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Well, it's been an interesting road, more so than when I edited Seeing Is Believing. I had less of a break between writing this novel and editing it, but I think I did a decent job. I certainly found problems that in earlier times I might have missed.

I think this edit does prove one thing. My thought that I should not be giving as much lead space between the two steps appears valid. Despite common belief, in my case I become more enamored with my novels the longer I let them sit. It makes it harder to see the cracks and holes because I'm reacquainting myself with an old friend.

This puts a heavy burden on me to do more with what I write than tuck it in a corner in the expectation of going back and editing "some day." It also means that I'll have to read each of my older works enough to get over that "ooh shiny" before I can see the problems within them. On the other hand, if I can keep moving on the things I write, I'll get them out faster and with less grief.

As to Con Shirt itself, I'll have to wait on feedback from my critters to know for sure. It's my first attempt at an urban fantasy novel. It has some things in common with those I've read...and other things that are somewhat different. If it works, I'm happy, whether or not it finds a home in that specific genre. I suspect there are still things to fix, okay, I'm sure of that much, but I got rid of several continuity errors, fixed a lost thread or two, and tidied here or there.

It was a fun novel to write. Not hideous to edit either. We'll see if I walk this particular path again. I guess it depends on whether it looks like I'm any good at it :).

And stats:
Edited Today: 6,082 words
38 Chapters complete - 105% of the novel
-1 Chapters remain
-3,660/ Remaining word count (original/remaining)
79,597 Total
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I'm doing a bit of a push edit on Con Shirt at the same time as I'm trying to take my time so that I don't miss much. Most days I'm comfortable with my work, but this time I'm left a little unsure about a decision I made.

I have one rather intense scene that starts out almost too perfect, goes through the MC recognizing that fact along with her mom's almost frantic energy and ends in a big reveal that shakes her world. The whole thing is almost 3k and a little bit much.

In my first draft, I cut the scene in the middle, at the transition point when things go weird. This leaves me with an actual cliffhanger chapter. I don't usually go for them...I think it's silly to break on the cliffhanger, have the reader turn the page, and start up the next moment. However, in this case giving the reader a moment to live in Rochelle's embarrassment, to linger in the moment when she's going to have to come across as a complete kook to the people who brought her into this world, seems a good moment. This is especially important since the second half of the scene, now in a new chapter, takes her so far from that moment as to realize not only will her parents not think she's a kook, or at least her mom, but that her parents have been lying to her from the start, that maybe none of this would have happened if they'd just told her the truth. It shatters her perceptions of everything that had provided grounding in her life up to this point.

Am I comfortable with the call? Obviously not or I wouldn't be mentioning it. Have I considered just leaving them all together as one chapter? Sure. Do I think that would be the best choice? Nope. So I'm left with lingering doubts until someone else reads the book, but when is that ever new.

My stance on this book is much like my stance on many of mine: either it works and is wonderful, or it's so broken that I just can't see it and will never be worth the time I put into it. In other words, I have no idea :).

So, any thoughts to share on this chapter split idea? I know it's hard to tell sight unseen, but...

And stats:
Edited Today: 5,682 words
28 Chapters complete - 71% of the novel
9 Chapters remain
22,019 Remaining word count
53,918 Current Total
77,401 Predicted Total
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My writing life is a little in flux right now as I reprioritize and figure out where the heart is in writing for me. I've gotten so scattered that I can achieve great progress and no forward motion. I'm still working through the details, but I've set my focus for this year on getting Shadows of the Sun (Kyrnie) to final version and out the door.

You might wonder then why the only editing progress I have to report is on Con Shirt, but I've got the whole year for Kyrnie :). Actually, I realized that my process is better if I do an immediate first pass which point I was writing so much that I managed to fall three novels behind. I'm only 10k into Con Shirt (which is approximately 76k at this point, then I have a 54k YA romance (my NaNo) to edit. At this point I'll probably finish Con Shirt and send it to those who are waiting, then start on Kyrnie.

The Kyrnie edit is going to be a big one. What that means is I'll probably need to take mental health breaks on other novels, but once I get started, my plan is to juggernaut my way through. I may not even participate in March Madness this year, though that's still up in the air. I'll have to see once I get started how tight my focus needs to be.

So if you were curious, that's what's been happening in this dead time. Contemplation and an attempt to understand my own mind...a scary prospect.

I took Holly Lisle's How to Beat Writer's Block audio course because I'd told her I would and also because I've been wondering what's been happening with my muse. Though the above was sort of in the works before then, taking the course really made things more concrete. It's designed for when you're stuck on a specific work, but at the same time is flexible enough to prompt me, who was just stuck. The scariest part was the question: When was the last time writing was fun? It's scary because writing (the physical act of creation) is always fun. But I'd started to use it as an escape from the other aspects, which are supposed to be fun as well.

Anyway, I'm rambling. You can tell I haven't quite settled all this in my mind. I'm a bit spacey and unfocused as I try to move forward like a crab, going sideways and not quite sure of what's out there. When I get it all figured out, you may see a burst of productivity. Or maybe just a tight, focused beam of it ;).

Status on Con Shirt:

Edited Today: 1,591 words
6 Chapters complete - 14% of the novel
31 Chapters remain
65,264 Remaining word count
10,673 Current Total
76,567 Predicted Total
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And the crazy, last minute dash at a novel? It's finally over. Con Shirt has those simple two words at the end that mean everything to a first draft: The End.

I have to say the ending is awful and will require a lot of work. I don't have a good balance on the celebration because they've survived mixed with the "this isn't over yet" feel it should have. Is the book a standalone? Absolutely. Does it leave parts of the story still to be discovered? Yes. To be satisfied, you'd never have to discover any of those parts, but if you enjoyed the first one, those strings should draw you in to the second...which no, I don't even know the shape of, just that there's more to these characters still to come.

But really, the win here is that I'm done in time to prep for NaNo. How insane is that?

Oh, and it neither turned out as horribly short as I'd feared nor in a good solid spot for length. But a published friend assures me that publishers are looking for shorter urban fantasy, so we'll see :). It should also grow a bit in the editing.

And stats:
New Words: 1,190 words
71 scenes
71 complete - 100% of the novel
0 Scenes remain
0 Remaining word count
75,937 estimated length - with an average of 1,070 words per scene.
75,937 Current Total

And scary. Do you realize this novel went from idea to first draft in under 2 months?
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I know it's been a while, but life kind of got away from me. Since the beginning of September, I have experienced crises on pretty much every level of life, with the latest being a bout with a relatively serious flu.

And that's actually why I'm writing this note, which is a partial writing post and a partial Con Shirt update.

First of all, proof positive that when a story grabs hold of me, nothing will stand in its way.

During September, I was working more than forty hours a week, with no weekends off for good behavior, trying to recover from the disaster that was the Jatol hosting company going under. Both Forward Motion and Holly Lisle's sites were affected, as well as a smattering of other friends. The initial transition went rather well all told but then the problems just keep rolling in. Those disasters resulted in a second host move that had to be completed before October 1st and then involved a series of changes to comply with the new host's (TigerTech) requirements, something I was happy to do because those changes made both sites more stable and less vulnerable.

Anyway, for a stay at home Mom/full-time writer, you can imagine how much time that left for my writing tasks. But that's the whole thing. Sure, a lot just didn't happen. Con Shirt, however, rarely let a day go buy without words.

This novel that didn't even exist until the last two weeks of August is now in its final stages and at a whopping 71k and change.

However, if programming and hosting and surgery can't slow the writing down, turns out the flu can. I learned a lot about my writing in these last couple of days, about the mechanics of it.

I've always felt a little like a cheat. I sit down for my writing time, open my mind, and the story pours out as fast as I can get it down. It may not be perfect, but it's there with full sound, shape, color, taste, and texture. My only role is translating that into words on the page.

Now I understand how crucial that role is.

Sitting here during my writing time with my temperature spiking and molasses for brains, I discovered the existence of an actual translation process. It's something I never noticed, seeing myself more as a transcriber, because the translation happens smoothly and unnoticed normally.

The flu broke all that.

I could feel the story, see the story, even hear the story, but I could not translate it. The words remained outside of my grasp, occasional trickles slipping through, but nowhere near my normal speed and agility.

Yes, it was frustrating as all get out. No, I never hope to experience this again. But, on some level, it was a good thing.

This experience has revealed (something that may be obvious to the rest of you, but I can be slow about such things ;)) that I am an integral part to this process, that there's more to my involvement than opening limited headspace to characters and their tales.

Anyway, I just thought I would share this revelation. Having had it, having learned more about my process, I'm ready for the flu to vanish now, thank you. I'm ready to get back my 1k+ productivity that will allow me to start working on my next idea in time for NaNo :).

And current stats for Con Shirt in case you're curious:

New Words: 663 words
71 scenes
64 complete - 90% of the novel
7 Scenes remain
7,805 Remaining word count
79,162 Estimated length - with an average of 1,115 words per scene.
71,357 Current Total

Note that the 7,805 is based on an estimated 1115 words per scene. In actuality, the next 3-4 scenes are all mini-scenes of shifting POV within a single battle and are averaging 250-700 words, so I suspect I'm within 4k of the end.
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So Con Shirt continues along on its merry way. With the exception of one day this week, I've managed between 1k and 1400 per day. Most days that means one scene, but this book has some oddly short ones that come in as low as 504 words, which actually made up the sum total of a whole chapter. I have come up with something that requires changes to numerous scenes, just a bit of seeding misdirection, but otherwise the book is writing in a straight, linear fashion. I've added several scenes ahead, but have not felt the need to add anything behind where the writing has reached. We'll see if it continues.

Oh, and I'm having a hard time dealing with the overall word count. I'd like to see the book reach at least 70k when I'm done with this draft, and it's been fluctuating between 65k and 70k for a while. I'm not quite sure why that's so. It has two POV characters, an armload of threads twisting and twining about each other, and a lot going on. And yet in part because of the many short scenes, it just isn't showing the length I'd expected.

Well, we'll have to see. There's still almost 30k to write and a lot could change in that time. Already a couple scenes have become two scenes instead of staying as one, and it's possible I'll need to add more in between the big events that are coming up.

Really, this book is insane. From conception to past half way in less than a month, and a month when I've been absorbed in massive projects that ate up almost every spare hour. I just hope the book lives up to its promise because I'm really having fun with it :).

And stats:
New Words: 1,302 words
67 scenes
24 chapters
41 complete - 61% of the novel
26 Scenes remain
27,690 Remaining word count
71,355 Estimated length - with an average of 1,065 words per scene.
43,665 Current Total
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So for those of you wondering, yes, I did start Con Shirt for the Labor of Love challenge at Forward Motion. I can't tell you what a wonderful feeling it was to do a single focus concentrated writing binge :). No, it wasn't remotely easy, and yes, I started dragging after the first day, but I still managed just under 34k in four days. How neat is that :)? And I might have gotten a sight closer to the 40k I was shooting for, but a couple of emergencies hit at the same time (the big one being the apparent collapse of Jatol) and my single focus went through a prism and shattered into a billion little color streams :).

So anyway, the story is now playing around at 69k and has 65 scenes all told. The scene length average is low mostly because I've got some really short snippets for scenes, especially in the villain's head. Yes, I can expose the reader to a brutal, pointless murder in 488 words, and maybe even make you feel sympathy for the corpse...or at least so it seemed for me.

This continues to be a stretch novel for me, but that hasn't made it impossible to write by any means. It'll be interesting to see how it all hangs together.

My favorite scenes? Between Rochelle and Mario hands down, though the scene with her sister comes close. It's the relationships that draw me on in this novel. At the same time, the horrifying scenes are quite powerful and cannot be written after dark so people who love horror might find something to appeal in this novel as well.

It's hard to accept the estimated length when I see all the threads that are weaving together to create this novel, and I'm still adding a scene here or there to flesh things out, but bizarrely, I think this will fall on the shorter end of my novel scale (excluding YA). I guess that's a good thing since I tend to go least I hope so.

Anyway, the goal from this moment on is to get Con Shirt done with enough time to relax a bit before NaNo...for which I still don't know what I'm going to write.

And stats:
New Words: 0 writing words today
65 scenes
33 complete - 51% of the novel
32 Scenes remain
34073 Remaining word count
69211 Estimated length - with an average of 1065 words per scene.
35138 Current Total
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I did something on this outline that I've never done on this scale before and it's killing me. I had an interesting discussion with a friend who was trying to use me as an example of how to outline. She made me come to the conclusion that I'm a fake, a fraud, not really a logical thinker at all :). Okay, this is a kind of crosswise concept, but when have I ever done anything in a straightforward manner. I've been planning to discuss this bit of my process for some time but never got around to it. So here we go.

I am an outliner. I like them because they enable me to work on nuance (yep, that word again) when I'm writing rather than figuring out the overall plot stuff. They also allow me to encapsulate an idea in a format that I can use at the drop of a hat if, for example, I get this crazy idea that I won't do the National Novel Month challenge until, say, a week before day one (Demon Rules came about this way).

So my friend asks me for some good examples, which turned out not to fit her criteria at all. She's asking me where I track the emotional evolution of the character, the character and plot arcs, etc. Me? I'm just telling a story. All that is an integrated part of the story, so it'll be there when I need it.

She declared me an evolved organic.

I've thought for quite some time that my outlines, clocking in between 10k and 20k are actually more like an organic's first draft split along POV lines than what is traditionally considered a writing outline. When pressed, I came up with this grand description: my scene blurbs contain whatever's necessary to draw me back into the scene I saw in my head when I wrote the outline. They have bits of character emotion, scenery, scents, frustrations, physical movement, objects that need to have a place... What they don't have is a classification of any of the traditional elements. They don't point out character arcs, they don't express plot points, though they may reference them if, for example, this scene has the character realize the truth about something 20 scenes ago. They're pure narrative, more like mini synopses than anything analytical. But the trick is that they work for me. Go back to the top where I said what I wanted out of my outlines. They give me the freedom to absorb myself in the story while secure in the knowledge that it knows where to go and where to end up.

Which brings me back to what I've spent over 3 hours working on and am now going to quit for the night.

Armed with the above realization, scene order didn't seem as essential. I know how to reorder scenes. I'm actually teaching a class with that as one of the elements in the Muse Online Conference in October. I've recommended scene reordering to increase tension and had to undergo that horrible exercise in my own works as well. But it's always been with the bulk of something in a fixed state. Let me tell you that writing scenes out of order in my initial outline is insane! Each time I think I've reordered something correctly, I realize that f) can't happen before b) and I have to start again. This whole process is complicated by the fact that I have two plot threads that interact without ever touching. Something happening in the MC's thread sets off something in the villain's thread so those must occur in order at the same time as several things must happen in the main thread's subthreads that are not directly related but which build on each other.

To be honest, I'm confident in the placement of the first 3-4 scenes and the last 3-4 scenes. Pretty much the rest of the 44 scenes are up in the air and must be nailed down before Labor of Love starts on the 31st. My head aches already :p.

Oh, and the current estimate for length is 66,000. That's actually not too bad as the market average is around 90k or so and I will probably add more when writing and then again when editing. It's odd for me to have such a short novel though.
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I know, what on earth am I doing posting twice on the same day, but I just had to say something about what has happened to me.

I was feeling a little bereft and dependent on old ideas as nothing new came in to sweeten the pot. Then I caught the frame of a new romance novel, enough to give me something to pitch if Heart is accepted, but it didn't fill me with energy, probably because my hind brain isn't done tweaking.

So I've been glum and tired out. It's not that I don't have enough to do. At this point I have enough backlog to keep me busy for years if not decades. It's more that the ideas that catch hold and drag me along even kicking and screaming are so powerful, so overwhelming, that they fill me with drive and energy no matter how busy my life becomes.

I love all my books and short stories. Nothing I've written has ever been a pain overall, and nothing do I feel less than happy with what it will become when the editing is finished. That said, there are some novels that hold more power over me. Selkie was one, and its power is still strong despite my being in the middle of the second edit before even getting the first full critique.

With all that build-up, I guess you've figured me out. Yes, I've got a brand-new, fresh, overwhelming idea that's trying to steal the spotlight for Labor of Love...or NaNo if I don't finish Seeing Is Believing in time. This novel, currently called Con Shirt, is a stretch in so many directions that I feel like one of those old plastic hulk hogan dolls that you could pull the arms and legs out until the shape was distorted beyond human limits only to have it snap back into place. At least I hope it'll snap back into place, because it doesn't look like this book will agree to linger in the "Books to be" folder with the other ideas for very long.

The essence?

Can a neophyte witch track down a demon portal she opened with her own blood in time to stop the string of deaths and before a sorcerer lays claim?

It's an urban fantasy thriller or mystery, none of them genres I've written in before, though I do read quite a bit of urban fantasy as of late.

So anyway, wish me luck :).


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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

April 2017

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