Saturday, November 4, 2017

Musings of a Repentant Pantser

That may sound like the confession of a playground bully, but I'm not talking about actually pantsing anyone, I'm talking about pansting my novel.

Photo via Unsplash

In the world of writers, I'm the type who follows the call of my characters, their quirks and whims, to discover my finale. In other words, I'm a pantser.

It's not the most organized process, but it is fun and unexpected. So far, it's been ideal for a girl who came to writing from an entirely unrelated field.

However, October marked the first month of My First Ever Novel Writing Class, so I was required to switch gears. A few weeks in, I was assigned the task of outlining a novel I'd hardly begun to write with characters I barely knew. I was stumped. I tried. I really tried. But I could only come up with six events. Six. Measly. Events. I don't know if you've read anything lately, but six measly events do not a novel make.

I gave up. My instructor didn't know what my novel was about, right? She hadn't been in the critique group who had heard the first couple pages of Rapunzel. So I outlined the novel I finished in August, a Rumplestiltskin retelling. Since my goals for the novel writing course included rethinking the novel I'd finished as well as plotting out a new novel, I only felt slightly like a great big cheater pants.

Okay, maybe more than slightly.

The next week, my instructor, the amazing Mette Ivie Harrison, assigned a synopsis. Again, I tried. Due to a few exercises along the way,
  1. fleshing out my characters more fully,
  2. diagramming how the characters interacted with and influenced one another (aka my version of fleshing out events in the plot),
  3. returning to original sources to reread the original fairy tale,
I sat down at my computer and followed my characters through to a working synopsis. The process was as amazing as jumping in and writing.

That brings me to today, where I admit that there is something to this outlining thing. I have a better picture of where Novel Four is headed than I ever have before. I've also spent enough time away from Novel Three to have a good perspective about what needs to be tweaked, improved, and added.

Does this mean I have exchanged my proud-to-be-panster status for overly-exuberant plotter status? I enjoy chucking aside outlines and following characters in unexpected directions too much to become a die hard plotter. But I can finally see the benefits of spending more time getting to know my characters and story before actually writing it.

I might even stop mentally mocking the die-hard plotters for spending days and weeks and months organizing and reorganizing before writing. Maybe.
* * *
For more about embarking on the writing journey, read:

And if any of you out there are interested in serving as reviewers, I'm offering the eBook version of Midnight Sisters  in exchange for honest reviews. For my philosophy on reviews, please read Reviews: Give 'em to me! Leave me a comment or send me an email if you're interested!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Quick Sidestep

Back in my junior college days, Phys Ed was not my thing, so having the chance to take a movement class that didn't involve profuse sweat, sports bras, or showering in public was appealing. That's how I wound up in Social Dance learning the foxtrot.

Photo by Tim Gouw via Unsplash

The foxtrot involves two slow steps forward and two quicksteps to the side. The pattern keeps replaying in my mind, two steps forward and quick-quick sidestep. I'm well acquainted with the sidestep, the deviation from the plotted course.

My entire fall is a deviation from my writing goals. A whole new group of little people have just entered my life. They will take all my time and attention for a minute. Or a month or two. And then I can have a life outside of my classroom.

It's not the first time I've had to take a quick sidestep this year. I've been active on social media since 2014 when my first book came out. For a year or two, I posted to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram several times a week and posted fresh content here on my website at least once a week. With managing my book release. launch, monthly author events, and working full-time for most of the year, my Queen of Social Media tiara slipped a little. It's been a year of creating connections and meeting new readers. My focus has been on traditional marketing far more than on online marketing, and though it probably doesn't make a difference to my Amazon ranking, I'm happy with those results.

Writing time is writing time. It's sacred. Blogging or posting on social media is time stolen from finishing my novel. And that first draft is so close to being done! It's the Writer Paradox: successful writers need to connect with readers, in person and online, but the best way to be a successful writer is to keep writing.

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov via Unsplash
That's why I'm pleased to announce that I'm taking my first creative writing class since high school. The only education I received on crafting novels came from reading a ton of Young Adult novels. It will take a healthy chunk of writing, blogging, and social media time, but it should help me more more forward as a writer, even if it's in a different direction than I might have planned.

Forward momentum is forward momentum, even if it isn't precisely where you thought you were going. For a little more inspiration, let's muse on this quote by Ginger Rogers: 

Image result for backwards and in high heels
I do everything the man does, only backwards and in high heels!
In the next few weeks I'll be doing author events, Parent Teacher Conferences, Comic Con, a Novel Writing class, and finishing my Rumpelstiltskin rewrite. And much of that will be in really cute shoes.

Don't worry, I've got this.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Little Romance

Life has been busy lately. My summer life is transforming into my fall life. Writing full-time is making way for working full-time and listening for the call of my characters will make way for learning the needs of my students. My summer story is nearly written and with the opening of the school year, a new chapter unfolds. 

This summer, my journey has been marked with morning walks, morning talks, and so many stories. My heart is swayed by romance and as I roam around my school instead of my neighborhood and fall in love with adorable five-year-olds instead of my own characters, I'll continue searching for a little romance.

Perhaps you too are trying to reconcile a summer life with a regular life and you could use an extra smile and a giggle. If so, maybe you could benefit from a little escape nestled between the pages.

Related imageRoss Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, Winston Graham. I first met Ross Poldark in the PBS Masterpiece series Poldark. Because Aidan Turner, my friends. Since I discovered that it's based on a series of novels, I've been dying to get my hands on them. And guess what? They're fantastic. Ross's courage and inborn romance will win anyone's heart. 

Image result for i am the messenger book coverI Am The Messenger, Markus Zusak. Zusak's style is both masterful and delightful. In this tale, he weaves the story of good-for-nothing Ed Kennedy who is given another chance to connect with humanity. Or Ed will be punished by the unknown master calling the shots. 

Image result for vanessa and her sister book coverVanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar. Parmar weaves a tale around the life and times of Vanessa Bell, artist and sister of Virginia Woolf. Historical Fiction will always be one of my favorite genres. It always sends me scurrying to the internet and library for more information on the events and historical figures portrayed in the novels. Vanessa and Her Sister is captivating, inspiring, beautiful, and heartbreaking.

Image result for rembrandt robin king book coverRemembrandt, Robin King. Alex Stewart has a eidetic memory. She recalls everything she has ever seen with prefect clarity. When she's recruited by a secret organization, she finds her skills put to the test as a secret operative and her heart pulled in another direction by a handsome stranger. King's first novel in the series is both intriguing and youthful.

Related imageThis Lullaby, Sarah Dessen. Dessen's novels paint a world of heartbreak and joy, youth and folly. And regardless of the fact that they are Young Adult novels, they always reveal a ribbon of truth running through the middle. This Lullaby follows the carefully plotted out last summer of Remy. She's leaving her eccentric author mother and newly-in-love brother for Stanford in a few short months. The only thing that's missing from her life is one short-term summer romance. She doesn't expect Dexter, a messy, quirky musician to claim more of her life or more of her heart than she's willing to give.

Image result for a little in love book coverA Little Bit in Love, Susan E. Fletcher. Novels that give new life and breadth to a character we thought we knew always intrigue me. Eponine, from Les Miserables, is reimagined in this gorgeously woven tale of grit, romance, and heartbreak. It follows the path that led Eponine to Paris and Marius and love. We may know how her story ends, but now we can know her heart.

* * *
As for me, I'm only a few scenes away from finishing my third novel, beginning the task of editing and polishing and pruning, collaborating to create cover art, and starting a new novel. Oh yes, and educating another group of adorable five-year-olds! Stay tuned for news on both! Thanks for reading!

Note: The above novels, with the exception of Remembrant, may feature language, strong themes, sex, or other elements you may not appreciate. Please read responsibly.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Writing Retreat: Take Two

60,000 words has come and gone. Will this actually be a novel? Will I even finish Book Three? A well-timed Writing Retreat might just make all the difference . . .

Download wallpaper above Park City,  Utah,  Mountains,  sky free desktop wallpaper in the resolution 4802x3169 — picture №590018
Beautiful Park City, Utah
Our Writing Retreat last year helped me finalize Midnight Sisters for publishing this year. It was also one of the best weekends I had last summer. Fun, interesting, and just busy enough. So this year when the girls asked if I wanted to participate, I jumped right in. I had reached 50,000 words in my current WIP, which is the length Becoming Beauty weighed in at, and I had also reached a critical point where I wasn't sure what to do next.

Mermaid tails keep toes warm. It's true.
As you may know, I'm not a planner. Well, there are times that being a pantser really leaves me in the lurch. And this was one of them. I'd been adding 10,000 words a week throughout July and had more than doubled the length of my novel. I planned to add as much as I could during our Writing Retreat and then browse the manuscript from the beginning for ideas of how to reach the end. I put in about two days writing and added about 5,000 words and gained some direction at last.

Yep. I finally know how I'm getting to the end! And if it took a lot of snacks, ice water on standby, a couple of pool and hot tub hours, and countless quiet writing hours, I'm glad to do it! Our Park City weekend also included evenings on the town and a Saturday shopping spree at the outlets. If you haven't figured it out, I love ALL of those things.

Book Three will probably take another year to complete, edit, and polish but it's much closer to the finish line than before Writing Retreat 2017. Carry on, my writerly friends, and remember that there's power, inspiration, and strength in numbers. Also, geekiness.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's In The Works?

Back when Becoming Beauty was on its way to being published, I wrote a good deal of Midnight Sisters. However, self-publishing Midnight Sisters didn't allow me the luxury of doing the same with my third novel. Marketing and promotions fell squarely on my shoulders during the height of kindergarten craziness (January through May). 

Related imageFor those of you who don't know, kindergartners return from Christmas break refreshed and ready to go. Differences in student ability is never more evident than during the last few month of school. It's my job as the teacher to keep everyone on track and everything running smoothly.

Imagine doing all of that during the same five months Midnight Sisters was released, the Blog Tour ran, a Launch Party was thrown, and about six more Author Events were held all over Northern Utah. 

Needless to say, I didn't do much novel writing on my new novel until the school year wrapped up. Since June is when I do most of my summer traveling, I was pleased to hit 20,000 words. For me, 20,000 words means a story has enough momentum to become a novel. In the last two weeks, I've put the pedal down and doubled that number, pulling in at 40,000 words. My plan is to stay focused, draft through July, and finally hit the end.

In the meantime, my Rumpelstiltskin* rewrite has transformed into a conglomeration of several fairy tales. Gilberto (Gil) is a Spanish Rumpelstiltskin blended with my first love, Gilbert Blythe of Anne of Green Gables. Behind him hovers an army of workers he refers to as elves, much like the Elves and the Shoemaker. Also, I couldn't resist setting Crown Prince Henry on the hunt for a wife, a lá Cinderella. That means that our heroine Elyse, who is a cross between the Rumpelstiltskin's miller's daughter and Cinderella, becomes the mystery princess at Prince Henry's wife-hunting ball. Of course, being just as mischievous as Rumpelstiltskin, Gil will choose that moment to appear and throw everything into a tailspin. 

Can you tell my fingers are itching to write that scene?

Sarah E. Boucher, author & educator
And that's why I haven't blogged in weeks. Writing time and writing energy only stretch so far. However, I promise that as I pull into the finish line, I'll share snippets of scenes. Also, as soon as the drafting and editing pace slows, I'm planning to do another feature like the Humor & Inspiration Features of last year or this year's character features Meet the Sisters.

Thanks for taking this journey with me!

*Author's Note: As an educator, I always love sharing new things (even if they're old things) with my audience. So, if you aren't acquainted with the original fairy tales Rumplestilskin, The Elves and The Shoemaker, or Cinderella, follow the links embedded above! Happy reading!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Stop Talking. Start Writing.

There seems to be a recurring theme in my world these days.
I'm currently on vacation with my best friend and guess what was one of the first things we did? We talked about writing. 

Did we talk about what we're writing?

Did we talk about how much we've written?

Did we discuss our upcoming projects or how excited we are about them?

We talked about how we should be writing, how much time we wish we had spent writing, and all the other things we've been doing instead.

Sound familiar?

While growing my Twitter following, I've encountered some newbie writers who are in the same boat. (Names have been omitted in order to protect the dear, sweet, writers. If by some strange twist of fate they are actually reading this, bless their dear, sweet souls, because I've got a truth bomb or two to drop.) 

Here are their the account descriptions:

I'm an aspiring author with a bad case of lazy. Currently writing a couple of novel series and a few screenplays.

I want to reply, Kudos on not calling yourself an aspiring writer! And for actually getting the job (or several jobs) started! Keep it up, Sunshine!

Here's another:

Hey guys! I'm a fiction writer who dreams of getting published; feel free to throw some inspiration my way!

I want to ask what's standing in her way. Is she waiting for the right time to publish? Is she waiting for a big, shiny contract? Those are pretty tough to score. And there are always strings attached. So if writers want to publish their stories, they need to get smarter and find the path that's right for them. 

Boom. Inspiration.

Here's my favorite account description:

Follow me as a I try to complete a novel I've been working on for the last seven years.

I want to comment on that, but I can't decide just how brutally honest I want to be. Which of the following would you suggest?

a) What's your timeline for completing this novel? Another seven years? Because YIKES.

b) Do you expect to see a return on your investment? Because you'll need to sell a ton of those puppies to break even after you've committed a decade to the project. Again, YIKES.

c) Obviously this project is going nowhere. Set it aside and find something you are truly passionate about finishing. And guess what? You'll have published that novel before you could have ever finished this one. 

I've known writers who couldn't give up on that first novel and/or publishing contract and insisted on pursuing it instead of moving on. The truth is we are better writers today than ever before and the stories and characters we develop will be more complex than they would have been several years ago.

On the other end of the spectrum is my amazing friend Jo Ann Schneider. Jo and I published our first novels the same year. However, in the time that I've published two Young Adult fairy tales, Jo has published seven novels, two novellas, as well as collaborating on a couple of short story anthologies. Did I mention that they're all in different genres?
Now that's smart. Jo not only talks about writing, she gets the job done. Her Facebook feed shows some awesome stuff these days. Here's what she shared last week:

Hey Jagged Scars fans. I'm on a mission to write a rough draft of book 5 between now and July 6th. It's only going to be about 80,000 words. That shouldn't be a problem, right? I started yesterday. 

Here is my progress report for today. Time for a snack.
Beginning word count: 5,015
Ending word count: 12,023

(Sarah's math says: 7,008 words on day one!)

Hey Jagged Scars fans, here's my daily report:
Beginning word count: 12,023
Ending word count: 21,576
21,500 words down, only 60,000 to go!

(Sarah's math says: 9,553 words on day two!)

My goal was 25,000 words this week. Got a little more in. One week down, two and a half to go.

Beginning word count: 21,576
Ending word count: 26,610

(Sarah's math says: 5,034 words on day three! 21,595 words written in one week!)

She's amazing. If I wrote like that, my 50,000-60,000 novel would already be written. But I've let life get in the way. I've let distractions (like those blasted idiots who are supposed to be fixing my AC but still haven't done so) get in the way of my summer writing goals. 

So here I am, pulling up my big girl panties and saying it loud and proud:

I'm finishing another novel this summer. 

I'm already a third of the way done at over 20,000 words. Another 10,000 words (which I knocked out in one day last summer) and I'll be halfway done. I can do that, right? 

A life lesson that both Jo and I have learned is that as soon as you publish a novel the first thing your readers will ask is:

When will the next one be out?

Every author wants to say, Holy Heck, Greedy Gus! I just got this one out and it nearly killed me! Can you give me a second?

What we should do is express our gratitude for their support. We want them to be invested in us and all we do, right?

These are the people who will pay our bills. Or at least pay for the occasional pedicure.

As I continue down the road to fame and riches (or just regularly pampered feet), I welcome you to come along on the journey. Here's to finishing my first draft instead of just talking about it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Midnight Sisters: Meet the Gentlemen

Twelve noblewomen, two smitten gardeners, and one angry father.
In the Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies series, we learned about each of the twelve noblewomen featured in Midnight Sisters. But what about the men? They're just as important as the women they love and fiercely protect. Today Jonas, Braden, and Lord Bromhurst take the spotlight to reveal their secrets. Who's in love, who's a horrible poet, and who is still mourning love lost? Read to find out!
* * *
Philip growled at the plant before him.

“Is there something particularly irritating about that rose bush, sir?” I asked.

He let out a hmph, shoved his bangs out of his eyes, and turned his glare on me. “Women.”

I squinted at him. “Women, sir?”

“Yes,” he growled out, stabbing violently at the rose bush with a trowel.

“Anything specific you’d like to impart on the subject?” When I’d first come to his estate, I wouldn’t have dreamed of baiting my master in this way. But I knew the plants would take the brunt of his ill humor.

“A good woman is worth her weight in gold, Jonas.” He pushed his bangs out of his eyes again. “But she will probably never let you forget it.” He jabbed at the plant again. “And neither will her sister.”

I nodded slowly and turned my attention back to weeding. “Enlightening, sir.”

“Two weeks and you’ll be off on a new adventure, Jonas.” He didn’t look up from his work. “Mind you keep your head down and don’t flirt.”

I thought of the new position he’d procured for me in a household so much more grand than his own. “The Earl of Bromhurst’s daughters are said to be very beautiful.”

“Each more beautiful than the last. More reason to keep your nose clean,” he grumbled. “Who needs a hoity toity noblewoman in his life?”

A grin tugged at my lips. “Even if she’s very, very beautiful?”

He scoffed. “Find yourself a willing milkmaid, Jonas.” A sardonic gleam burned in his eye. “And watch out for bossy kitchen wenches.”
* * *
I wadded up another sheet of paper and tossed it on the growing pile. It just wasn’t right. She was the most perfect woman I’d ever laid eyes on. I couldn’t offer her something less than perfect. 

I began again:

Fairest Lady,
With skin is of purest snow,
Hair of burnished gold,
Whose eyes the brighter glow,
Within such mysteries hold.
If I could let you know
Your hand in mine enfold . . .

Told? Bold? Show? Flow? Blech. I tore the paper down the middle and crumbled it like all the rest.

“Braden!” the voice boomed behind me. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Gregor glared at me from the doorway. I found few things intimidating, but that eyebrow inching upward was certainly one of them.

“Um . . .” I fished for a plausible lie. Another plausible lie. “Just writing my mother, sir.”

He growled. “You should know better than to waste paper, boy. We’re given a strict allowance.” He motioned to the pile of discarded sheets. “That is coming out of your wages.”

I nodded in agreement. “Yes, sir.”

“Clean up this mess and report to your post.”

“Of course, sir.” I offered up what I hoped was an innocent smile. His footsteps retreated and I turned my attention back to penning the perfect love note.

Hours later, I signed my name at the bottom. If she didn’t favor me, I was signing my own dismissal letter. What else could I do? I folded up the single sheet and scrawled her name on the front.

* * *
Lord Bromhurst
Twelve empty beds. At midnight. 

I ran a hand through my hair, wishing I could rip it out by the roots. Katherine’s patient face flitted through my mind. My heart panged, at war with the anger coursing through my veins. She would have had the answer. Katherine would have known what to do with twelve unruly daughters.

“Why did you have to leave me?” I whispered. It was the question that had plagued me for over a decade. I would never know the answer. And day by day, our daughters were becoming more and more willful. The empty beds, all perfectly made with crisp corners and plump pillows, mocked me. Innocent, proper, and completely disconcerting at the same time.

“Your Lordship?” one of the menservants called tentatively from the doorway.

I cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?”

I could tell he wanted to shuffle his feet under my glare but he held himself erect all the same. “What would you like us to do?” 

What would you have done, Katherine? I sent the silent plea heavenward. As usual, the heavens remained silent. I would have to manage on my own. A sigh gushed out of me. “Alert the staff. My daughters are missing. They must be found at once.”

“At once, My Lord.” He offered a small bow before turning to leave.

“And when I find them . . .” My hands clenched at my side. Anger solidified in the pit of my stomach like a rock.

The servant turned back. “Pardon me, My Lord? What was that?”

“Nothing,” I grumbled.
* * *
Author's Secrets: Jonas's scene occurs during the finals scenes of Becoming Beauty. As I prepared Becoming Beauty for publishing, I was already chapters into the first draft of Midnight Sisters. Since Jonas was a gardener, it seemed fitting that he should have a place in Becoming Beauty's rose garden. So yes, you can find a teenage Jonas Selkirk in Becoming Beauty's finale.

Read more about the twelve sisters in the Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies series:

Meet the Sisters I (Ariela, Brisella, Canela)
Meet the Sisters II (Daniela, Estella and Frizella)
Meet the Sisters III (Gisella, Hayla, Isella, and Janela)
Meet the Sisters IV (Krisela and Larela)

For the full story, order your own copy of Midnight Sisters or Becoming Beauty on Amazon. Contact me directly if you'd like a signed novel. (FYI a special discount will be offered for anyone ordering both novels through me.)

Happy summer reading! Thanks for dropping by!