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Release Day for Mars and Mayhem

On September 4th, my book was delivered to tons of Kindle devices, for you to start reading! Paperback is available to order!

Yes, this post is September 10th, but the truth about my delay is September 5th is the day Hasling became my pen name. I’ll let you read into that one.

There is something about no longer editing. It’s crazy to flip to a page in my book and instantly be transported. Every single word is mine, I put it there. It is so easy to read two words on any random page and feel like you picked up where I left off. Like greeting an friend, knowing every inside joke like no time has passed. Real pages that are crisp as I turn them, and I can easily find a certain scene because I know it by heart.

Making it real is a rewarding and surreal feeling. I’m now a published author. Wow.

Plantser progress: Some Basics of Character Profiles

So, for the record, so far the plantser method is working. Details I never would have explored before are surfacing and intervening into the plot…

Time will tell if it makes writing easier or not. I gave myself a planning limit. No words written, only planning this month. I was worried about losing the excitement, getting stuck on an idea and not moving forward. And that’s true, but not so bad I get stuck.

Character sheet are developing. Even if these things aren’t divulged in the story itself, it will help make choices as I go. Is their hair cut short because of zero-G? Do they think a flightsuit is boring or convenient?

Really, how do we describe ourselves to other people? A dating profile! And this goes so beyond what ethicity, hair color, tattoos, job, zodiac sign. Here are a few things that are on my character sheet:

  • Favorite foods
  • Pet peeves
  • Actor/actress photo (in case it becomes a movie)
  • Dream job (because not usually what they are currently doing…)
  • Relationship with sibling/s
  • What do they do when no one is watching? In their free time, leisure time, when you aren’t writing about them.
  • What would they splurge on or save up for?

I’ve started using photos for my character profiles, and the visuals help. Instead of writing that “she likes basketball” and “wears a puffy jacket”, I’ve added the pictures. It starts to come alive a little more with color, and using real objects has also given my new MC more substance.

Here’s a preview of what I’ve created in Miro, and you can read my previous post about mind mapping.

It’s better than this. Characters aren’t linear. Your story is, but the character isn’t. So try exploring outside of the character sheet and doing something a little more creative and spontaneous! Add color, pictures, real things, as descriptors.

Pantser Review of Mind Mapping Tools

My goal is to be better organized with my ideas. They are organized in my head, but not on paper and then I am not able to see the gaps. I am not able to simulateously identify the character arcs with the plot progression. I needed a way to link ideas together, color code them, and force myself to dive into details on character development early on in my planning process.

So with that in mind, I looked at five options. These varied from simple mind mapping, to more complex organizing of ideas like a bulletin board. See what I chose by reading my experience of trying out each one!

  1. Scapple
  2. Mindmiester
  3. Mindnode
  4. Milanote
  5. Miro

Scapple

  • Easy to enter fast – Ctrl+Enter creates new notes and a single Drag and drop of one note over the over draws a connection line
  • Text only, no pictures, very basic
  • Paid…. even at $18, it just doesn’t seem worth it…

MindNode

  • No desktop version
  • Easy to enter with Add right to same tree, add left to expand further down tree
  • Very basic at free version and it’s a subscription. Pictures and colors and links aren’t available

Mindmeister

  • Favorite one for simple and fast relationship mapping
  • Scapple and MindNode combined! Added navigate with arrow keys between elements
  • Can add photos and hidden notes
  • Compatible on both phone and desktop Enter and tab (or left and right click) to enter fast

MilaNote

  • I like this option for going beyond a mind map
  • It has an unsorted list, easy to copy paste for any pictures or links
  • You can highlight some and drag it out into its own node very simply
  • Power up to expand card, transparent the card
  • Dive into a board (another nested page)
  • Lines are a pain so visual separation is achievable with placement (drop anywhere) and colors
  • 100 note/card limit for free plan

Miro

  • Similar to MilaNote with room for massive ideas!
  • Does have a mind map feature that is easy to branch and add elements
  • Only one that does mind map nodes that can connect to more than two elements
  • Easy to add other types of elements like pictures and sticky notes, and easy to move multiple elements

Winner

If you can tell by the screenshots, I liked Miro the best. It is more than what I was originally looking for, but easy enough to learn how to use (cough cough, Scrivener). I also like the fact that I can have an idea in the middle of the night and add it on my phone. I like the ability to start with a mind map (it’s tiny at the top), and expand out. I started with mapping madness ideas, and then as they started to have lessons and connections, I pulled out the important ones into sticky notes and went linear for chapter planning. Then, I started associating color (intentionally chosen) with different themes.

This is not a good program for perfectionist or left-brained organizers – I find myself wanting to align everything perfectly like excel. When I stopped caring about size, it helped. So far I am liking being able to see the gaps, reorder them entirely. It helped to add more than one block of different styles to get “uncomfortable” with design and let the ideas flow.

Hope that is useful! Let me know if there is a tool you like!

Pantser Review of Scrivener

Thank you to #NaNoWriMo and my friends on #WritingCommunity on Twitter for the discount! I purchased Scrivener because I wanted to stay more organized, and attempt to be a plantser. So here is my review! Note: This is for the Windows Version!

But first…

What is Scrivener?

It is a writing tool. What does that mean? It does:

  • word processor (Microsoft Word and Google Docs no more)
  • formatting automation (export for publishing)
  • file organization (i.e. each section and chapter as separate files, combined during export)
  • version control

I looked into Scrivener mainly for file organization. I needed to slow down by breaking down my ideas into smaller chunks to focus my efforts into depth instead of breadth.

Pros:

  • Export to published format
    • I spent a long time in Microsoft Word in the final formatting steps. With Scrivener, you can export to epub and pdf and word so you can get it the right way.
  • Moving sections
    • If you don’t write in order then this could be helpful. If you are an over-writer that writes something that you want to use later and you don’t want to delete it, this is helpful. And finally, if you are a pantser that half way writing you say, nope, took a wrong direction, then this is helpful. I am not a writer of any of these types (yet? it might change).
  • Cost
    • If you need a word processor, it far cheaper than Microsoft Word. A lot of other writers use it so the community following is nice.
  • Chunking sections
    • I do like how the breakdown of parts, chapters, and scenes. MS Word Navigation does chapters well, but scenes is a nice add. Separating out scenes (grey below) isn’t something I do now. The visual separation is like writing writing the scene, it the camera / your eyes move, there is separation and setting the scene should be done each time and it is a nice reminder for me an under-writer that skips descriptions in first drafts.

Cons:

  • Outlining
    • I like the corkboard view and the outline view, but there is no filtering (blue below)! I wanted to narrowly look at subplots, or characters, and make sure that each had an individual character arc. But I can only see the whole outline. I can search by labels, but the search results view isn’t helpful for prepping. It might be helpful during editing when all the pieces are written.
  • Templates
    • I used the character sheet template that came with Scrivener and I liked it, but… I wanted tweaks. I haven’t yet figured out how to export a character sheet or to create my own template. I have stopped trying to figure it out.
  • Snapshots
    • Okay, there is no visible inline editing. Instead there are these snapshots that you can compare versions. Take one snapshot at draft one, make changes, and then compare to see added, deleted text (blue below). Scrivener acts like MS Word’s Track Changes with the view always at “No Markups”. I’m hesitant because I’m used to seeing the edits in line (“All Markups”), but having multiple snapshots is a cool idea for editing.

Conclusion:

In moving all of the notes into Scrivener, I learned that no, I’m not going to use Scrivener for Moon and Mystery (Working Title). It’s not the tool I need right now, but I might try again when I’m ready to edit (again, as an under-writer, it may help to say “add a scene here”, which happens to me after the first draft).

Trying Scrivener did help me narrow the need I have for a tool. At this point, I want an outlining tool rather than a writing tool.

With that, we will look at comparing the mind mapping tools next!

Note: Scrivener 3 for Windows is coming soon (and has been in beta for a realllllllly long time) and based on the Mac release, it may be the difference makers!

Plantster: Converting From Pantser

In my last post, I admitted that I am an under-writer and also 100% pantser. I’m wanting to change that!

Why?

Well, my beta readers noticed that in early drafts I would describe my characters at the end of a scene. It was becoming a joke because it happened in more than a couple chapters.

I asked myself, why did this happen?

My answer: We are a result of our experiences, which to me is plot! The more I wrote, the more I learned about my characters. I have conflict, I love dialog, but I didn’t care what they wore or how their hair is. Not right away. Those details didn’t help me write… so plot came first.

So my goal in becoming a plantser is to write deeper character arcs. I’ve learned I need to add emotional connections, emotional goals that exist before the plot turns into conflict. It will make my readers more invested, and help me slow down to explain the facial expressions, internal tension, and physical reactions better.

To be clear, I’m not trying to convert to a planner – I need to leave room for inspiration as it comes in pantsing. Panster do all of the writerly things: we have characters, and plots with rising action, conflict, and climax, all normal. But these are some techniques I’m going to research and try out to help me with my writing style.

  1. Character Sheets
  2. Outline Mapping Templates
    1. Snowflake Method
    2. Save the Cat Method
    3. Bookend Method
    4. Godzilla Outline
    5. Agenda or Timeline Method
  3. Organization Tools
    1. Scrivener
    2. Ulysses
    3. Evernote – currently use this
    4. Trello
  4. Mind Mapping Tools
    1. Miro
    2. Scapple
    3. Mindmiester
    4. Milanote
    5. Mindnode
  5. Emotion Writing

This is not a comprehensive list and doesn’t have an sponsoring. Follow along for my thoughts!

Plantster: Combination of Plotter and Pantser

This is how I imagine a planster: a potted plant wearing a disguise. You think you’ve planted a seed that is growing as you tend it. But in reality it’s probably a poky cactus that will never flower.

So what is a plantster really? Well…

Plantser = Plotter + Pantser

Plotter: I think of a mystery writer. Yes, on page one you know whodunnit but to put all the clues in the right place before you get to the last page and solve it? That takes careful planning and pacing to not give too much all at once. Balance it across the chapters because you know how long it’s going to be. Oh, we all want the meticulous detail spelled out in character profiles, drawn maps and timelines.

Pantser: “Fly by the seat of your pants”, eh? I think of a fantasy writer, Dungeons and Dragons style. Oh I’ve got a character and some good vague ideas and let’s see what sticks! What actually happens is controlled by the characters, not the writer. Don’t like something? Woops, killed them off. Anything goes! Oh, we all want our characters to take over and write themselves out of what we throw at them!

So, a Plantser is the best of both worlds then, right? Maybe?

Oh my gosh.

This post was going to be about how I was a plantser. But right here, right now, I realize I’m not.

Oh my gosh!

I’m a pantser.

Oh god.

No.

No no no. I was a pantser. But I want to be a plantser. So, now this post is going to be a two part thing about how a pantser becomes a plantser.

Here is my confession. Mars and Mayhem I totally made it up as I went. I had ideas, written down ideas, but it didn’t turn out as I originally planned. A few things that tipped me off when I look back on my notes and come to admit this truth:

  • I did the character sheets after the first draft. Whoops.
  • I wrote my characters into problems that I didn’t know how they would get out of it. The small ones were easy enough. I remember vividly the moment I got the epiphany for how Michelle (spoiler!) worked herself out of her flat tire. Such a rush!
  • But there were bigger problems. Like what is someone going to do after losing their job? And more importantly, could the Earth be saved? Not by that person. Uh oh, now what.
  • The story was going to be longer than nine days and have more alien invasion aftermath of rebuilding society (spoiler: instead will there be any at all?).
  • As world building developed, it wasn’t all doom and gloom like apocalyptic novels. It’s easy to have aliens/zombies/plague/terrorists come to destroy the world you built, but then you become attached to it. You start asking what pieces of infrastructure are worth keeping?
  • I ended up doing some analysis by page count and found literal gaps. Chapters ranged in page count dramatically and it was very unbalanced between characters. I had to fill it in.

I used to think a pantser would repeat themselves, get distracted by the things they like, or go too far down an idea they end up cutting in the end. Well, I know for a fact that I’m an under-writer, but no, I’m also 100% pantser.

And vowing to change that!

What is in a Pen Name?

What is in a name? And if you get to CHOOSE your own name, what does that mean about you?

I believe names are important. We start life with two. One name is given when you are born. One name is inherited from your family. These names to me are precious and have history and meaning beyond a single person. Then there are nicknames; you don’t get to choose these either and these can be jabs, jokes, or reminders.

And then there are pen names. A rare opportunity to pick something for yourself.

Some people may choose a pen name to disguise gender, to jump genres, or personal choice. Personally, I didn’t want to go with a pen name. I liked my name. Here’s my reasoning: I thought remember two names instead of one was confusing. Clemens and Twain? It’s like a quiz when I can’t even remember the name of the book! I also was worried about growing out of it like my middle school email address or my high school nickname. Those I will leave behind thank-you-very-much. And finally, I didn’t have anything to hide. I’ve been public about my book writing and I don’t write erotica, I write science fiction. My last name is unique, a good length, and well, it was mine.

So why am I talking about pen names? Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

I got married and am excited to start a family with a shared last name. By gaining a new name, at first I felt like I was losing another. But instead of losing Hasling, it has instead risen like a phoenix and taken on a new life as my pen name. It is so fulfilling to have my pen name inherited from myself and my book family.

And let me tell you a secret… it is kind of awesome! I wasn’t expecting to feel this since I hadn’t thought about picking one on my own. But let me say that having a pen name feels like a secret life, something you can crawl into a blanket fort with paper and pen and tell hidden mysteries and wild fantasies. I knew continuing to use this name would make me feel like I was keeping a connection to my family, but I didn’t know it would simultaneously give me freedom with the separation of my life online as an author and my life in the real world as a wife.

So would you choose a pen name? Searching for other tips on blog posts, I was surprised by how many posts were titled “new pen name”, but there are also a few other good reads out there I liked:

Vote!

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that.

I’m still gushing over the cover of Mars and Mayhem revealed last month. And this month, the cover is nominated for the AllAuthor.com Cover of the Month contest for August. I need support from you! You don’t have to register, just click on the link and VOTE!

Click to Vote!

Cover Reveal! Mars and Mayhem

The big moment has arrived! It’s like the moment the bride walks down the aisle, as everyone marvels at the beauty of the moment while also seeing perfection in the future that is starting that wedding day.

I have been waiting to share this with the world! I love the cover! I hope it entices you to buy and to read! Pre-order it today at a discounted price!

For my speech, I’d like to thank:

  • my family, who have put up with my incessant questions and long conversations about this book
  • my fiancee, who probably will never read the book but supports it none the less
  • my colleagues and friends, who love science fiction as much as I do
  • the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, who provides support the only way people on social media can
  • the artist herself, who really is the only person that should get credit for this milestone

How to Publish a Novel: Part 5

It’s like watching a sunset. The beautiful colors of red, purple, orange, outlining the clouds and creating hypnotic layers is worth the commitment, patience, and wonder that escapes your heart.

I’m excited to share my coming soon novel with you. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This is another post of my eight part blog mini-series.

Part 5: Thank you, Beta Readers

Ok, so by this point, I determined that I needed help editing. Who do you ask to do that? I know tons of readers and writers, and supporters to my book writing, but who do I trust? Also, who reads fast? And who can tell me the constructive criticism I need to hear? This has been an accelerated process having 3 beta readers (maybe fewer than most) in 6 months, but it has been more than rewarding. I’ve learned that in my next novel, I should 1) start sooner, and 2) find a critique partner.

Tip 1: Over-writer or under-writer

First of all, I learned that I am an under-writer. I make assumptions of my reader’s imagination and need to add detail to show the reader. To help put this in perspective, I thought I was “done” at 51,000 words in December. After adding huge world building and character development bits, I am now over 70,000 words. That’s 30% more. My beta readers would ask me questions of “did you mean–” or “what about–” and I could clarify in a conversation, but the main take away was, if it wasn’t clear in the book itself, add it.

Tip 2: Talk it out and uncover what is truly missing

Sometimes it was frustrating. Some questions my beta readers posed were, “So I don’t get the spaceship–” and “I like reading Mac, but he doesn’t do anything for the plot.” It was obvious to me, or maybe I liked leaving the color of something up to the reader’s imagination, but I’ve come to terms that that doesn’t make a good writer. There is a fine balance between too much detail (Lord of the Rings) where you skip chapters or pages of descriptions, and not enough (i.e. what I had). And by the way, sometimes you know the answer, and sometimes you have to dig deeper and go from editor to writer again. That is tough.

Tip 3: Never too soon

I was scared to give my unpolished book to someone, wanting a magical answer to the time and place for when it would be ready. Thank you to my beta readers that honestly read an incomplete novel and helped me relinquished the protective hold I had on my book as a dream. Through their involvement, it opened doors that would grow organically into reality. I learned SO much from my friends and family beta readers. They read it as readers, and it completely refueled me with their enthusiasm.

Thank you, from the bottom of Michelle’s heart, beta readers!