URL or item directly to the place in the binder where you need it.

4) Compare snapshots of your documents

I already use snapshots. A lot! As in ten plus snapshots for certain scenes and I’m not even in the revision process. I just tend to rewrite often. It’s a stupid habit, I know, but well… *shrug*

Whenever I notice I’ve changed some phrase or sentence and want back the former version, I’d select the old snapshot and scroll until I’d find it.

Turns out, there’s a compare button. I’ve no idea why I ignored it so long without even trying it once. Now I know better.

5) Session and Manuscript targets

If only I had known this last November and keeping track of my progress during NaNoWriMo would have been a lot easier. There’s even a “allow negatives” checkbox.

Well, NaNoWriMo is done but I’ll make use of this feature anyway. Part of my goals for 2018 is to keep track of my progress in more detail – not only the time spent writing but the actual output, too. I believe I’ll get more done if I keep myself accountable. This is going to be easier now. Yay!

What else was new?

The webinar reminded me of the “composition mode.” I’ve used that before, too, but not as often as it would make sense. I’m planning on spending more time writing in this distraction-free mode.

Last but not least, I’ve learned there’s a new Scrivener version. I’ll have to check that out! Who knows what else I’m missing otherwise.

What about you? Do you (still) use MSWord or something else? Let me know!

7 things done, 7 things to do

If you believe the multiple motivational posts flooding the social media feeds in the early days of the year, one only has to dream big and fantastic success will come forth. Neat, eh? But it’s not all that easy. Even good intentions derived from the Big Dream won’t take you anywhere soon if you only dream them up but fail to follow up.

So, before I go ahead and think about what to strive for in 2018, let’s see what I did in 2017, concerning my journey as a writer. What did I do that I am proud of? Here’s a short list of my favourite personal achievements in 2017.

  1. I’ve routinely joined the #5amwritersclub. Getting up early, about 4:30am, yielded me a sizeable amount of time to write; a time I was lacking the years ago. I developed the habit back in late 2016, but in the last year, I was more often successful in banishing my “inneren Schweinehund” and conquer my sleep-deprived-weaker self. Not every day, but consistently enough.
  2. I wrote, finished and submitted a short story to a contest. That was a first for me. Nothing came off it, but it was an interesting experience. I also wrote my first poem in English, and for good measure, I submitted it to three contests.
  3. I’ve attended eight meetings of the Germany/Austria chapter of SCBWI – a group of fellow writers who never cease to motivate me, went to Frankfurt Book Fair and the book launch of fabulous Melinda Salisbury.
  4. I put down the WIP I was working on all through 2016/2017. A hard decision at the time, but the right one. I’m glad I set the story aside (for the time being). This left me free to launch my current WIP, a story I’m much more comfortable with, given my skill level. I’ve worked on this new project for about 8 months now, and the manuscript is already further developed than the old WIP ever was.
  5. I wrote ten blog posts (meh, too few), with the post about my take on DC’s Wonder Woman story structure and character arch being the most read.
  6. I attended 6 webinars (4 via SCBWI, 2 via other hosts/websites). Not all were equally helpful. I posted about the take-away-points of one already and a recap for “A place in fiction” is scheduled for the end of the month.
  7. I won NaNoWriMo, though I worked with my current WIP instead of a new project.

This being said, let me see what I’d like to do in 2018, besides reaching for the stars, that is.

  1. I want to finish the first draft of my current WIP. Déjà-vu, eh? Well, I guess it’s a never-ending story. After the story is before the story or rather the main character is dead! Long live the main character.
  2. I want to read and write more poetry. I want to read more in general, especially books and texts that don’t belong in the “on the craft” category.
  3. My website needs some work. I want to update and/or change the about-me-page and increase the number of blog posts.
  4. #3 will work fine with the plan to keep attending webinars and share my take-away-points afterwards. Same goes for blog posts on structure and character arch found in movies and from books.
  5. I started submitting smaller works in 2017 and want to keep that up. While I’m not ready to start submitting the book, I want to do so with poems and possibly short stories.
  6. I’ve decided to reduce the hours at my day job to further increase my time writing. To use the won time effectively, I plan to hold myself accountable for the time spent actually writing. For that, I’ll keep using my bullet journal, tracking not only word count, but hours spent on the project, too.
  7. Last but not least: minimise procrastination. Ha! Yeah, right… Twitter, Insta, Facebook… the lot keeps stealing my time. I’m still not sure how to tackle this, but I’ve got another year ahead to figure something out.

The most important item on the list is without a doubt #6. On multiple occasions I’ve read the sentence: If you want to be a successful author, you need to treat it like a proper job. Writing is work; hard one day and fun the next. I want to make the most of the hours I got.

What about you out there? What did you achieve last year, and where do you want to go in 2018? Whatever, wherever that is – I hope it’s going to be a fun ride.

New year, new goals.

Happy New Year to you, dear reader!
I hope you spent the last moments of 2017 and the first moments of 2018 with your loved ones and friends and had the most amazing time. I certainly did. Now, I am looking forward to 2018 for there are some changes ahead.

As the beginning of a new year usually prompts some resolutions and for me one of those for 2018 is to get my blogging routine up to a new level, here I am, posting the first of hopefully many entries on the very first day of the new year.
Fear not, however, I won’t bore you with a list of good intentions (just now). Instead, I’ll review the last “bucket list” I wrote – amazingly, this post dates back to December 2015 and was targeting my plans for 2016. Oops.

Back then, I came up with 8 points for me to strive for and I didn’t do so bad. Here’s the list again:

  1. Get a critique buddy.
  2. Check for German chapter of SCBWI – if there is one, sign up.
  3. Decide on the basic structural frame for WIP
  4. Find something else than MS word for a writing environment.
  5. Stop or at least minimise procrastination.
  6. Find a way to carve out daily writing hours.
  7. Write some more blog posts.
  8. Review this list at least once a month. Maybe the … 14th each month would be an idea and add all things that came up eventually.

So, I did quite well with items 1, 2, 4, and 6.
Yes, there is a SCBWI chapter here in Germany (it’s the Germany/Austria chapter, to be precise) and I’m lucky to have a group of ladies who meet up once a month in the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, just an hour from home. They basically are my critique buddies now and the group has grown considerably during 2017. This is truly amazing and I very lucky to be part of it.
Yes, I did find something else than MS Word – I chose Scrivener in early 2016 and never looked back.
Yes, I did carve out writing hours, even if this turned out to be the hardest part of the game. Hello there, #5amwritersclub. If you are unfamiliar with the hashtag, I recommend you head over to twitter and see for yourself. Or better yet, join us!

For the other four items on the list however – it’s not so easily determined if I succeeded – in the best case, I’m still on it.
I obviously did not live up to item 8, given that I only just now review this list again…
I did not write as many blog posts as I was aiming for. If I reflect on it, I was probably buried in craft books and stepping up my game in the art of writing and did not feel I had much to say.
I did not stop procrastination. Not entirely. But, I am proud of the progress I made and I’m still working on avoiding distractions and better organisation. Some days that works better than other days – I’m sure it’s not only me who feels that way.

And the decision on the structure of my WIP? Ha Ha Ha … yeah, no. I’ve since moved on from the manuscript I was working on in early 2016. I had to admit to myself that I did (and still do) lack the skill level to manage such a huge project. It’s not dead – but it’s sitting, resting, simmering in *the drawer* for now. I still love the world and the characters and the ideas about it but it’ll have to wait. I will come back to this particular story when I got some more experience under my belt.

I’m going to draw up a new bucket list for 2018 in the next days – just to write down some task and goals I want to achieve in the upcoming year.

Without a goal, there’s no direction for your efforts, right?