It’s the end of 2019 and plans for 2020 are forming in the back of my mind as I attempt to focus on writing to finish the first novel in my new series, currently called The Missing.
Confession: this blog post is actually a form of procrastination. So I’m going to try to be concise a do a bulleted list.
What did I do in 2019?
- released Fierce Justice
- completed edits on Forever Strong
- drafted the intro novella to The Missing
- hopefully finished drafting the 1st novel of The Missing (in progress)
- started physical therapy for nerve issues and extreme, chronic pain in my hands and arms due to issues in my neck/back/shoulders
- starting learning to write via dictation
- re-released 4 novellas formerly under my PJ Schnyder name
- instructor and staff on the Writing Excuses workshop and retreat cruise
- guest speaker at Surrey International Writer’s Conference
- signing author at ApollyCon
- featured author at Book Lovers Con
- re-launched my Patreon to share task management & project planning, as well as lessons learned in writing via dictation
Those are the highlights, with a whole lot of hard work and some crazy obstacles to overcome behind the scenes.
It’s been a rough year, struggling with depression and anxiety along the way, and I am going to let 2019 go in the rear view mirror without too much examination. I’m also not going to plan too much about 2020 before it actually begins.
So that’s the end of 2019 and plans for 2020 are?
My focus will be on health, balance, and my writing. I want to dive into my writing and savor the joy of it.
There will be fewer cons or book signings and more writing retreats.
I love my readers and I’m pretty sure you all love me primarily for my books, so I’m going to focus on writing more.
Speaking of savoring…
Updates to Patreon
Sharing my journey in learning to write via dictation, as well as my tips on project planning and task management, has worked out well on Patreon. I intend to continue into 2020.
Based on a whole lot of stress cooking in 2019, with plenty of pics posted to my Facebook profile and Instagram feeds, the subsequent requests for recipes, then private messages from people asking me for those recipes again later when they couldn’t find the FB post where I’d provided the recipe or at least guidelines of what I did (because a lot of my cooking doesn’t involve me following a recipe) … I’ll be sharing recipes or relate how I cooked a dish on my Patreon, made available to public.
This means you don’t have to join a paid tier to have access to those posts, only follow me on Patreon. Patrons who did join a paid tier will have early access to my cooking posts, then the posts will be available to the public after a bit of time. Either way, it’s an easy place to go find those recipes and cooking instructions.
I will be adding a paid tier for those interested in vlogs (videos) of me cooking various favorite dishes, especially food I’ve included in my books as part of my character building. Shenanigans are sure to occur as I have fun with this and I cannot predict just how many bloopers are going to happen but I promise not to edit them out. Look to join the “Trail Cache” tier, or any of the higher tiers on my Patreon for access to those videos.
Yes, I’ve decided. I’m resurrecting Patreon as one of my platforms.
About time management and project planning…
I’d retired it some time ago until I could regroup and consider how Patreon might fit into what I do between my day job and writing careers. And recently, I’ve had a lot of questions come to me about when I’m going to teach more classes or hold more workshops on time management and project planning, particularly as they could be used by writers. There’s a lot of writers who are balancing a day job career with a writing career. Add in life, and family, and friends and finding time gets complicated.
I do teach at least once a year, maybe twice, at various conferences. But not everyone can attend those conferences or the workshops/panels that I might be presenting due to scheduling conflicts. I get a lot of requests for online courses or even asked when I’m going to write a nonfiction book on the topic of time management and project planning for writers.
I don’t have the bandwidth to offer those things and still be able to meet my deadlines for the fiction I love to write. So Patreon came to mind as a platform that would be great for sharing this kind of information in bite-size pieces throughout the year.
And writing via dictation…
I am also learning to find a new normal in my life due to medical challenges and the need to drastically change the way I write… anything. I started to try learning dictation earlier this year, just about the same time I started physical therapy. So I got the basics down. But as soon as the physical therapy started to help me get back my functionality with my hands and I could type again for short periods of time, I went back to typing my manuscripts.
That’s not sustainable.
I will experience flareups in my future and my physical condition will deteriorate. So I really, really need to learn how to dictate now, not later.
Wonderfully generous people have given me their advice, their insights, and some great tips and tricks. I need to practice in order to incorporate what they shared with me. I need to make dictation and writing via dictation a habit. And writing via dictation, for me, means retraining my brain. Patreon becomes the perfect platform again for my adventures in learning how to dictate. It’ll be a place where I can be accountable while I share my trials and tribulations, what works for me and what really doesn’t.
So. There we have it. I’m resurrecting Patreon and I will be sharing information in two major categories:
- Time management and project planning for writers, particularly with the day job to balance with their writing.
- My progress as I learn writing via dictation, the tips and tricks I pick up along the way, and lessons learned.
If you’re interested in what I have to share or would like to join me on this journey, I hope you’ll subscribe to my Patreon. I’ll see you there.
I strongly believe in the value of crit partners and beta readers. I also believe in gaining alignment and setting expectations upfront. Especially when those of us in the writerly world occasionally exchange reads, what’s needed in a critique varies from author to author.
Here’s a few insights into what I’m looking for in a beta read or critique. YMMV.
Descriptive vs. Prescriptive
In my day job, I’m often gathering user requirements and communicating the use case to our product team and software developers. I’m very careful to present what a user is trying to do and what their experience is using the software and how the software isn’t meeting the user’s needs. What I don’t do is tell the product team or software developers how to fix the issue. They write the code, not me, and I would break a whole lot of things in the software if I tried to tell them how to fix a thing.
When I look at my writing, I find Mary Robinette Kowal‘s take on critique very handy. She describes three types of feedback:
- Symptoms – This made me feel this way.
- Diagnosis – This made me feel this way and I think this is why.
- Prescriptions – This made me feel this way, I think this is why, and this is how I think you should fix it.
When I have beta readers looking at my story, I am specifically looking for Symptoms. In particular, I’m looking for Symptoms that can be expressed as:
I didn’t believe this. It just wasn’t plausible to me.
I didn’t care about this or I skimmed this section.
I didn’t understand this.
I highly recommend checking out Mary Robinette’s post and video on both providing and receiving critique. She goes into even more detail on giving critiques and also receiving them.
The compliment sandwich
When I first started providing crits, I was told to always give a compliment sandwich, in which I start with something positive then follow with constructive critical feedback and finally end on a positive note again.
This is a useful tool for those learning to critique. It’s potentially useful forever. Receiving constructive feedback is not just hard, it’s brutal, and balancing the critical commentary with positive or encouraging comments can be incredibly helpful. A danger here is the recipient who focuses only on the compliments in the compliment sandwich and mentally dodges the critical feedback which is essentially the meat of the sandwich. Another challenge is when the complimentary and critical elements conflict, leaving the recipient confused.
Me? I do best with a sort of open-faced sandwich, if that’s not taking the metaphor too far. If you’re ever beta reading for me, please lead with the critical feedback. Don’t hold back calling it out as it happens throughout the text. Go ahead and tell me when something pisses you off or when something confused you. I am happy to hear when you think something is not plausible or if something seems out of character. I definitely want to know and be able to address when I might have written something problematic.
At the same time, I do want to know when something in my book makes you smile or laugh out loud. Bonus points to us both if a foodie moment makes you hungry enough to go get a snack. I need to know about those reactions. I need to know if my emotional elements worked or if they fell flat or were too subtle.
And so, dear crit partners and beta readers…
When it comes to what I’m looking for from crit partners and beta readers, that’s about it. Trust me, that’s already a lot. There might be more I’d be looking for from a subject matter expert or sensitivity reader, yes, and that’s probably an entirely different topic for another day.
I truly appreciate those who take the time to work with me to beta read my work. I hope this was helpful to you too.
It’s time to play Find the Piper at #BLC19! I love New Orleans and it’s one of my favorite places to meet readers and hang out. I’m really looking forward to returning to NOLA for the first Book Lovers Con.
Book Lovers Con has a different set up from many conventions, with reader events open to the general attendees and lottery events designed to make sure readers who signed up in advance have great focused interaction with authors. I did my best to be a part of both kinds of events.
To make playing Find the Piper at #BLC19 easier for those attending, here’s my schedule. I love meeting readers both familiar and new, so please do say Hello!
Faery Make-Up Party
Thursday, May 16, 2019 – 4:30pm to 7:00pm
Wheel of Romance Bingo
Friday, May, 17, 2019 10:00am – 11:30am, Empire A
All Law and No Order
Friday, May 17, 2019 – 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Get A Clue – Win A Squishable
Friday, May, 17, 2019 5:30pm – 6:45pm, Strand 13 B
Book Bash Signing
Saturday, May, 18, 2019 10:30am – 2:00pm, Celestin Ballroom
It Had to Be You
Saturday, May 18, 2019 4:00pm to 5:30pm, Empire C&D
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing’s Forever imprint, readers will receive ULTIMATE COURAGE in various reader events. I’ll have EXTREME HONOR, the first in my True Heroes series, at the Saturday Book Bash. I’ll also be signing TOTAL BRAVERY, the first in the True Heroes series taking our heroes and heroines to Hawaii, and my latest release, FIERCE JUSTICE.
For those who might follow me on Twitter and Facebook, or in my newsletter, you may be aware I’ve been facing new medical challenges this year. My physical therapy has progressed but nerves in my left arm are still making signing (or using my left hand at all) very painful for me. So at Book Lovers Con, I will be signing one book per reader and using a stamp made of my signature for any additional books. I very much hope you all will be understanding.
This year has been complicated. In fact, right now, I’m waking up to the dawn of a new year in one time zone while it is still the previous year in the time zone where I actually live. I’m in between 2018 and 2019 and it’s an interesting time to look back and also to look forward, I think.
Matthew has been talking to me about what drives me. His perspective is valuable to me, not just because of who he is to me as a partner but also because he can observe objectively and provide shrewd insight.
We both agree that I am driven to continually accomplish and achieve, so much so that I run myself ragged. With every story, every deadline, I think if I can just finish this or hit that deadline, I’ll be happy. But then I immediately dive toward the next goal, writing the next story and hitting the next deadline. Where was the happy?
I agree with Matthew that I need to celebrate more. Savor. Be happy about what I’ve accomplished.
What did I do in 2018?
- Moved from Phoenix to Seattle
- released Total Bravery
- turned in Fierce Justice
- turned in Forever Strong
- released Siren’s Calling
- signed a 4 book deal with Sourcebooks
- recorded 20 Minute Delay with Gail Carriger
- featured author at Coastal Magic Convention
- survived pneumonia, again
- panelist at RWA national conference
- survived medical challenges
- instructor and staff on the Writing Excuses workshop and retreat cruise
- panelist at Emerald City Writers Conference
- featured author at Fresh Fiction Readers ‘n Rita’s
There’s more, though those are the highlights. Every book has an entire cycle of draft/edit/revision involved. Every convention or conference has preparation.
I also did all of this in parallel to my day job. I did this while Matthew was away on orders. I managed to keep Corbin and myself fed and in reasonably good health. I even improved both our physical fitness levels. I faced depression and anxiety, learned to recognize what they were doing to me, and am taking steps to navigate through.
That’s awesome. Looking back on 2018, it was a lot of accomplishments in the face of a number of challenges behind the scenes and I did some great things.
I have hopes and dreams. I have ambition.
I want my writing career list to be more focused on actual writing.
I am exploring new genres.
I am trying to remember to celebrate with each accomplishment and enjoy each burst of happiness as I go.