Tag Archives: writing

Being an Author is a Full Time Job

Today I needed to sit back and come to the realization that being an author is a full time job.

When I already have a full time job, and a part time job that becomes a full time job in November and December, I need to take a deep breath and realize that something’s gotta give.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockIf there are 168 hours in a week and I have three jobs that take 40 hours a week, plus I need to sleep eight hours a day… well, if you do the math, we come up short.

That is why I haven’t been blogging all that much, and while I love popping in and chatting here, I need to be realistic.

Now that I am a published author I have things like editorial deadlines, appearances, and marketing all on top of my daily 500-1000 words a day writing goal. (Plus, of course, the full time job and part time job that pay the bills)

 

That is an awful lot to keep up on.

PKO_0013466 sadWhen ASHES IN THE SKY was pushed back 6 months, I realized that I wasn’t writing for myself anymore. There are people out there in the world waiting to read my next book, and when it doesn’t make the original pub date, there are a lot more people than just me disappointed. So-even though the ASHES delay was out of my control, I need to make sure I make every deadline to keep my books moving on schedule.

So, as you might have guessed, blogging is one of the things that’s gotta give. But I won’t be abandoning this site. I still love it here. I just can’t commit to a schedule. While I love a challenge, adding another thing on to what I “have to do” would just be insanity.

I will be popping in to provide words of wisdom, or to laugh at my idiocy. Because hey, the therapeutic value of coming here and hanging out totally has its value too. I will try to pop in at least once a week, but if I don’t make it, blame the aliens.

Back to the trenches I go.

Now that ASHES IN THE SKY is complete, I’m working with my editor on book three of Fire in the Woods. (Yes, already. Can you believe it?)

Plus I am plugging away a scene at a time trying to finish book one in my new series.

Yes, writing is a full time job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

An Author’s Work Is Never Done. No, Seriously… It’s not. You have NO idea.

As I squeezed out the final edits of ASHES IN THE SKY, I was ready to sit back, relax, and coast through the holidays. Wow, was I looking forward to taking a break, relaxing with my family, and maybe even finishing my new book!

But my bubble popped when less than a week after handing in the final copy of ASHES to be sent to the formatter, the developmental edit of Book Three of FIRE IN THE WOODS appeared in my email.

Seriously

I was floored. The developmental edit is usually the most time consuming, and while it is not as tedious as fine tuning, it will definitely suck up most of your life. And my due date was only forty days away.

Goodbye, Christmas break.

After a discussion with my lead editor, we decided that another month would not hurt the schedule. Where that did not leave me “off the hook”, it did certainly take some of the pressure off. Especially since some of the changes were going to be extensive.

Alien Huh CloseSo I dug in, getting about a quarter of the way into the manuscript… before the final formatting proof of ASHES IN THE SKY came back. [head hits desk]

Yep, it’s a funny business like that.

Subtract one week from that extra month of editing, because I now needed to re-read book 2 word by word to make sure there were no problems.

Thankfully, I have finished that proof as of this post. I’m not sure if I’ll have to look at it again since I did require some changes.

So, for now, I am back to those developmental edits.

PKO_0002742

 

If anyone tells you being an author is easy, let me know their name.

I will write their character into a book and Torture them a little.

Hey, it’s the least I can do. {smiles}

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Rekindling your writing mojo after taking an unplanned hiatus

I’m a stickler for goals. I love them.

I love achieving them more.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and goals need to be realigned.

I’m currently 70,000 words into a 50,000 words YA science fiction novel. Yup, that was right – 20,000 words over goal, and I probably need another 15-20,000 to finish.

Think GirlThis was problem #1: I carefully planned out when I needed to finish my novel before my edits came back for ASHES IN THE SKY. Yes, I achieved my 50,000 words on time… but when I got there, my story wasn’t finished. So I kept writing—Even took a writer’s weekend in hopes of finishing the book before I needed to start editing again… but even that only got me smack up against the beginning of the climax, where my main character is staring down at her worst nightmare come true.

A very BAD place to stop writing.

At the most important place in my novel to KEEP WRITING, I was forced to stop for a two-week marathon run of editing, which in of itself would have been fine. But then life problem #2 happened. A huge project at my day job had me working through my precious lunch breaks, and even far into the evenings, leaving my precious characters stagnant, facing horrible trauma and impending doom for an additional two weeks.

An entire month without writing something new

It was a month to the day when I finally got back to my story, and I sighed seeing where I had left my characters. So I did the only thing I really could do.

I opened up to page one, and I did an editing run.

Wait----What

 

 

You should always finish your book before editing! Yes, this is true, but after being away for so long, I needed to re-familiarize myself with the characters, the plot, the tone, and the voice (Especially since I had spent a few week’s back in Jess Martinez’s quirky head)

The deep edit on those 70,000 words took about a week, and even then, I found myself at a loss when I came to the end.

Was this book still inside me? With the kind of tension build I created over all those chapters, would I be able to deliver the goods in the climax?

I knew I had to shake it off, but instead, I kept going back to earlier chapters and revising something else.

Then, finally, I got back to the last scene that I’d written a month ago. That first sentence was the hardest sentence that I’ve ever written. It took me about an hour to type 100 words. Horrible.

Welcome back, muse!

But then the magic muse finally took hold. The characters reignited in my brain. I jumped back on the rollercoaster, ready to sprint to the finish line with them.

Yes, I am excited about this story again. I’m excited to get it out in the world.

All I had to do, was force myself through those pesky 100 words to get myself started.

Yup, feels good to be hanging out with imaginary people again.

 

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Flames longFlames longFlames longFire in the Woods Cover

You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Alien Lineup

Catch up with me on social media!

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Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper: Pacing and Tension – Too Much or Too Little? Part 2

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

PACING AND TENSION – TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE? Part 2

Be aware of things that can slow down your story – or make it race by too fast – and deflate the tension.

Backstory, continued

By weaving in just the necessary information in short bursts throughout your story it will:

*Keep the reader’s interest

*Keep tension high

*Keep the reader wondering

*Keep it dramatic – no matter the genre

 

Could your action be bogged down?

Girl sideMy First Reader Notes: “In action scenes we were slowed down by long, descriptive sentences such as during this chase scene: ‘Mr. Brown slipped over his excessively waxed floors.’ ‘His frantic breath pressed the pause button on the hot chase.’ ‘My toes became the texture of raisins as they squished up against one another like slimy slices of sautéed mushrooms.’” Descriptive sentences like these forced me to pause (and trip) in this supposed fast-paced action scene and have to create the visual from the words before moving on in the story. You don’t want to do this!

Can there be too much action on your story?

PKO_0008514 SICK GUYIs your story TOO active, TOO reactive and over-dense with words, concepts and emotions? This makes for a frantic tale, every moment fraught with intensity. It comes at you from every angle and is exhausting. The desire should be to invite the reader to turn the pages not run for cover.

TIPS: *How to change this? Incorporating the setting instead of using biological emotion would add a richer layer to the story.

*Take a break from the action – let it explode all around, then let it settle and give your character time to digest and reflect on all that has happened. They need to breathe.

 

TIPS FOR PACING AND TENSION:

  1. Deciding HOW and WHEN to reveal information is often more important than the info itself. Decide on your method used to make a big reveal to increase pacing and tension. PKO_0004442 Nervous ScaredHINT: Don’t bury it in the middle of a paragraph! (YES, I’ve done this too!).
  2. Move the story along by cutting out extra, unnecessary details in action moments.
  3. SHOW more of what is happening around your character vs. his telling us.
  4. Don’t have your character waffle back and forth! Chart their growth as they grow in the story.

Now go. Work on making pacing and tension flow with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

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About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

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About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #9: : Pacing and Tension – Too Much or Too Little? Part 1

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

PACING AND TENSION – TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE? Part 1

Be aware of these areas that can slow down your story – or make it race by too fast – and deflate the tension.

purple hairWatch for creating false tension This is tension built up just for the sake of tension but in doing so a character can waffle. Readers get tired of false tension as they will come to believe then that things introduced are not really a threat

 These are the notes that Donna presented on an actual manuscript that came into the slush pile.

My First Reader Notes: “The main character had conflicting thoughts that created false tension. Like ‘I can’t scale that fence, it’s too tall. Oh wait, I bet I could.’ It’s like crying wolf. ”

TIP: Create immediate tension that is not so easily resolved.

Think you need a prologue? Think again.

Shakespeare closeMy First Reader Notes: “The prologue of the boy’s thoughts about his father dying is not necessary.  It’s too poetic, too abstract, and too introspective with too much backstory trying to give us a foundation. His thoughts here and his people and culture can be woven into the story later. Right now it just slows the story down and kills the tension.”

Backstory

Weave it in. We, the writer can know it all but the readers don’t need to know up front about everything. Readers want teasers. They want to have questions and feel smart for guessing. Throw them into the bowels of the story right away to keep the tension tight. Readers will catch up.

Frog HopHead Hopping:

This pulls you from the story – and slows the story down. A reader must re-adjust their thinking to a new point-of-view instantly. Ask yourself “Whose scene is this?” and write from that.

My First Reader Notes:

PKO_0012884“I am at page 78 and starting to feel like this journey is dragging on. Not too much has happened since it started. The reader hasn’t really learned much more.”

TIP: See what other info can be included up to this point that we find out later. What else can we learn by now to move the story forward? Don’t wait to reveal everything later… reveal some now. Drop it in along the way.

My First Reader Notes:

PKO_0004816“The writer needs to slow down some action scenes and even add an extra day at certain spots. I felt like I was running and couldn’t stop to see all that what was happening. I couldn’t entrench themselves in the richness of the world and story.”

TIP: Sometimes when it comes to pacing and tension we need to slow down scenes.

Now go. Work on making pacing and tension flow with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

 

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About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

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About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

“Gentle Tell” is NOT OKAY in your manuscript. Are YOU guilty of lazy writing? — AKA “I am really sorry!”

If you’ve ever had the misfortune opportunity to have a beta-read from me, you’ll know that I am a show verses tell barracuda. I point it out everywhere. (As I should, or I’m not doing my job)

Occasionally I will mark something as “gentle tell” and say it will probably pass, but the section could be stronger.

I had a section like this in ASHES IN THE SKY. I knew it was a form of gentle tell, meaning it could have been broadened, but since it was not a super important scene, I summarized it a bit to move on to the more exciting stuff. Since it was the only scene I brushed over, and I only did it once in the entire book, I figured I was in the clear.

WRONG

The sole purpose of the scene was to show where the main character got her schedule from when arriving for her first day back to school after a long absence. This is the exact text from my original submitted manuscript. Mind you, this got past several editors:

Throwing my backpack over my shoulder, I stopped at the office and got my schedule and locker assignment. They didn’t try to rustle me into any more assemblies, thank goodness.

(See the end of this post if you’d like to see the revised version)

As I said, this got past a few editors, but it was bounced back by the senior editor at the final read through. In this case, she was my personal show verses tell barracuda.

Paraphrasing her comments, she said:

“Don’t take the easy way out and tell us the obvious. What was it like going into the office? Did they treat her poorly, or were they extra nice? Give all the information to move the story forward without just telling us what we need to know.”

In other words – SHOW DON’T TELL

I was mortified. Once I really thought about it, I realized what a lazy paragraph I had written. I’ve heard of lazy writing before, and now I am wondering how many lazy things I have seen in people’s works that I glossed over as “gentle tell.”

Don’t let yourself fall into lazy writing.

If it is important enough to mention, then write it properly. Don’t muddy your manuscript with shortcuts.

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In case you are interested, this is the scene that I replaced those two lines with. I think it is obvious how much better the written-out scene is.

***

I slipped through the door to the main office. Four students waited in line, but parted as I walked in. The last to move tugged the backpack on the girl standing first at the front desk. She spun and her lips formed an O before she scurried to the side.

“Ms. Martinez,” the lady behind the counter said. “Welcome back.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, umm, thanks. I need my schedule and locker assignment.”

She handed me a paper from the tray beside her. “Here you go. You have Kelessi for Advisory, room three eighty-five. Do you remember where that is?”

I nodded.

“You locker is in the senior wing, number ninety. The combination is on the last page of your packet.”

“Three eighty-five, Kelessi, ninety. Got it, thanks.”

I turned and looked up from my paperwork. The other people in the office lined the walls, giving me a wide berth.

Did I forget to wear deodorant or something?

***

Look through your own work.

Are you guilty of lazy writing?

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Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #3: Those pesky Unnecessary words

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

Think GirlOkay, so, necessary words?

How can a word be unnecessary?

I mean, I wouldn’t have typed it if it weren’t necessary, right?

Here are some questions every writer should be asking themselves:

 

Is your narrative bogged down with adverbs?

Could dialogue or action could be used instead of multiple adverbs?

Does your writing feel cumbersome with lots of –ing words?

Here’s a bogged down example from my First Reader notes:

.

“Joan was a hot looking, strawberry blonde sophomore, with a singsong voice, and a phony air-headed attitude.”

TIPS:

  • Look to remove unnecessary internal dialogue that slows the pace down.
  • Make a list of repetitive words then go back and search and replace.
  • Do not report on every physical response. This can weigh the story down. Trust the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.
  • Use one word that has the most meaning instead of several to describe something.
  • Do a global search for adverbs and point-of-view filter words (realized, noticed, saw, etc.)

 

Let it Resonate

Put the word conveying your most important concept at the end of the sentence or paragraph. The space after the period lets this word resonate for a deeper impact on the reader.
Examples

Before: “The creek raced along like a roaring monster in the rain.”

Compare that to this: “The creek raced along like a roaring monster.”

 

Before: We were supposed to work on our fort today, but because of the storm it was a muddy wasteland out back.

Compare that to this: We were supposed to work out back on our fort today, but because of the storm it was a muddy wasteland.

Oooh. “Muddy wasteland”. Much stronger, right? Keep this in mind as you end each sentence and paragraph. It strengthens your story.

 

TIP: Look for paragraphs or sentences where the important concept or heightened emotion is hidden in the middle then rearrange your sentences and/or words for the most powerful effect and polished narrative flow.

 

Now go. Polish your flow! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

Don’t forget, Donna will be popping in to answer questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask someone that’s been inside the trenches, so please take advantage while I have her all tied up graciously offering her assistance for the good of all.

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About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

 

Score! You guys are going to love this next series of Monday writer’s-help posts!

Wahoooo!

Wahoo! I’m so excited!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Month9Books author Donna Galanti. While we were chatting, she mentioned that in her past life she was an intern at a literary agent.

My ears perked up. “Really? What did you do there?”

Are you ready for this? She combed the slush pile.

That means if you had submitted to this agent, your manuscript would have to get through HER FIRST before the novel was even seen by the agent.

Wait----What

If you are unaware, this is really, really common. Many agents use interns to weed through the manuscripts and provide feedback on the submissions. These people are the “gatekeepers”. If you don’t make them happy, you are one step closer to a rejection.

So, how do you make sure your manuscript gets through the gatekeeper?

Well, we’re going to show you!

Writing_A_Great_Novel

Donna kept extensive notes on all the manuscripts she reviewed, and over the next few weeks, she is going to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly – and how YOU can keep yourself out of the reject pile.

Posts start next week. This is not to be missed if you are querying!

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Lesson Twenty-Seven from a Manuscript Red Line: Fluidity in Action – How to write a good action scene

Disclaimer – I have a “rewritten” fight scene below.  It is FAR from well written. There are a few show verses tell issues in it that I hadn’t noticed a few years ago when this originally posted. But I think it still gets its point across. (And I don’t have time to re-write it since this post is already late. Ha!)

An example of a poorly written action scene:

Jason punched Eric in the face.  Eric fell to the floor.  Eric groaned and rolled over.   Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  Eric popped up, and Eric swung at Jason, but missed.  Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  Eric crumpled to the floor.

(Yes, I totally made this paragraph up.)

The publisher’s comment on a similar (but not as poorly written) sceneThis is a very stilted fight scene. It reads action, next action, next action, next action without the fluidity that’s needed for a fight scene.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I have to admit, when I read the action passages in the Gold Mine Manuscript, I had the same comment.  The author was satisfied with the speed of the scenes though, and only made moderate changes.  Not being an expert, I backed off and figured it was just a “style choice”.  Guess not.

This fits in very well with my recent post on “Art of the Conflict”.  This scene is not about dialog, but this is definitely a conflict.  This one needs something inserted to break up the action, rather than action inserted to break up the dialog.

Now, I am not going to put a lot of time into this, since the scene is totally fake.  But let me add a little “art” to make it “flow”.  Fluidity is what they asked for.  Okay, here it goes…

Jason grunted as his fist swung toward Eric’s face.  Eric tried to dodge, but instead felt the sting of the older boy’s ring cutting into his jaw.  He fell to the floor with a muffled thump, and groaned as he rolled over.

Jason wiped his chin and laughed.  “I told you to stay down.”

Eric pushed up onto his knees.  “Why, so you can just pummel me?”  He popped up and swung at Jason, but missed.

Jason ducked and swung at the same time.  There was no time for Eric to react.  His head creaked back, and his jaw rattled as he crumpled to the floor.

Better, huh?  Not perfect by a long shot, but not bad for three minute flash fiction.  Can you feel the difference?  The staccato choppy “This happened-That happened” feel is gone, and the scene “flows”.

Of course, this is a first draft.  In editing, I would have to remove the “ing” word and the telly “felt”.  I would also insert a little emotion when Eric realized he missed, but this is definitely better by far than the first.  The art draws you into the scene.  You experience it, rather than just watching it.

The art of the conflict… If you don’t have it, go get it.

If you want to see a great published example, pick up a copy of  THRONE by Phillip Tucker and open up anywhere in the last hundred pages or so.

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The scary, but exciting journey of starting something new

Last weekend, after spending over a year writing the Fire in the Woods Series, I jumped into unknown territory. I started writing something brand new.

No___PressureIt suddenly struck me that the last two novels I’d written were contracted before I’d even written them. There was no query process. No doubt. No decisions to make (other than what to write the book about.)

It was kind of weird, come to think of it. Since they were already sold, the only person I really had to prove anything to was myself. (And ultimately, I suppose, the readers.)

Should_I_be_nervous

Huh womanBut now I was back in “unknownville”. I could write whatever I wanted. I could create entirely new characters. I could reach for different themes.

With a basic idea in mind (a solid premise, and a very defined ending) I set out to write just the first few pages of the book.  Before doing so, I did some basic character studies. I listed them out, decided who they were, what their goals were, and what their quirks might be. How do these characters know each other, and how would their interaction draw the main character through the story.

With that set, I wrote the first page. My goal was just to get out the “set up”, or the beginning of the novel, because this is always the hardest part for me.

1430695 YAY CHEERI was pleasantly surprised how the new characters flowed. The characters instantly came to life, developed their own voices, and added on to their character studies in ways that I hadn’t intended.

While I was writing, I found I could pare down the story slightly by combining two characters into one. An interesting concept, to combine these two very different characters, but I think it will give my story a touch or originality.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockAll this so say, I ended up with a solid 3700 words written that first day. I was thrilled! I really wished that I had my last contracted manuscript handed in on time, because I would have loved to stick with it and kept the story going, but the back of my mind kept screaming “deadline”.

So, yes, I forced myself to go back to edit. But now I am totally excited for the day I hand in Book Three of Fire in the Woods, because I have a brand new world waiting for me.

The_Synopsis

Yes, I will have to write a query, and the dreaded synopsis, and I will have to start the query process all over again once this new project is done… but I even look forward to that.

I am all juiced up to get back to the fun of creating something new.

Have you ever been super excited about a new project like this?

JenniFer_EatonF

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