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They’re BA-ACK!

A few days ago, I was pondering the progress of my latest novel, the fourth book in the “Pine Mountain Estates” series whose title has yet to be decided, when Hank Johnson showed up.

If you’re reading this blog post, you know who I’m talking about. He’s the male protagonist of The Envelope, my most popular novel by a long shot.

I don’t mean that he showed up at my door. Now, that would be scary. What I mean is, he waltzed into a scene I was planning for my current book.

The scene doesn’t take place in Zimbabwe. It doesn’t happen in Dallas. It doesn’t even occur in southeast Oklahoma, the home base for my latest series. It takes place in Phoenix, Arizona.

Twenty years after Hank and Sheila got married.

That night, I dreamed about both of them inserting themselves into the cast of “Pine Mountain Estate” characters.

Yes, authors dream about their characters sometimes. Especially if they are characters the author has fallen in love with. Especially if the author is a genius and a fantastic person.

So how I ended up dreaming about them…

Anyway, I love the characters in my “Texas Hearts” series, and I love the characters in “Pine Mountain Estates.” And, honestly? If I could go back and do it again, I would have continued the “Texas Hearts” series, following the characters as they grew older. For a long time after publishing the last novel in the series, I actually missed writing about them.

Then, seven years after I published The Envelope and about twenty years after I wrote it, Hank and Sheila wrangle their up into my conscious mind and tell me that they miss me, too, and could I please figure out a way to bring them back to life?

Turns out insinuating them into the plot as minor characters was easy. But no sooner had I done so, than wheels began turning in my mind.

I got dizzy, so I turned them off.

But before I did, the wheels had generated some vague ideas, ideas about how the cast from “Texas Hearts” could gradually join up with the cast from “Pine Mountain Estates.” It would be fun, because all the “Texas Hearts” people are my age and older now.

Okay, all except the baby of the bunch, Antonia (sorry, girlfriend. I know you’re getting close to perimenopause by now).

Anyway, Hank and Sheila Johnson are back. And I think the others will be on their way soon.

I’m looking forward to it.

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To Dictate, Or Not To Dictate?

In this post, I discussed my discovery that I can write more words per minute if I refrain from editing as I type. I also revealed the result of a dictation experience, that I can compose a section of a book much faster if I talk it out, instead of writing it out.

So, I went through the tutorials on my computer to train it to my voice. And I tested it. The result was either laughable or horribly disappointing, depending on your perspective.

The computer got so many words wrong, that if I were to talk for an hour and then go back to edit what it transcribes, I wouldn’t be able to figure out what I was trying to say.

I could remedy this by spending hours in front of my computer, dictating a few words at a time and then dictating a correction every time it made a mistake. But I’m not sure that would be worth my time.

I heard that the speech recognition software on a computer comes from Dragon Naturally Speaking, the most popular dictation software. But maybe the software that they sell works better?

Nope. My husband looked it up, and Dragon seems to make the same percentage of errors.

I’m going to stick to not editing while I type.

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“Pine Mountain Estates” Wins

If you read my previous post, you know that I had decided to change the name of my “Pine Mountain Estates” series to “Forest Peak.”

I’m still planning on doing everything else that I wrote about in that post, about adding one book to the series every year after writing a three- to four-book series in another genre.

But when I redid the book cover with “Forest Peak,” I looked at it. And looked at it. And looked at it again.

And I mulled the words over in my mind: Forest Peak. Forest Peak.

Pine Mountain Estates. Pine Mountain Estates.

And I realized that, to me, anyway, “Pine Mountain Estates” sounds better. It has a better ring to it.

Maybe it’s because of the ’80s T.V. show “Twin Peaks.” I never watched it, but I remember the ongoing joke about its title. Since this is a family-friendly blog, I won’t go into it.

Suffice to say that it reminds me of Hooters restaurants. A-hem.

Regardless of whether I’ve got a negative subconscious association with the word “peak”, I think I still would prefer “Pine Mountain Estates.”

It wins.

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I decided to change the name of my latest series. I had been going to call it “Pine Mountain Estates” after the rural mountain development where the main characters of the current books in the series live. However, two of the characters in the second book live in the nearby town of Forest Peak, not on the mountain, and the main character of the fourth book is not anywhere near Pine Mountain Estates or Forest Peak.

Also, though I originally planned to end the series at the fourth book, during the past couple of months I’ve had a niggling at the back of my mind that I might want to carry the series on beyond four books. This idea confronted me like a skunk’s tail in a raccoon’s face a few days ago, when I realized that the fourth book needed to be about this one character’s journey – both spiritual and literal – without the romance that I’d been planning to add to it.

Yet, I still want to write the romance. So, it needs to be a different book. The fifth book.

And after that romance? I’ve come to really like these characters, and I want to follow their lives more, dig into them and see where they might go.

On top of that, I have other ideas for Christian women’s fiction. What if I set them in the same area and include some of the initial characters, thereby turning my works of women’s fiction into an ongoing series? It’s a popular strategy among both traditionally and independently published authors, in probably every genre you could think of.

So, here’s the plan. I’m going to name the series after the fictional town in the area where I’m setting the stories, so it will hereafter be called the “Forest Peak” series. This year, I will publish the first four books in the series (they should all be available for purchase by early fall), then every year after, until I’ve exhausted my ideas for the series, I’ll add one more novel to it. Once I have six books, I’ll create two boxed sets of three, and afterward do the same as soon as I have three more books in the series published.

This works out perfectly for me because I want to write sweet, clean romance series as well as Christian supernatural series, and up until now I’ve been frustrated about how to fit all my ideas together in a coherent business model. How do I write straight Christian women’s fiction, as well as the other genres I want to throw my hat into?

I am truly excited about this decision.

But now, excuse me while I go tweak the cover for the first book. I need to change the series name.

Hey, I’m back! Here’s the updated cover:

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I’ve been listening to a lot of self-publishing podcasts lately, and one theme that keeps coming up is how to write more words in a day. This idea appeals to me because I don’t like long, drawn-out projects. While I love to write novels, I wish I could get each one done in a week. After three weeks, I’m bored with the story and ready to go onto the next one (see this post).

So, how can a writer increase her word count without adding more time on the keyboard? There are two ways. The first is to type as quickly as she can, without editing. The second is to dictate the story and let the computer translate your speech into text.

Supposedly, if you know what you’re going to say, you can whip out 6,000 words in an hour using dictation.

I’ve been resisting both methods. Regarding the first, I’d convinced myself that not editing as I go would not work because after finishing, I’d still have to take the time to go back and fix all the mistakes I made. Therefore, my time spent writing would end up being the same.

But I haven’t been able to shake the ever-growing desire to be able to produce more words in a day, in the same amount of time. So yesterday, I decided to test the first idea, to type for a certain amount of time without editing.

It worked.

Here’s what I did. I wrote for fifteen minutes. I had started a short story a couple of weeks ago, and so I continued on with it.

With my old way of editing while I type I could type 300 words in fifteen minutes. During this test, I typed 577 words.

That’s right. I almost doubled my speed, not counting the editing that went afterwards. And I may have made it all the way to 600, because a few times I forgot I wasn’t editing and went back and deleted and rewrote.

After finishing the mistake-ridden section, I timed the revision and editing of it.

Six minutes.

Thus, I wrote 577 words in twenty-one minutes, which turned out to be 405 words in a fifteen-minute period. This is 105 more words than what I used to write in that period, which translates to 420 extra words every hour.

Over the usual two-hour period that I spend writing every day, that would take me from 2400 words a day to over 3200! And that would mean, I would get finished writing the 3200 words in less than two hours, with the remaining two-hour period spent editing and revising.

What do you think? Am I going to discipline myself to stop editing while I type?

YOU BETCHA!

Now, of course, I’m wondering about dictation. Because I don’t thoroughly outline my stories ahead of time, I don’t think I’ll ever get anywhere close to the 6,000 words per hour level. But what if I could get to 3,000 words per hour?

Can you say, “cut your daily writing time in half”? Or, “cut the time it takes for you to write a novel in half”?

I’ll be messing with that over the next day or two, and let you know how it goes.

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