Finish the Damn Book! – a review

Time for another book review in this new style post that’s not on a Thursday. And this was one of the few non-fiction reads planned for 2019. Plans are like rules, of course.

Finish the Damn Book!: An Inspirational Guide to Writing

by

Martin McConnell (Goodreads Author)

This isn’t about grammar or syntax, it’s a wake up call for anyone wanting to write a book, create artwork, or craft lyrics and poetry.

Write faster, improve faster, and create poetic prose through this iterative process.

New writers often struggle at first. Experience enhances writing ability. The only way to improve is to write more, edit more, and iterate. McConnell puts you on the fast track to developing your writing skills and gives you the motivation needed to overcome not only writers block, but to boost your productivity in all aspects of life.

The biggest obstacle to becoming an author is finishing the first draft, and that monster known as ‘writers block’ is usually the scapegoat. This book will show you how to put that monster in the corner while you crank out chapter after chapter.

It’s short, fun to read, and will leave you reaching for an ink pen by the time you’re done. Put away the distractions and excuses and finish that damn book!

Review 3.5 stars

 Finish the Damn book! is a short motivational book that was what I needed to get me back to the keyboard of creativity – well almost. It might be focused on new writers, but writers struggling with monsters like ‘writer’s block’ and ‘prevarication’ will get a kick out of the forthright lessons – a kick in the ass as the author says.

McConnell doesn’t mince his words in delivering his honest message, albeit one that some of us have heard often – and ignored. The book is neatly divided into two parts: ‘The First Draft’ and ‘Post Draft’ with useful appendices for further digging. Getting your first draft down without distractions, excuses, and evasions, is the primary goal in simple suggestions that rang true for me. Only when that first draft is finished can a writer tackle the editing phase – harder but fun.

This isn’t a writing guide with detailed steps on what to do, but a series of motivational kicks to keep you on the path of getting a book finished. Like me, other writers might find that McConnell’s productivity is daunting and some of his suggestions questionable. Yet, he advises taking what we need and discarding things that don’t fit with our approach. But there are warnings of dangers when we wander. Just don’t expect everything claimed on the tin.

This isn’t a desk-bible for me, but when I wander off-piste I will dip back in. Four stars minus 0.5 for irritating editing mistakes – like ‘reigns’ for ‘reins’. Given the author’s editing suggestions, I was surprised.

I won this book in a NaNoWriMo-related competition with no obligation to write anything – but I am grateful to Martin McConnell for sending me a copy. And my NaNo wins prove to me that there is value here.

#IWSG – Questions, Questions and more Questions 

Created and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

Apologies for the two weeks of silence, but it was those midwinter distractions, and even now I feel inundated with emails that subtly hint at what I should be doing.

But I hesitate to reflect on 2018 or make resolutions for 2019. Okay, I may review my reading tomorrow and I have resolved decided to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel. But more about that another day/week/month.

First, the IWSG post which got me scribbling in my little black notepad over midwinter-fest.

January 2 question – What are your favourite and least favourite questions people ask you about your writing?

“What are you writing now?” is my favourite question and lets me ramble about my WIP – or attempt to explain it as briefly as possible. Answer: Fevered Few

“Why haven’t you published anything since 2013?” is THE question that I dread so my least favourite. Answer: Because I take years to finish anything and change novels mid-edit.

“So, you never submit anything?” annoys me because I dislike the Answer: Nothing of value it seems.

“Why are you being rejected?” is another least favourite, and enough to make me feel dejected. Answer: What do you think?

“But you’ve been a winner?” is a question/comment that hovers midway between favourite and not. Answer: This is a chance to crow about a writing prize as a kid and the giveaways that make up my TBR pile. Or the point when I confess that my writing has yet to win a prize this century – so, that’s why I’m an Insecure Writer in an Ace group called IWSG.

And now the real question: “What are the questions to ask – or not ask – about your writing?”

***

The awesome co-hosts for the January 2 posting of the IWSG are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you

#IWSG – Spring Inspiration

IWSGBadge

Another month and another IWSG post. Well, not just any month but the Blogging from A to Z Challenge month, so I managed to write 26 posts and got them scheduled on the correct days. But enough of that – I’ll post my reflections on the Challenge next week – this is an IWSG monthly past.

May 2 question – It’s spring!

Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

Of course, Spring inspires me – to get outside and soak up the sunshine. And yes, Spring is here, and the little grey cells are sparking – despite the MS. Okay, I have my struggles with the misfiring nervous system, and my brain loses direction and thoughts. I forget what I am doing, my fingers hit too many wrong keys, and my body must sleep sporadically or suffer the painful body-wrenching attacks.

Officially, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Spring arrived on March 20, 2018. That means that the Spring Equinox must have set all those A-to-Z posts in motion.

I’ve even used the last few days to devise a cunning plan. Did Baldrick help with that?

Baldrick_thumbnail

The cunning plan: to write a review once a week of one of the books I’ve read and failed to review here. Those reviews will be scheduled for every Thursday.

However, I reserve the right to write other posts – if motivated.

What about the deviously cunning Fates Maelstrom plans? Not abandoned or shelved but extended.

I wrote draft one of Book 3 in the Snowdon Shadows series for NaNoWriMo last November. Then I started editing Fates Maelstrom in December, developing all the ideas needed for the final draft prior to beta-reading.

That has led to Goth Patrol, a short story about the main protagonist, policewoman Sparkle Anwyl and how she lost her first love and joined the CID. I’m starting on another short, Face Trash, her first case as a detective, fresh from police college. Call these stories ‘character research’.

Or should I publish those stories first?

That’s what Spring does for my devious brain – seeds seeking fertile soil.

[One problem: I need a friend to sit with and chat, face-to-face over a pint or a meal. I lost that when I moved four years ago.]

**

The awesome co-hosts for the May 2 posting of the IWSG are E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

 

 

#IWSG Celebration

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The month seems to have flown by – but then February does that, even when it leaps around…like a March Hare perhaps. That brings us around to another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and my chance to knock my erratic thoughts into the round edges of the IWSG voluntary guidance or prompt:

March 7 question – How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Simple answer: sigh, fall asleep (again), eat a chocolate or eight, then escape into some online game.

(When I’m frustrated, the formula is similar, except the game must involve killing something – like hell-bugs, raptors or orcs.)

Convoluted answer: For this I wish that I had a time-travelling cat like Ellen, or a familiar with better writing skills. My dog, Quetzal just sits on my lap or in front of the desktop screen while my brain ties itself in knots- although she can inspire me.

Celebrations require real achievements and they are as rare as blue moons, especially when I keep going backwards. If my writing was like knitting, then it would be the scarf that I knitted decades ago for a girlfriend who a few years later recycled the wool.

So, where was I? Unravelling my insecurities.

My WIP is going backwards. My protagonist now has a deaf sister as well as her own struggles with being bisexual. This author wonders if he/I should choose a pen name – Roland Clarke is a prolific musician; maybe Rafael Clarke or Buxton. Revision is becoming a re-write.

I’ve fallen down a cliff, and my escape route seems to be a 1st person POV novella-exercise set before my WIP.

Is that a good idea or just another diversion? Can I celebrate even if the scribbles lead to a landslide?

What do you celebrate with?

*

The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham,Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

10542693_919553014725833_6267297834542028336_o1

Figuring out Fictionary

 

Fictionary-Logo-200-002-1

When I was approaching the final third of my fourth rewrite of Fates Maelstrom, I felt that I had ‘lost the plot’. I wasn’t sure what to do until I was introduced to the online editing tool Fictionary by their CEO and lead developer, mystery writer Kristina Stanley who said it might help.

Although my draft wasn’t finished, the rewrite in Scrivener had the final third of draft three as guide notes. Fictionary showed me how to create and upload a docx file from Scrivener.

From that file, Fictionary automatically generated the following overviews:

  • Story Arc
  • Word Count per Scene
  • Scenes per Chapter
  • Characters per Scene
  • Scenes Per Character
  • Point of View

Before I could start using the editing features, I was prompted to confirm my cast of thousands – well almost two hundred. Many of these were characters mentioned but who never appeared like ancestors and other relations.

WARNING: I made the error of deleting the ones that seemed minor – as well as names of mentioned authors like Agatha Christie, and I deleted names like Ford and Guinness. At this stage, variations/mis-spellings of a character’s name come up as different characters, so you can correct that – or note the errors.

Here’s a screenshot of part of my Cast List.

2018-02-08

The Character function proved cleverer than me as in every scene you can select ‘Characters in the scene’ and ‘Characters mentioned’, but only the former is used for analysis in the above Overviews and the other ‘Visualize’ reports. Next time, I won’t be deleting those ‘unimportant’ names since they can help as well – I’ve had to add them back in.

This Cast list also shows where characters have similar names, so those clashes might be worth changing.

I like the way in Fictionary that as you evaluate each scene, the visualisation of your novel grows. I have only worked through some aspects of my scenes to tackle what I need to do, but that was enough to demonstrate the potential available.

In the words of Fictionary:

Fictionary helps you evaluate and edit your manuscript until you are satisfied your story works. The Visualize page lets you see your story like never before with automated reports such as the Story Arc.

The Evaluate page helps you consider key elements of fiction for Character, Plot, and Setting on a scene-by-scene basis. As you capture information for each element, Fictionary builds out your Story Map report.

You’ll alternate between Visualize and Evaluate until you’re happy with every scene in your manuscript. When your Fictionary edit is complete, you can Export your manuscript back to Word.

Hence, the following reports required me to consider and add information on my manuscript when I was evaluating my scenes:

  • Story Map
  • Scenes Opening / Closing Types
  • Purpose of Scene
  • Setting Elements Per Scene

As I said, I haven’t evaluated every element in many scenes but at a glance, the Visualize page began to show potential problems with my draft so I had to make some immediate amendments to lend some sense to my chaos.

Let’s go back to my first shock – the cast of thousands. There was one omission – my main protagonist called Sparkle. Computer programmes get fooled by ordinary nouns as proper names – I know of a writer called Rose who has that problem with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Once Sparkle was recognised, I got this POV chart:

2018-02-08 (2)

Visualize is showing the three main POVs, my progress in confirming their scenes, the number of scenes they are in,  the percentage for each POV and at the bottom the scenes in novel order with the POV character identified. Ignore the POVs with two or less scenes as they are news reports or similar. From overviews like this, I began to see how I could take one POV character, Brogan Keyes – the purple column – and without losing the character, I could envisage a better plotline unfolding.

On the left of this Fictionary screenshot, you can see a list of all the elements that you can show reports on – too many to assess individually here. Let’s look at one of the main ones – the Story Map. This is where all your evaluated details end up, generating an overview that has so many applications. Ultimately it will help you see where the manuscript can be improved as you edit.

2018-02-08 (3)

There is a choice between the Full Story Map or just a selection as I have here. If I want, I can identify all the missing elements that are easy to fill in – like Scene Name, Location, and Date. The more information that I ‘identify’, the better the visualisation and the better my edit.

Adding scene names in the messed up third of the novel has already help me visualise how the plot is unfolding. I had created an Excel breakdown of the first half of the novel and was about to create an Aeon Timeline file as well, but Fictionary is creating a better variation, especially as the programme encourages me to assess each scene.

When I did the first Fictionary pass, I identified all the POV goals and every scene’s purpose – on Kristina Stanley’s recommendation. This proved to be a valuable step in identifying scenes that could be tightened or removed.

My Story Map has many blanks still, so I will be using the other elements to assess my manuscript, but I am already making a lot of sense of the novel with the help of Fictionary.

Here’s my opening scene on the Evaluation page, showing the text in the middle where you do the edits, the manuscript scene list on the left, and the key element tabs that feed the Story Map on the right.

2018-02-08 (4)

Please note that my scenes weren’t in chapters in Scrivener, only headings, so Fictionary created a Chapter for each scene – except when I had two or more scenes under one heading so that correctly became one chapter.

At most stages, there are quick ways of checking elements in a scene like here with ‘characters involved’ or ‘mentioned’ via the View Characters button. If there isn’t a way in-scene then I go to Visualize and try there. When you move between Visualize and Evaluate, those ‘tabs’ remain on what you were last looking at – and they update if you press the Save button.

Even with this scene, I have yet to complete every element but now that I know where I am going, I can rewrite the novel with the help of all the Fictionary tools. I have the choice to edit the draft in Fictionary and then export my finished manuscript, or if there are major changes go back to Scrivener as I’m doing.

This has been a mere glance at what this software offers, but I will continue to use it and learn about it along the way. Sometime in the near future, I will write another post about my experiences Figuring out Fictionary.

Bugs? More like omissions that are likely to be fixed. Sometimes I found missing aspects, but that is where being involved in an ongoing piece of software is so good. The developers are open to suggestions on things to add. Like one cool feature: from some Visualize reports you can activate a pop-up of the scene concerned. There were some places where I wanted this feature, but it wasn’t available – well not yet. When I asked about or suggested something, the change was either coming or my suggestion would be taken on board.

Another feature that would help, is being able to move scenes around. I do this quite often in Scrivener and the process works well. In Fictionary, I must create a blank scene then cut & paste – slower but it works. Again, that’s a suggestion that was taken on-board.

Beyond the guides on site, there are regular articles posted or sent to subscribers – like this post on The Purpose of a Scene:

https://kristinastanley.com/2018/02/08/ensure-the-purpose-of-a-scene-is-engaging-your-readers/

To get a taste of this online editing tool, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial as I did initially. Then you upload your 50,000+ word manuscript and start your Fictionary story edit.

And if you sign up by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered in The Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest hosted in partnership with FriesenPress.

Grand Prize – One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes: $200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details to enter the contest and check out this recommended online editing tool, Fictionary.

Four stars for this evolving software and five stars for the support team.

Fictinary_contest

#IWSG Mystery Love

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Today is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and a chance to promote the Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest.

First, the IWSG post:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Although I write in various genres – mystery, SF/speculative, fantasy, alternative history and even children – Mystery must be the one that I write in most often.

My debut was an equestrian mystery – Spiral of Hooves – so its sequels will be. My current series is a mystery/police procedural – Snowdon Shadows. Even draft novels in other genres have a strong mystery element.

Yes, I love a perplexing mystery and my mind enjoys devising the twists. When I read a good mystery, especially by a master like Agatha Christie, I try to outthink the ‘detective’ but usually fail. However, when I finish a great mystery novel, I like looking back to see how the story was crafted, for instance with the clues buried in the text at key points. Learning how to use red herrings, deceit, and well-timed distractions are something that I still need to take on board.

One of my favourite examples is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with its brilliant twist ending. How this was achieved is masterful and one reason why I keep writing and reading Mysteries. A modern favourite in a similar vein, and also a lesson in crafting a mystery, is Sally Quilford’s The Secret of Lakeham Abbey.

You can flick through my Book Reviews to see how many Mystery novels I read. What do you recommend? What genre do you read and/or write? And why?

*

The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

*

Fictinary_contest

I am currently using a brilliant tool for online editing my current WIP and I highly recommend it. Fictionary was developed for writers by writers and makes many of the tasks after writing an early draft much simpler.

If you sign up with Fictionary for a free 10-day trial by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered for the contest to win a Grand Prize of a lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Path. There are also additional prizes – further details and sign-up at https://fictionary.co/Finish-your-novel-contest/

I will be doing an assessment of Fictionary in the next day or so, looking at the various elements that I have been using – or intend to use.