The Writing Process

The Winter Writing Blues...Or Rather Craziness

I have this idea in my head that most writers love the months of January and February. It's the dead of winter, so the temptation of summer sun or spring walks doesn't exist. The days are spent inside, and the weather is perfect for writing. Stay inside, bundle up, and put your fingers on the keyboard...That is unless your name is Kristen Otte. For those who may not know, I do a few other things besides write pug books for kids and young adult novels. I teach reading on a part-time basis, and I am a high school basketball coach. During basketball season, my life schedule is a little crazy. I love coaching and teaching, but the schedule of both lines up so I'm not home until 8pm most nights. Naturally, my writing projects suffer a bit during this time.

Basketball season is winding down over the next two weeks, but my husband and I are house shopping right now. We hope to move sometime in March. In other words, the craziness will continue a bit longer. During these busy life moments, it's easy to set aside the writing projects, but I've learned I can't stop writing when life gets busy or crazy. So I press forward with the projects when I can–mornings, weekends, late nights to meet my self-imposed deadlines. To help me meet these deadlines, I'm sharing the projects so you can keep me accountable. And so you can get excited!!

Here's what's on tap for this Spring:

1. The Release of The Evolution of Lillie GableI'm slating this for March 2015. Edits are done, cover and formatting is almost done, so I will hit this target without a problem.  I'll be sharing the cover and exact release date in the very near future.

2. Write the First Draft of the Fourth Zelda Book!!! - I have already started the fourth Zelda book and will return to writing now that the Lillie book is done with edits and formats. Writing Zelda books are still so much fun and this one will be special. I plan to share the first draft with my Wattpad fans as I write!

3. A New Website - After a few successful and fun years here, it's time to move away from I need more freedom to sell books directly from my site for author days and do some other things to help my author business. This is a big step for me.

4. Five Author Days - I have five author day visits scheduled at local elementary schools for this spring. Author days are tons of fun and a great additional source of revenue for authors. I can't wait to speak with these students and share the love of writing with them.

Those are my plans for the next three months. Like I said, I share my goals to hold myself accountable.

What are you up to the next three months? 

The Never-Ending Revision Process

My part time day job is tutoring children in reading. I teach the mechanics and phonics of reading, along with comprehension. We encourage our students to bring in books to read for fun for the last ten minutes of each session. A few of my students requested to read the first Zelda book, and we read a chapter every couple of days. As an author, I love that kids read and enjoy my books. With the Zelda books, I'm thrilled to receive an email that their son or daughter begged to keep reading Zelda each night before bed. But, when I read my own books again, I want to throw them out the window and start over.

Let me explain. Even when a book is "finished" or published, I find more sentences to change or chapters to revise. It's a never-ending process for me. I haven't read The Photograph since publication for that reason.

One of the benefits of being an independent author is the freedom to revise after publication. That's what I am doing right now. I am revising the first Zelda book. I'm not changing content, but sentence structure and word choice. I wrote the first Zelda book a few years ago now, and since then, my writing has improved.

I don't envision doing this for my other books, but it makes sense for the Zelda series. The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale is my best selling book. I travel to schools and events with this book, and with plans for a fourth and fifth book, the first needs to be strong so readers come back.

The revised version of The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale will be available in a week or two. I'll post when it is available, so pick up a copy (it's free in ebook form right now) and let me know what you think!

Authors - Do you want to revise after your novels are published? Why or why not?

Margin and Balance with the Author Life

[youtube] It's been awhile since the last video post. In this short chat, I discuss balance and margin for writers, especially those working other jobs in addition to writing. I also give a writing update on the next projects for me. For the Zelda fans, she makes an appearance along with Peach. In fact, they spend a good portion of the video being goofballs behind me.

Do you have margin in your life?

May 2014 Book Reviews

May was back to a normal variety of books, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every one. I read some fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary YA, and historical fiction.  With the start of summer, I look forward to reading more and more in my lounge chair next to the pool. Happy Reading Friends! Broken by CJ Lyons - Broken is my first book by author CJ Lyons. Lyons writes "thrillers with heart," and Broken is her first foray into YA fiction. Broken is the story of a fifteen year old girl Scarlett with a life threatening heart condition. Despite her condition, she wants to live a normal life and enrolls in high school. In a week's span, she encounters her first friends, her first crush, classes, and bullies. When I first starting reading this book, I thought it would be similar to "The Fault in Our Stars." I was wrong. The story shifts into one of mystery and intrigue. I don't want to give anything away, so that's all I will share. I enjoyed the book and will read more from hybrid author CJ Lyons. 5 stars.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas - Wow. What a ride. Crown of Midnight is the second in the series about Celaena Sardothien, a kick-ass female assassin in a fantasy world. The first in the series, Throne of Glass, was a fun and enjoyable book, but predictable with its plot and characters. Crown of Midnight went nowhere I expected, and I loved it. We saw Celaena's dark side in this novel, and learned more about how she became this killer. The love triangle between Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol faded away (yay). My only complaint was the plot structure. The first half of the novel felt a bit disjointed from the second half. Maas wrapped it up well in the last few chapters, so it made more sense, but I thought the continuity wasn't great. Overall, this was a stellar sequel because the storyline grew from Celaena fighting for her life to Celaena fighting to save the kingdom. 6 stars.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - When I started reading this book, I had high expectations. I read and heard great things about this YA book. Plus, as a history major, WWII was one of my favorite subjects to study, so I love reading both nonfiction and fiction set during WWII. The book had a rocky start–it jumps right into the middle of the story, and I needed a few chapters to get into the book. But once I did, I loved it. The story of these two women and how they aided the Allied war effort is truly great. The author wrote that all though this is fiction, it is based in truth. Women could have served in the roles that Maggie and Julie did. The characters embody courage and truth. This is a book worth picking up even if you don't normally read YA. 6 stars

The Element of Death by Becca Andre - The Element of Death is a novella which takes place between novels 1 & 2 in the Final Formula Series.  I picked this up in preparation to read The Blood Alchemist. The story is definitely spooky, but not enough to creep me out. I liked getting inside James' head in this book and his character development, along with the interaction with Rowan. 5 stars

The Blood Alchemist by Becca Andre - The Blood Alchemist is the follow up to The Final Formula, and just like the first in the series, this book is very enjoyable. The book is packed with explosions, magic, and murders. Addie, an alchemist, works with her Element friends to solve the seemingly random murder of magical people using bullets designed by Addie. Throughout the mystery and action, the character relationships continue to develop and evolve, and I really enjoy the snappy dialogue between the characters. If you are fan of urban fantasy, I recommend you pick up this fun read–I couldn't put it down. 6 stars. 

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King - I picked up this book as a recommendation from a fellow writer. The book is not revolutionary, and I've heard most of the information and tips in other books or writing classes. But, it is a handy reference book to have around and skim through in preparation for revisions. The exercises are also helpful. I'd recommend this to any new writer. 5 stars.


Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best book’s I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

My Favorite Parts of the Novel Writing Process

The more I write, the more I learn about myself and my writing habits. I'm currently in three different stages of three projects. My first YA novel is getting ready for release. All major edits and revisions are done. Formatting is done. I need to do one more round of proofreading once I have a proof copy in hand.

I sent The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach (the third in the Zelda series) to the editor a few days ago. In a few weeks, I'll get the edits back, revise, and work on polishing the manuscript for release.

I am also about 20,000 words into a first draft of a brand new YA fantasy novel.

Through this process, I've learned my favorite parts of the novel-writing process. I love the early stages of a novel. I spend time creating a broad outline of my novels before I start writing. Even though writing the words for the first draft are difficult, I love experiencing the story take off in unexpected directions. My first draft is about getting the story down, getting the words on to the page.  Immediately after I finish the first draft, I go back and put in more details into the story about the characters, the setting, etc, especially in the early chapters.

I set the manuscript away for roughly a month after the first draft and then return to it for the major revision stage.  These middle revision stages are the toughest. After I complete my own edits and revisions, I send the novel to beta readers and an editors. I wait for comments and the revisions with questions looming in my head– Will they like the story? Did I miss a big plot hole? Did they see that part coming? It's a bit nerve-wracking for me.

If I survive the middle round of edits and revisions, I don't mind the final stages of polishing and formatting. I enjoy the mindless nature of getting words formatted for ebook and paperback form after the tough revision stage. Of course, receiving the first paperback proof copy is a joy (even when I notice a typo or error).

What are your favorite parts of the writing process?

The Origin of Stories


Where do your story ideas originate?

In today's video post, I talk about the origin of some of my stories and novels and how these ideas transform into a novel.

I also give a quick writing update– I have three projects in the current queue.

I am getting better at these video posts (I think), but I'd love your feedback. Do you like these short video blogs?


The Pitch for The Photograph

ABNA I am excited to announce my contemporary young adult novel, The Photograph, is moving on to the second round of the Amazon Breakthough Novel Award in the YA category. In round one, judges evaluate the submissions based on the pitch (think Amazon book description). I started as one of a few thousand, but now I am one of 400 in the YA category. In round two, novels are judged by content of the first few chapters.

I am super excited to make it to round two, and to celebrate, I am sharing the pitch with you! Here it is....

The Pitch

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Brandt is excited about her six-month anniversary with her boyfriend, Brent, getting her driver’s license, and competing for a district championship in her first season on the varsity basketball team.

But when Rachel stumbles across a photograph of her parents, she can’t shake the feeling that she is meant to find her mother, whose identity is a secret her grandparents have closely guarded. All Rachel knows is that her mother disappeared around the time her father was killed in action in the Gulf War a few months after she was born.

Her discovery of the photograph sends Rachel on a search for her mother against her grandparents’ wishes and propels her life into a tailspin. She never imagines her search will reveal a series of lies that jeopardizes every important relationship in her life and ultimately lead Rachel to question her identity.

The Photograph is a contemporary young adult novel that follows Rachel’s search for her mother through the backdrop of her basketball team’s quest for its first district championship in twelve years.

The Importance of Book Reviews

[youtube] Hello Friends!

I have a video post for you today. I talk a little bit about my current writing projects before explaining why book reviews are so important to authors.

If you want to write a book review for any of my books, please follow the links below to write a review at the listed sites. Thanks so much.

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale - Amazon, Nook, Goodreads

The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga - Amazon, Nook, Goodreads

The Final Hour (Short Story) - Amazon

Writing With No Theme in Mind - A Zelda Pug Case Study

When I began writing The Adventures of Zelda, I had no theme in mind. I knew I had a story to tell, but I didn’t know where the story would go or what readers could learn from a pug named Zelda. As the first book came to life, themes and messages began seeping through the pages. Zelda’s first book is a story of a new beginning- a second chance. In the background of Zelda’s adventures and humorous endeavors is a story of love, family, and friendship.

As an example, let’s take Zelda’s encounter with Vacuum in chapter three of The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale. In the chapter, Zelda perceives Vacuum as a threat to her home and to Hannah. Zelda knows she has to take action and so she manages to rip off Vacuum’s arm and hide it in the basement. Zelda’s love for her family drives her to take action against Vacuum.

When I started writing the vacuum chapter, I had no idea this sort of message would seep through the words. I just wanted to tell a funny story about a pug and a vacuum. A good story can become great when a writer manages to insert themes and messages behind the story (intentionally or unintentionally).

I think most writers are like me. (But I could be completely off base). We write a story and as the story comes to fruition, themes begin to infiltrate the pages. The story takes a turn and forgiveness becomes important in the novel even though it was never in the outline.

For the writers out there, do you write with theme in mind?

For the readers, what themes do you see often in the books you read? 

What theme spoke to you when you read the Adventures of Zelda?

Marketing to Readers: A Book Launch Review

On January 2, I released the second book in my children’s series about a pug named Zelda. The launch of The Adventures of Zelda: A Second Saga was very successful and so I wanted to talk a little about what went right and what I could improve for the next book launch. But before I talk about any of the book launch, I wanted to thank you, my readers, for making this launch successful. You bought books and spread the word about Zelda and I am so thankful for your help. I hope you enjoyed the Zelda books!

What Went Right

The Pug Love - Prior to the release of the second Zelda book, I contacted a few pug celebrities and asked for their help in promoting the books. As a thank you, I sent them copies of the first or second Zelda book. Their social media presence was a tremendous boost in getting the word out to new people about The Adventures of Zelda.

The Social Media Blitz - During launch week, I hit social media hard with promotion. Facebook and Twitter are my primary social media networks so most of the activity was there. I tried to tie the promotion with fun pictures and facts about the book and Zelda. I also used a Facebook event on launch day to spread the word about the launch and post updates. I think the push went well and people generally enjoyed the posts because I posted creative content instead of telling them to buy my book every hour.

The Launch Page - I carefully crafted the launch page with information about the book, a fun picture of Zelda and the book, along with links to read the first chapter of the first book for free. It was a quick and easy look into the book for new readers.

The Zelda Photo Shoot - I took some pictures of Zelda (and Peach) with copies of the paperback books. Zelda was great- she is a photogenic dog. (Peach not so much). People love pictures of pugs and it was a big hit.

What to Improve

Book Launch Party - Originally, I planned to do a local book launch party at Sweetie Fry (the ice cream / french fry shop where I work). The launch party was going to be a couple hours and along with the opportunity for people to buy books and have them signed by me, I also was planning on doing a couple giveaways. I thought it would be fun and a great way for to engage with readers. However, my schedule ended up imploding on me and I couldn’t find a good time that worked with basketball. So I tabled the idea with the plan to do it for the next book release.

Marketing to Moms - Since the Zelda series is a children’s book, I wanted to find a good method to market to moms and families. I researched a few family sites and children’s book sites, but nothing fit in my time frame, budget and goals. Granted I didn’t spend enough time exploring this area. Future ideas include connecting with local schools, libraries, and book stores.

Reviews - My goal was to have five reviews up by launch day on Amazon by sending out some advance review copies. I completely failed at this one. I only have four as we sit right now. I didn’t get the books out in time or contact enough people to review my book which brings me to the last point. (PS If you read either Zelda book, I'd love your honest review at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble.)

Better Planning / More Time - I could improve the book launch if I planned better and gave myself enough time to set up promotions, reviews, and more. I wanted to get the book launched in early January because that time of year is great for book sales. People have Christmas money to spend and are loading up their kindles. But by pushing the deadline, I was strapped for time with Christmas and the holidays to get everything done in time.

Overall, I am happy with the launch. I sold almost as many first Zelda books as the second which means I have new readers and fans. Hopefully they enjoy the first book to pick up more in the series. I am really thankful for those that helped promote the launch and everyone who bought books the first week to push Zelda up the Amazon charts. It’s exciting to watch. And as always, I am learning more and more about this business and how to find new readers and make them happy with a good book.