SURVIVING A REVISION

revision

From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

It’s inevitable: no matter how you publish, you’re going to hit a tight revision deadline. It’s not unusual, when releasing work with a publishing house, to get a month deadline to turn back global revisions. And sure, a month might sound like a considerable period of time–until you get started. Because global revision isn’t clean. Even when you’ve cleared an outline or a plan of action with your editor, you can often find yourself rewriting a chapter two or three times before you feel you’ve gotten it right. If you spend the better part of a day drafting a chapter, all that ripping up means you’ve burned through the better part of a week–on one chapter. You’ve only got four weeks for the whole book.

You can see where this is going.

Self-imposed deadlines can be just as brutal. Want to publish multiple books in one year? (I usually aim for four indies.) This in itself means sticking to a tight revision deadline. Right now, I’m revising a Christmas story. Obviously, I can’t release it on January 2. It, too, comes with a non-negotiable deadline.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned after years of often brutal deadlines:

You’ve got to budget your time. But you cannot let a deadline kill you. It’s imperative to also take care of yourself.

For me, that means I have to:

Eat solid meals.

Go for walks.

Practice yoga.

Have coffee with a friend.

Notice the sky.

Play with a silly sketch.

Shoot the breeze with my neighbor or mail carrier, etc.

Quit writing at a reasonable hour and binge a couple of episodes of a series I’m into.

Read a chapter of someone else’s book.

Paint my nails.

Cook.

Weed the garden.

Get a full night’s sleep.

Admit it. You think all that sounds ridiculous.

If a person is under that kind of horrendous deadline, you’re thinking, there is absolutely no time for any of that.

Here’s the thing, though: there is.

Most of those activities don’t take a ton of time. On average? Probably about twenty minutes. And with the exception of eating and sleeping well, you’re not going to do them all every single day. (I will say, though, that eating and sleeping well are absolutely essential when under deadline. I don’t care how much you have to do and how tight the deadline. If you don’t do both, your head fogs and everything winds up spiraling out of control.)

Seriously, though. Even under the tightest deadline, you can push yourself away from the desk. You can take a few minutes to make a cup of tea. Walk around the block. You’ve got to let your mind rest. You also have to give yourself time to think, which is an entirely different skill than actively putting words on a page.

The next time a deadline starts to make you feel you can’t breathe, just push yourself from your desk. Go outside. Let yourself watch the clouds go by.

I promise you’ll be amazed at what a few minutes to breathe will do.

WRITING CRAFT RECOMMENDATION: MEANDER, SPIRAL, EXPLODE

I’m a total junkie for writing craft books. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with story shapes. Kurt Vonnegut wrote and lectured on some basic story shapes (his vids are on YouTube and always worth a watch), but Jane Alison’s recent release looks to patterns in nature in order to explore the idea of stories taking on shapes other than the tried-and-true arc.

spiral

From my Instagram: @hollyschindler

I’m fascinated by the idea–and absolutely agree that a story can be riveting and satisfying for the reader without being expected. In fact, it might be more satisfying if it does not employ the traditional arc structure.

Lately, I also feel that when my own manuscripts get stuck–when they just don’t seem to want to come together–it’s because the story doesn’t want to follow the rules. It doesn’t want to come together in that arc, or the POV doesn’t want to simply be limited 3rd-person.

The trick, of course, is to do something unexpected in a way that feels fresh and not confusing for the reader. The book also shouldn’t feel gimmicky, either–the narrative patterns that Alison explores aren’t to be used “just because.” They should have a purpose. Your story should be one that couldn’t be told without deviating from the old arc.

Alison’s work is definitely worth a read. Highly recommended for any author on the hunt for a fresh approach to their latest WIP.

REVIEW – THE ART OF THE KISS

I always read my reviews–Amazon, Goodreads, Instagram, blogs, etc. All of ’em. I’ll admit, I used to read them a bit warily. But these days, I look forward to them. I always learn from them–they teach me so much about my own work. And recently, they’ve really started giving me a great deal of confidence to try new storytelling techniques.

Art of the Kiss final

THE ART OF THE KISS does a bit of time-jumping and contains multiple POVs, including an omniscient narrator. With a photographer as one of the main characters, I often say the book is told in “snapshots.”

A recent review from THE LAKELAND TIMES calls THE ART OF THE KISS “a uniquely crafted and relayed story of two people and the testament of love.” And goes on to describe the book:

Schindler’s storytelling in “The Art of the Kiss” is slowly and carefully built, brick by brick and memory by memory until it creates a life as a whole. It examines life at its core, relationships at their best and often their worst, tugging at heartstrings and giving way to deep thoughts of the new, the old and the now. Ultimately, it is a modern fairy tale retold for the modern age. A story of the passage of time, the changes that inevitably come with age and the beauty of youth. 

It is a particular way of novel-building — an omniscient narrator who sets a scene and issues the story bit by bit. Michael and Sharon are well-drawn and in-depth, likable yet real to life. The reader sees each side from all angles, giving the story a different twist. It is conversations and thoughts, ideas and memories, much like journal entries or diary notations. Pieces from postcards or greeting cards.

With its small town setting, likable characters and lovely narrative, “The Art of the Kiss” is both nostalgic and artistic, a perfect read for the summer that takes a beach read a step above and beyond.

You can read the review in its entirety here.

RELEASE DAY – THE ART OF THE KISS

It’s officially here! The release day for The Art of the Kiss.

I’m so thrilled that this book is out in the world. All books are projects of the heart, but this one was especially so. I completely fell in love with my characters as I wrote about them, and I can’t wait for readers to meet them too.

Available now at:

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

If you’re a bookseller yourself, the novel is also available at Ingram for a 55% bookseller discount.

CARVING OUT TIME TO WRITE, TO DRAW

I’ve always been a big proponent of making time, especially where my writing is concerned. I mean, if I were to sit around waiting for the perfect time to write–a time completely free from distractions–I’d maybe write three or four days a year. Any adult life is just fraught with responsibilities and obligations. And those responsibilities are not necessarily burdensome! We have responsibilities to friends and families and pets and side-jobs we love. We want to do right by the people in our lives…

aaand we also have lawns to mow and laundry to do and dinner to cook.

Okay, so some of those daily obligations are burdensome.

Regardless, I’ve learned to write in early mornings and late at night. I’ve brainstormed in back seats. I’ve thumbed new chapters into my phone while waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve dictated while driving. I keep little mini spiral notebooks in my purse. I have an old Alphasmart NEO that can keep me going during power outages (it’s Missouri–there are plenty of power outages, let me tell you).

I write every day, no matter what’s going on–doctor’s appointments or author visits or traveling or even mundane daily chores like grocery shopping. No matter what else has to be done, I get some writing done too. Some days, it’s eight hours of writing. Some days, it’s twenty minutes. But some sort of progress gets made.

I learned a long time ago that it’s the only way a book gets written. You just write. Even in the most imperfect of situations.

But what about ART???

This one’s far harder for me. I’ve been determined to carve out more time for it, but I fail at this one more often than not. I get started writing a new project, and suddenly, I realize days have gone by and between life, marketing, and writing, I haven’t even thought about plugging in my Wacom.

It’s no excuse, though. It can’t be. I know plenty of writers who are also artists.

IMG_1609

This is part of my Skyping corner. That blue picture of fairies? That’s a Carrie Jones. Proof that a writer can incorporate time for artwork in her day…

One thing I know for sure is that it does not work to wait until the end of the day and try to squeeze in some artwork. I’m tired. My brain doesn’t work anymore. All I want to do by the time I’m officially done with all writing-related work is read or (if I’m really fried) watch an hour of TV (I’ve just recently discovered Homeland).

But I’m going to take a page from my writing life. I’m going to put a sketchbook (or my drawing tablet) off to the side. During longer writing days, when I need to take a breather, I’m going to do a bit of sketching. There are so many things I want to work on: my line work, improving texture and use of shadow, etc., etc., etc. But those things will never improve if I don’t work on them. Ten or twenty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can really add up. My writing life is proof of that.

To try to keep myself honest, I also plan to post some of my work on IG. You can follow along here: instagram.com/hollyschindler

QUICK BOOK DESIGN TIP #2: INCORPORATING COVER FONTS

It truly is one of the easiest ways to give your print paperback a professional look: incorporate your cover fonts in the interior pages. If you’ve designed your own cover, you already have those fonts installed on your computer. If you’ve hired an outside designer, simply ask where you can purchase the fonts yourself. (The designer most likely purchased a single seat for the font, or the rights for only one user.)

Great places to include your cover fonts:

Title Page (it’s always nice mimic the actual layout of the title on the cover)

Chapter Titles

Drop Letters

First Lines of Chapters

Dedication Pages

Page Headers (especially if you’re including the title of the book in the header)

When cover fonts are incorporated in a book’s interior, they can offer a really nice feeling of continuity,  break up the sea of text in a novel, and create an overall polished piece.

 

 

HOW MUCH DESCRIPTION IS TOO MUCH?

I never thought I’d say this, but almost all of it.

I used to be huge on description. Writing it and reading it. I was one of the weirdos who loved long juicy paragraphs filled with artistic depictions and metaphors and…

Well. You get the picture.

Lately, though, I’ve been questioning how much is enjoyable for readers. For the most part, I’d say readers want to know what the story is. “Tell me a good yarn,” a reader will say. “Don’t bog down the story.”

It seems to me, then, that description should further the story. That’s it. That’s really description’s job. It’s not to pretty up the pages. It’s to help drive and shape the plot.

Internal / Emotional Description

Oh, man, this is where I could just spend days as a writer. The internal world of the characters. How they feel at any given moment. What they’re thinking. Again, though, if description’s job is to further the story, the internal world should really be focused on lines of thought that show a character’s motivation. Explain why a character is behaving a certain way. Or about to behave in a certain way. Then those descriptions will inevitably lead to action.

Physical Description

New writers often get lost in this one: describing every character’s outfit. The shape of noses. The way their hair is cut. And really, it’s the type of description you need the least of. You really don’t need much in the way of physical description to bring a character to life. Ask yourself: What kinds of characteristics help paint a picture of who a character is?

For example, a character with a repeatedly-broken nose might be a hothead who winds up ruffling feathers throughout, in ways that create tension and, of course, lead to moments of intense action in the book.

Setting

Nothing sets the tone of a piece quite like setting. But settings also shape what kinds of events can take place. Certainly, small towns offer different types of gatherings and chances for characters to meet up (I just recently discovered the Gilmore Girls, so of course I’m thinking here of Stars Hollow). Sometimes, though, characters can be confined–locked into buildings, or quarantined. They can be in jury duty. Or jail. They might be on a long airplane flight. How is action different in these settings as compared to characters who are in bigger cities, or have freedom to move about?

Where you set your book can have a real impact on the action that can logically take place. When you describe your setting, especially at the opening of a book, think about the plot points you have planned or outlined. And think about what details the reader needs to know in order to be prepared for those events.

Tying description to the action will help keep you from providing too much information, too many long paragraphs that seem (to the reader) to amount to nothing of substance. In this way, instead of bogging your book down, description can actually add propulsion, giving your work a new page-turning element.