Brandi M Ziegler

Walking the path to publication one step at a time.

Category: Confessions

Confessions of a Writer: Word Goals Give Me Hives

“When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time’.”

~ Stephen King

I don’t know the word count of my WIP until the first draft is completed.

There. I said it.

I am so impressed by writers who set daily word count goals.

That shiz would drive me crazy. Too much pressure. Too much disappointment/self-loathing if I don’t reach it. Too much expectation for next time if I overachieve.

So what do I do then? I have daily scene goals.

I know how long my MS should end up to be an acceptable YA length (around 300 pages). I turn my word counter off and just write. My goal is a scene a day. Lately, I’ve been outlining my WIPs chapter by chapter, scene by scene. My last two MSS were about sixty scenes each. My scenes average five to ten pages.

I peruse my outline and pick a scene (Bam! Forget word counts or writing in order). I do this the night before after completing a previous scene. That way I daydream about it all day the next day and have an idea of what I want to write that night. Then I sit down and write. One scene at a time. Sometimes my scenes are four pages. Sometimes they’re eleven. Some days I write two or three because they flow into each other. As long as I write one a day, my draft is complete in about two months. Usually November is my jam and I write like mad, vibing off the NaNoWriMo folks, but I had a newborn in November.

February is my new November this time around. I’m eager to see where I’m at in April.

I know this might not work when I have deadlines and editors and all that amazingness, but it works for now and I can create in peace without any word count pressure. Not that I’m always at peace with my work, but that’s another Confession post.

How about you? Are you a word goal oriented writer? What keeps you motivated?

Happy writing!


Confessions of a Writer: I Hate Starting from the Beginning, Vizzini

Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

~ The Princess Bride

When you get your book to that point where it’s ready for submission, whether to CP’s, agents, editors, whatever, your MS is spotless to you, right? The dialogue, the world-building, the character idiosyncrasies. Everything.

Polished. No highlights or underlines or comments saying, What is this? Fix this mess.

I think this is part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to start over. Everything is hideous. The voice isn’t quite there. The world I’ve created is still a little blurry around the edges. And I’m highlighting every other word cause the one I used is not even close to what I’m trying to say.

My familiarity with “polished work” is ruining the gooey, young love I’m experiencing with my WIP. I’m so in love with this shiny idea that I ignore all the flaws and its superficial exterior. Then the typing ebbs and I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

At times I have to bribe myself just to get the words down. With things such as:

  • A chapter of the book I’m reading for every page I write. That sounds a little indulgent, but it’s motivating and it gets me on a roll. I end up writing two or three plus pages before I realize I can have a chapter break. I’m still only allowed one chapter per break regardless of how many pages I write. See? I’m disciplined sometimes. This is what I do for myself during the day when I don’t have hours to write.
  • After two hours of writing (this much free time only happens at night after the Toddler’s asleep), I get a half hour of zoning out. Twitter, Netflix, or more reading. Then right back to writing.

Loud music works when I’m absolutely stuck. I turn up the music I had on low (not a must, but a comfort when I’m writing) until it’s consuming, and I think scenes though. Things I don’t think about: how far away I am from my word count, am I the only one who’ll ever love this book, am I going to get reported for my recent search engine activity?

I know none of this is new. I also know with book contracts and deadlines that no amount of whining/procrastinating/indulging is going to get the writing done. So I’ll pout while I can.

Please let me know what you do to get through the beginning of a WIP. I’m nowhere near the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s hard. If I hadn’t already written four books, I’d think it was impossible.

Do the impossible with me. Happy writing!

Confessions of a Writer: I Trunked My MS

Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.

~ Oliver Herford

As I mentioned before, I trunked ELEMENTAL SACRIFICES: THE GATHERING. I didn’t expect that at all. But after the query letter count got over 100, and I only garnished two manuscript requests (that led nowhere) after multiple query letter and MS rewrites, I knew it was time.

So I wallowed for a while. I was pregnant and felt fat and ugly to begin with but now I also felt like a failed writer. I mean, I know plenty of amazing authors with trunked manuscripts, but I didn’t think that would happen to me. Poor, naïve me.

A new story idea had been brewing for months. Instead of writing it while I queried, I let it soak, jotting down a loose plotline and character profiles, but no chapters, no words. Last fall after my son was born, I finally started writing. It was tough going at first. Nothing was ever going to be as good as ESTG. But as I got to know my new characters, I looked forward to my coveted writing time after the baby went to sleep. I stayed up way past the time a new mama should and the words flowed effortlessly.

After a few months I had a ragged rough draft, but even at that stage I knew it was better than ESTG. Many writers have said your writing gets better the more books you produce. I didn’t want to believe I could do better because I wasn’t ready to move on from ESTG. After weeks of polishing my rough draft of THE DEAD ASSASSIN, I sent it to my CPs. And I got amazing feedback that made my story even better. Even better. I was in love. ESTG who?

This last year has taught me a thing or two:

  1. Not everything you write is sellable. It could be the market, agency/publisher tastes, or because it’s something you only wrote for you and you never planned to publish it in the first place.
  2. Keep writing. I should have been writing TDA long before I started. Always work on that next project. Get better at your craft.
  3. You can’t do it alone. The writing community will embrace you. There’s no need to avoid Twitter or Facebook, forums like AbsoluteWrite or AgentQuery, or the many blogs I can’t even begin to list created by writers for writers. I couldn’t have gotten through this last year, this last book, without my fellow writers.


Anywho, that’s my trunking confession. Do you have a trunking experience?

Confessions of a Writer: I’ve Been in a Funk

Every writer I know has trouble writing. 

~ Joseph Heller

I received an early Christmas Miracle this holiday season.

I found my flash drive!

Looking back on the summer and fall, I now realize how affected I’ve been. My blog posts have dwindled to nonexistent. My Least Favorite Place revisions have been slow and irregular. I’ve been working on a new story that’s taken forever to mold itself properly in my head. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time saving it in ten different places than writing it.

I wish someone would have told me to get a grip! Sheesh, I sound depressing. Moving on!

I believe the hubby and I were discussing groceries, something domestically lame for sure, and my hands were cold so I put them in my pockets. In the pockets of the sweater I wore the day I lost my flash drive. The same sweater I checked dozens of time because I knew it was the same sweater I wore the day I lost my flash drive. Dozens! I froze when my hand brushed the familiar, rectangular plastic. My husband thought I was going to faint. Numb with shock, I pulled it out and showed it to him. And then I started crying. Because I received some bad news that same day, and it was like God telling me everything was going to be all right. And so far everything has been.

So. Did everyone have a great turkey day? I had deep-fried turkey for the first time this year. I’ve been missing out!

Happy holidays! I can’t believe it’s that time of year again… and of course, happy writing!

Confessions of a Writer: BackUp

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.  I’d type a little faster.  ~Isaac Asimov


I thought I did pretty well with backing up my files. All my stories have three different homes and are updated almost daily. Freelance work, love letters to my husband and children’s story ideas are safe and secure. And I had a flash drive with me at all times. A flash drive filled with my writing quotes, ESTG ideas, and everything listed above. Having the ability to access my work at any time and type a new idea to save for later use felt so reassuring. Well, these last few weeks I found out something:

I suck at backing up files.

I lost my flash drive. And I literally lost my mind for a few days. Everything made me cranky. I learned new things about my house as I searched every inch of it over and over again in tears. Files like my writing quotes and an extensive list of book ideas were only on that flash drive.

I know. I don’t know what I was thinking. It gets better. My blog posts were saved on that flash drive. I KNOW. I warned you above: I suck at backing up files.

I’m at peace about the whole situation now. The very important files (my manuscripts, articles, a good chunk of writing ideas, etc.) are still in my care, and for that I’m thankful. A few friends have said, “It came from your head. Those ideas are still there.” Others say, “You know you definitely lost it in the house, so it’ll turn up at the right time.”

I pray they’re right.

Anyway, sorry for the long radio silence. I’m in the midst of the querying trenches, and I hope to have good news for you soon!

Confessions of a Writer: Stage Fright

Everything that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And later on you can use it in some story.

~ Tapani Bagge

My church hosted a Passover Seder last Saturday. One of my closest friends – who’s an Elder of the church – orchestrated the entire event. Everyone else got sick with this exhausting illness (I was getting over it myself). Friday she asked if I’d read some Scripture since the original cast lacked voices. You guys:

I can’t stand reading out loud.

Ever since I was little I disliked reading out loud. I remained silent when called to read in my elementary school classes. In actually, my eyesight sucked and I was too young and embarrassed to say anything. If I squinted I could read the words in my text books, but the words on the board were blurred, curvy lines. Eventually they figured it out and I got glasses. Mine made BCGs look attractive. I wanted to trade places with the discarded gum wads underneath my chair. I still refused to read in class, but at least things were cleared up about my intelligence. The upside: my book addiction doubled with my new eyesight.

That fear has stuck with me. So when my friend asked of course I said yes, but inside I was freaking out. I thought I was going to read maybe two or three verses but what was I thinking – it was a Seder. I read Scripture for hours, twisting into a pretzel of discomfort as I concentrated on keeping my voice steady and not f’ing up the words. I stayed calm when I came across a word I couldn’t pronounce, mostly because we had to drink wine as part of the ceremony.

Strangely, afterwards I had at least five people tell me how much they loved my voice. Apparently my voice is calming with this amazing ability to paint the story across the reader’s mind. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, but it’s probably the first time it’s beginning to sink in: I seem pretty dang good at reading out loud. Which is a total relief because I’ve dreaded the reality of having to read excerpts from my books for years.

Confessions of a Writer

Don’t fear making a mistake; fear failing to learn and move forward.
~ Pilip Humbert


So I’ve decided to post a monthly confession. During the summer of last year I sent my MS out into the literary world seeking representation. I got a lot of bites, a handful of partials and a full request. They all eventually passed and gave me great advice. Since then I’ve done some major revisions. I added something that wasn’t mentioned, but I realized was a major faux pas.

Confession: My original MS didn’t have a love interest.

I’m sure when my beta-readers read this they’ll gasp. Like them, I cannot imagine my book without these scenes:

Out of the corner of her eye she saw another flash of color. Focusing upon it, she saw it was indeed a young man. Her jaw dropped. Not only a man, but the first and most beautiful hybrid she had ever seen. His skin was the color of copper. His honey-hued eyes studied her as if she were a horse for sale; they glowed, a sign meaning he was instilled with Ilmari’s Breath, something only she saw in others. Shocks of blonde stood out in his wild dark mane. He was garbed in layers of dark leather which stretched across his physique in the most complimentary way. The man was obviously part Kirukan. She wondered if one of his parents was a Treslander – no, he was much too tall. Why was he going around throwing nuts at unsuspecting trekkers? She closed her mouth, suddenly self-conscious.

Chloe stepped forward, meaning to question him. As she did he flashed a brilliant smile and fled in the opposite direction. Chloe hesitated but then felt compelled to pursue him.

Chloe, my protagonist, eventually catches up with her love interest.

He turned and beckoned her to join him as if she were an old friend. She was armed – with more than just her staff – and intrigued, so she submitted.

Chloe climbed onto the boulder and propped her staff on top of her crossed legs. She noticed their knees were almost touching. He smelled wild, earthy. His chest swelled and Chloe wondered what he thought she smelled like. She looked at him as if to ask, What next? He smiled and said “Salutations.”

That one word vibrated through Chloe’s entire body. She swallowed before replying, “Good morrow.”

He basked in her response the way a man soaked in the sun rays. “My name is Nicholae,” he said, and before she could respond he continued, “and you are Chloe Delacor, Zor Marelle.”

Chloe went rigid. She was struck by two things: his name, as lovely as his face, and his knowledge of her identity. He was part Kirukan. They were the ones who called her and her kind Zor Marelle. Chloe was the Zor Marelle of Life, and this Nicholae obviously knew.

His palm on her thigh shocked her from her thoughts.

Nicholae is always a top-three favorite for everyone who’s read my MS. And yet, I must confess he didn’t exist until this last summer! Now that I’ve gone and shared a big boo boo (that eventually turns into something amazing), what kind of confessions are you willing to fess up?