What’s Your Next Book? The Brightest Timeline Knows.

(note: this was originally a twitter thread. You can read the original thread here.)

Since it’s easier to solve other people’s problems than your own, I procrastinated on my own scene problems to listen to another writer’s dilemma about which book to write next. What follows is a trick for figuring out what you should write next in your author journey

So if you’re wondering, “what happens now?” This might help you figure it out

I like to call it “the brightest timeline.”

This is a visualization exercise. Some people likened it to a guided meditation. I’m a strong visualizer, and as a result I usually come up with these plunges into my imagination when I’m trying to choose between options that on the surface feel about equivalent.

Anyway. If you like to get ready for visualization exercise by doing things to prepare your environment, or deep breathing or anything that might go well with this trip into your imagination, it’s time to do that now. I’m going to recommend you have a way to record your thoughts, too. Don’t tell yourself you will remember. Get it on paper/audio.

Ready? Okay. Imagine yourself in ten years, on the brightest author timeline, where you are writing a book. Imagine that this book is hotly anticipated by readers who love what you do. Imagine that you’re exactly where you want to be, in a business context.

Now focus on yourself. You’re sitting or treadmilling at your desk/tablet/handbound paper journal/voice activated dictation system, and you are writing a book. It’s a book that makes you spring out of bed so you can get back to it. You love this book. It’s SO DAMN COOL.

The book is challenging to your skills, endlessly fascinating, and you do a little dance when you think about it.

Now let’s reflect on it. What is that book?

Who is in it? Let one of the characters take the spotlight. Notice the details, and what you understand, just by looking at them.

What are they doing? Take the time to notice what no one else might, but is significant in your eyes.

Where are they? Take a bird’s eye view. Zoom all the way in. Explore the place, looking for the one thing that is significant.

Why is it meaningful? What’s the story about? What is the character telling you?

Why is it cool?

Savor it. Imagine it. Take your time. Record things you want to remember.

Now you’re clever, so you know what I’m about to say next, right?

That’s your next book. Or your next series, if you’re a series writer. Look how good you feel. feel how full and excited you are.

That’s your next book, with all the anxiety and fear stripped away, with none of the forces that tell you “you can’t” getting in your way.

I put you in your brightest timeline because all the worry we have about what comes next is gone. In the brightest timeline, you already dealt with it. this is what you want, without all the noise about The market or genre saturation and all that.

This is your vision. Trust it.

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How to Brainstorm Scene Location Details from a Panic-stopping Technique

(This blog post was originally a thread on twitter, rewritten to be a decent blog post.)

The first scene I need to write today takes place in a new setting location. For new setting locations I write up descriptions that I can use not just as backdrop but as elements to bring the reality of the setting forward using a technique i learned to stop panic attacks.

No, really. so I write, for example, “women’s washroom in an office building,” and then I can describe the mundane things about it but the real vividness comes from the 5 4 3 2 1 exercise.

I originally learned this as a way to quietly cope with anxiety and panic attacks. It opened doors for me, as it was an exercise I could do even when I was out in public. No one notices you taking deep, slow breaths or your active observations of your location, so it’s a subtle, but effective tool.

To do it, I take a deep breath and slowly let it out while concentrating on one of the five senses – but as a writing exercise, I’m probably imagining the location in my head, or using an image reference to help me detail the scene location. So my example is “women’s washroom in an office building.” Because my setting is sort of historical, I’m visualizing something that could be typical of a women’s washroom from the early 20th century:

Five things I see:

  • frosted windows letting in pale natural light
  • black and white hexagon ceramic tiles with gray grout
  • white pedestal sinks with two faucets, one dripping
  • pale golden wood paneled stall doors
  • arsenic green painted walls

Four things I hear:

  • the muffled echo of high heeled shoes on tile
  • the soft plink of a dripping faucet
  • the knocks and thumps of a steam radiator
  • the rattle of wind on the windowpanes

Three things I feel:

  • the chilly air by the windows on one side; the warm air from the radiators on the other,
  • the slippery feel of soap on my hands,
  • the rough texture of the hemp-woven toweling to dry them,
  • the worn velvet upholstery on the sofa in the rest area in the room

Two things I smell:

  • rose-scented hand-soap
  • the astringent smell of disinfectant cleaners trying to cover up stale cigarette smoke

One thing I taste:

  • the clean neutrality of cold water from the right-hand faucet

If I were actually in the bathroom with a panic attack, actively listing those things I sensed in that washroom would help to slow down the panic symptoms, but as a writing exercise, I now have a bunch of setting appropriate sensory details all planned out in advance

If I take a few minutes to write them all down, I have a handy cheat sheet I can use to integrate these details into the scene I’m writing. Neat, huh?

A Visual Guide to a Reverse Outline

107k Words. 76 Scenes. 16 Pages.

What you’re looking at is an essential document for the complex operation that is transforming my first draft into a revised draft. It’s scary, isn’t it? I like to think that it’s beautifully organized.

That’s the entire scene by scene outline of the first draft of Stormsong – don’t worry; there are no spoilers. The color coding is a key – Green means the scene requires very little changing in order to fit in the first draft. Yellow means the scene is mostly ok but will definitely need tweaking for continuity and new details. Orange means the scene is probably going to change dramatically, but the bones will still be there. Red means this scene is headed for The Island of Misfit Words (what I call the file that holds all my cut words, in case I can scavenge them later) and something entirely rewritten will take its place.

How did I Do? Final tally: Green: 15 Yellow: 19 Orange: 26 Red:16 = 76

Okay but what the heck is that?

It’s called a reverse outline, and it’s a fantastic tool for revising your work. It’s a bit intimidating to do, outlining the book you just wrote. I never want to do it. I just want to get on with the revision, but for me, that’s almost always a mistake. The reverse outline shows me exactly what’s going on in my story: strong scenes, weak scenes, scenes that need a little help, and when I’m organized, I can make seemingly impossible tasks into a one step at a time to do list.

I have my own system for analysing the strengths of my scenes, which is customizable depending on what I need to work on the most. You can find a great explanation of the reverse outline on Janice Hardy’s blog, Fiction University, which is where I originally learned it. She gives a rundown on what scenes should contain that will get you started, or figure out what you need to track the most.

For a more complex outline that covers pretty much everything you can imagine, dive into The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne – his Story Grid of the Silence of the Lambs is even scarier and more organized than mine.

What did you use for your columns?

From Left to Right:

  • Scene number and word count
  • Synopsis of the Scene’s events
  • Characters present in the scene – First name in the list is POV
  • The scene’s function in the story, and what plotlines it includes (red ink is political plot, blue ink is magical plot)
  • Notes on what needs to change in order to make the scene fit the aims of my revision

I’m maybe talking about this out of order, but the thing I needed to do was consolidate plotlines, so it wasn’t simply one character working on their own plot but multiple characters coming at the two main plots from different angles, so my columns reflect that. But if I had unclear or inconsistent motivation, I could track that, or if I wanted to track a character’s changing internal attitude, I could do that, or if I wanted to evaluate my story’s pacing, I could do that too.

Does it only work for plotters?

Nope, pantsers can do this too. What you need is a finished manuscript, though, so get those stories finished! If you’re super wise, you could probably do a detailed, all purpose outline grid as you went through the story, so the reverse outline would be done when you are. But I am not that wise, myself.

How long does it take?

I did mine in two days. Now let me be clear. I did mine in two days of splendid isolation, with nothing else to do besides feed myself and wash dishes after, with luxurious naps and frustration breaks playing video games. It might be that you need a week to do this, or two weeks, depending on how many distractions you have to deal with and how practiced you are at it.

But actually, I put off doing this. I full on whined about it. It’s so tedious, so much work, it will take forever, I don’t wanna, the whole shebang. But when I put on my big girl pants and went to work it was about five to seven hours to complete.

What will it do for me?

It will point out the weak points in your book.

That’s a little freaky, and maybe you don’t want to know how much work you have ahead of you. Maybe you want to think the book is fine. I always do. I always think, “this time I did it.” haha! No. This time, I did a little better than last time, and I have a lot of work ahead of me. So know I know that one of my favorite scenes, one of the coolest things I think I did…is smack in the middle of that one page that is solid red and it has to go. But before I did the reverse outline, I thought it was fine. Making this fancy color coded table brings clarity, and to figure out what needs to be fixed, you need to be clear on what’s working in your story, and what isn’t.

What will you do now that you have this?

My next step is to take a week and a day in splendid isolation and write out a scene by scene outline of the story, test-driving the changes I want to make. This is what I think will work best for me and my process – I like to test things before going in and writing them, outlining in detail doesn’t kill the excitement for me, and I want to get another set of eyes on my outline/detailed synopsis before I get started. I have a lot to do in a short time, and Future Me will thank Past Me for laying out exactly what I need to do so I can get it done quickly and well.

If I wasn’t so organization and structure driven, I might just use the reverse outline as a cheat sheet and just go for it, fixing the scenes by intuition and imagination alone. Or I might just write a three page synopsis of the revised story and use that. Now that I have a clear picture of what I wrote, I now have a clear idea of what I need to do to bring the story up to the next level.

What to do When You’re Done

Wall of text incoming; wear protective gear.

You’re finished your manuscript. You’ve put it away, and you’ve done extensive revisions. It’s ready. You’re pretty sure it’s ready for the hunt for an agent. What do you do now?

This is partly what I did, and also partly what I learned while in the querying process.

Step One – Make Sure.

Get three beta readers.

Look for people who don’t sugar coat the bitter truth, and who also point out what’s good. When you get them, tell them that it’s okay if they quit reading, but ask them to tell you where they quit reading if they lose interest in the book, and why, because that information is gold. Use a format that will allow them to comment on your work directly in the file, so a .doc or .docx file, or a set of files in a cloud document service like google docs.

Consider the feedback. Make a list of problems based on what the beta readers say, but take any suggestions to fix the problems with heavy consideration. Do ANOTHER revision and edit pass based on their feedback.

Step Two – Query and Synopsis

I am so sorry for this next part.

Write a synopsis of your work that fits on a single page of paper when written in Times New Roman 12 Point, single spaced. Getting this right will probably take you about 6 weeks if not longer. Something that might help you is to plug your book into the 9 Box Plot Outline Tool and then use those nine points as the skeleton of your synopsis.

Write the heart of your query letter, the “pitch,” which is about 100 to 250 words long, but the closer to 100 words, the better. This is possible, even with a complicated book. Query letters are some of the most difficult writing you will ever do. Expect getting your query letter to satisfactory after about 2 months of work.

This is a painful and frustrating process. It’s okay. Most everyone hates it. And I’m going to tell you something potentially painful: if you can’t manage to write a query letter with an intriguing, active character who is facing an interesting setting and its obstacles while pursuing a goal that has terrible and personal consequences for failure…it might be that you have to go back to the drawing board with your book.

I’ve seen a number of query letters where my feedback is, “This character seems passive. what actions do they take that ignite the story and start the forces of conflict to stop your protagonist?” or “These stakes seem a little flat. What are the external effects and the personal failure inherent in the consequences?” If these questions have disappointing answers, the problem is likely in the manuscript.)

Step Three – Agent Research

Okay, while you’re doing that, it’s also time look for an agent who will represent your work to the big five.

Get together a list of 50 – 100 agents who represent the genre and age category of the book you have written. Every single agent gets a ton of letters from people who don’t pay attention to guidelines, and they reject them outright. You don’t want this happening to you.

Look into their clients, and the sales they’ve made, and make sure they match up with your decisions about how you want to run your career. Some of the agents on your list will be established, and some will be new. Both choices are good, but they have different advantages.

Look not just at the agent, but the agency they’re with. Do they have someone who handles subsidiary rights like foreign language translations, audiobook rights, and tv/movies? Is that a direction you’d like to have a chance with for your book? Do they have a self-pub arm to help you go hybrid, if that’s part of what you want to do? There’s a lot to consider.

Look at the agent’s deals and who those deals are with. If you dream of being published by a certain publisher, you might want to look for evidence that the agent has a connection with that publisher – but no deals doesn’t necessarily mean no connection.

You can use a spreadsheet and DIY but I used querytracker. I paid for the premium service and I found it incredibly useful. When recording your list of potential agents, you want to list agents you’d like to query, be able to check their guidelines, whether you have a sub out, and what became of it. I did a list of 50 agents. Other people say that’s not enough. You get to decide how many you will try.

Step Four – Test Your Query

From that list of agents, find ten who are currently open to subs. Query them, obeying the instructions for how to query based on the research you did. (This may seem obvious to you, but I’m not kidding–about 10% of total queries follow the guidelines correctly. The rest are rejected outright. You’ll have an edge if you take care of the details.) Pick a variety of agents of varying levels of experience, and here’s why – you’re testing your query letter, synopsis, and pages.

Now wait for responses. Did you get a partial or full request from any of these agents? No? Revise your query, have a reader look at your first 5 pages. Don’t pick somebody nice. Pick someone who will tell you flat out what’s wrong. Whatever they tell you, look for those same problems in the entire manuscript, and revise. (I revised my manuscript during the querying process. it happens. it’s OK.)

Did you get a partial request? Great. Your query and your pages are probably good, but you might want to give it a polish, depending on what your rejections said. Query 3 – 5 agents a week. Did you get a full? Up your query rate a little. Did you get more than one request? You’re hot, my friend. Go for more, and be daring.

Step Five – Get to Work On Your Next Book

Somewhere in the midst of all this, start working on your next book. You need to do this. It’ll keep your mind off the bewildering process of querying agents, and you’ll have another book to talk to your prospective agent about when the time comes.

But write another book, and maybe think about writing it to a reasonable deadline, and consider it practice for when you’re writing a book because you have a contract and a deadline to go with it. Depending on genre, you might get a year to complete another manuscript. But you might get less – a lot of romance publishers work on a very tight schedule, for example.

The Second Book – Should it be a sequel to your first book?

This is controversial. I’m going to say it won’t hurt to do the planning for the sequel in detail, producing a solid outline so you have a head start on the sequel if they request it. (if you got multiple requests from the first test, and you’re the gambling type, you might want to take the chance and write it.)

But if you can, write a totally different book that is part of the career path you want. It doesn’t hurt to have a second book in your pocket for multiple contingencies… but be sure it’s in a genre that you can see yourself writing for the next ten years if that book hits.

Step Six – Camp Your Name on the Internet, and Wait

Secure your author name’s domain. You can do this fairly cheaply. I did it with WordPress, but there are other choices. Also camp your name on Patreon, if you haven’t already. If you’re doing promo and marketing online, secure your name on your social media platforms of choice. If you hear of a new one, get your name on it. Do it now, even if you’re not ready to do anything with them.

But now you’re querying, working on a new book, securing your social media. Have patience. Agents read potential client manuscripts when they get time. I waited months for responses. That might happen to you too.

Step Seven, Happy Ending Version – the Offer

You got an offer? OH GOOD! Now hit your spreadsheet and tell everyone who has a query that you have an offer of rep, and that you’re looking to give an answer in two weeks. Most of these agents will congratulate you and step aside, but some will quickly read your MS and decide to offer or not. You could have multiple offers of representation, but this doesn’t always happen.

Now you decide: who are you going to sign with? Ask for a copy of the agreement from every agency who offers rep. Check out their terms. Use this as a part of your decision on who to sign – not all agencies have the same agreements. Know what you’re agreeing to on paper.

Step Seven, Maybe Not so Happy – Time to Move On

Maybe you don’t get an offer of rep for this book. Gosh, this sucks. I am so sorry.

That’s why you’re working on your next book. Get back on that horse, friend. Many writers write multiple books before they get an offer of rep. Here’s the thing about people who get published – they didn’t give up.

Two Books without Music: My Persnickety Playlist Needs

There’s something really unusual about the creation process of both Witchmark and its sequel, Stormsong: they were mostly written in silence. I’m usually a playlist maker. I usually write to music, a habit that sparks debate among writers about whether sound or silence is the better environment.

Now with my fanfic, I was forever making soundtracks to go with them, music that characterized the setting, the characters, specific scenes. Some of them could play for hours without a single repeat. But I never really found the sounds that matched with Kingston, and I never took the time to really search out a list. Early Jazz Age music sort of fit, but I was always hoping for something more atmospheric. I never settled on anything, and so I wrote two books without music to go with them.

But right at the end of Stormsong, I realized that I needed music to help me set the tone of the final scenes (no spoilers.) and so I took a few days to try and find music that fit my criteria:

  • No vocalists singing lyrics I can understand.
  • Music that prompts and supports a certain mood appropriate for the setting.
  • A collection of songs that fit together seamlessly, or have a strong reason to change the tone
  • Music that fit this setting’s feeling of danger, disorientation, menace, and profound wonder.

Naturally, I started with movie score music and video game score music, orchestrally arranged. Tempo is generally around Andante, so not too fast or frantic. And it had to fit that dreamy, dangerous feeling I’m looking for to go with the imagery on my (top secret!) pinboard. (well. It’s not really top secret.)
I’ve barely gotten started, but here’s the spotify playlist. If you have any recommendations, give me a shoutout on twitter!

Witchmark – Pre-Order Now

witcmark hi res image

C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Add it on Goodreads

Buy it From Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo

Doing it backwards

plot arc backwards (1)

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to yoke your Character arc to the external plot. When I’m planning, I have a series of questions I ask myself when I’m making sure that I have the right character for the shiny plot idea I figured out, but when I’m making sure that the arc hangs together and makes sense, I run the progression backwards to make sure everything is connected.

The #onebookjuly Challenge!

I had mentioned in my previous post that I was a bit of a journal junkie. And I thought I had made my peace with that. I thought I had a system. I had my bullet journal, my morning pages journal, and my commonplace book. You know all this; I just wrote a post about it.

But a minute after I made that post, I hit upon this hashtag: #onebookjuly. And I thought, Oh? What’s that?

Well. The idea is that you start the month of July with the basics:

One Book. One Pen. See where it takes you.

And I read that, and thought to myself, Oh hecking darn. Because that’s what I originally wanted, was one book to rule them all hold everything – my planner details, my journal, my commonplace quotes. And here was this challenge, daring me, double-dog daring me to do it. Could I resist this challenge? No way! I would do it! One book, all of July! Let’s see if I really do need a multiple book system! So I agonized over which book would be my One Book. It took a while, but I ultimately decided to use my Scribbles That Matter A5 notebook:

I made the choice because it’s the best journal of the bunch – all the thoughtful details of a Leuchtturm 1917, plus a few more on top of that, with the GSM 100 paper of a Rhodia webnotebook. If any journal in my collection was up to the challenge of being my everything book, my STM was it.

But I had another problem, and I lay the blame squarely on Goulet Pens having Inkapalooza and putting their ink samples on wicked sale! I bought a double handful and they are making their way to me now, and I had planned on sampling them by writing my commonplace quotes and morning pages in different ink, while holding on to the all-black minimalism of my bullet journal.

But now I’m set to go one book, but I have all this ink…

So I decided to compromise by flipping my usual habits. Instead of multiple books, I would use one. And instead of one pen, I would use many. And to celebrate that, I created bullet journal spreads! I spent a ridiculous amount of time on these.

First, I made a 6 month log, and wrote down all my deadlines and scheduled my major projects:

6 mo log

I decided to make everything pop a little bit by making my saturdays and sundays red. Anything with a gray highlighter is a serious deadline/commencement date. I have timed everything carefully, so I can work on project A, come to a natural stopping point, and then work on project B.

Then I decided to do something a little different for my monthly 2 page spread:

july 2017 spread

Goals is new. Right justifying the dates was just to shake things up.

And now something I’m not sure I’ll keep: a weekly spread (this one has 8 days, just because Singleton Saturday makes me sad.)

my 8 day week

I saw that manner of separating the page with the cursive and the “steady hand” underline and I loved it so much, I wished I used weeklies. So I thought I could try it, and see if it works for me.

So that’s my journal challenge for July! Are you trying anything new with your journal this month?

Daily Logging – a 30 Day BulletJournal Experiment

Maybe you’re one of those people, who… even though we have moved beyond pen and paper for our everyday communications, there are some of us who linger over the notebook section in the bookstore (is it me, or is that section getting bigger and bigger?) and pick one to take home, start writing in it, and then…stop. And then another store. And then another notebook. And this time, it’ll be different.

It’s okay. You can tell me. I’m staring at my notebook collection, propped between the edge of my monitor and my SAD lamp, and there are five notebooks there: A Rhodia Web Notebook in black (lined,) a cheery yellow Scribbles that Matter A5, and three A5-sized Leuchtturm 1917’s: One black, one gray, and one in silver. (the silver one is still in the wrap, though. Does that count?)

I might have a problem.

journal collection

Last month I vowed I would do something about my notebook problem. I, like many notebook addicts, discovered by one means or another the Bulletjournal system made popular by Ryder Carrol, and thought, “This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for all along.”

So I ran out and bought the first Leuchtturm 1917 (the black one.) And I began it with all the best intentions. But I found that I made choices I wasn’t happy with later, so along came the new Leuchtturm, this time in gray, where I made a few commitments – 95% black ink, minimalist, simple. I began on Jan 01, promptly messed up my future log, spent time drawing a monthly spread and a weekly spread I NEVER used, and then dwindled off using it on Jan 12.

I tried again, and again, but it wasn’t working for me. And then I realized: I don’t need a planner. I need a log. My urge is to relate what I did, not anticipate what I would do. I’m depressed. I’m anxious. I probably have ADD and no one noticed when I was young. I have to have multiple reminders of appointments set to go off automatically at various intervals, or I will forget that I had a thing I needed to do. I am not a planner. I’m a recorder.

So, why not record what I did, to build a journaling habit?

That was it. I was onto something. I needed a quick logging system where I could track what I did each day, and even sneak in “oh yeah, you have to do this today” on the page to start building up planning habits. I wanted a format that was minimalist, intuitive, and attractive.

So I went with a time ladder. This is what it looks like, filled out:

time ladder may 27-28 2017

I actually started in May, but decided to take an entire month to try it out. I had a debate over the layout – should I write each day as it comes, with journal entries between, or do a solid block of daily ladders for the week, and then journal on the pages afterwards?

My tentative conclusion: a week’s worth of dailies all at once and journal entries after is the way to go for me. It organizes nicely in the index, though I now wish I had three ribbons so I could mark my monthly log, the current day, and the first open spot for journaling.

Update: SOLUTION! I used one of my index dots to mark the monthly spread, and then I can ribbon the other two!

I like it. I like using the full page to log my whole day. I like my black ink and block capital lettering. I like the journal entries in between, recording my thinking process about my book, which still doesn’t have a title. I might try to include a task list or something, once I’m solidly in the habit of logging my days.

Coming up in future entries: Meet my Commonplace Book and my Morning Pages.

My Knitting Attention Span is Terrible

Up there is the beginnings of a very simple shawl – once you get past the fiddly cast on, it’s the definition of mindless. Stockinette in the round, with very occasional increase rounds, to make a huge circle out of any yarn you want.

I chose a cashmere laceweight yarn for mine, but you can use whatever you like if you want to join me in the glorious mindless knitting.

CAST-ON

Using Emily Ocker’s beginning or Magic Circle, cast on 9 sts. Distribute on 3 DPNs.

Knit 1 round.

Increase row 1: k, yo to end of round. 18 sts. Knit 3 rounds.

Increase row 2: k, yo to end of round. 36 sts. Knit 6 rounds.

Increase row 3: k, yo to end of round. 72 sts. Knit 12 rounds.

Increase row 4: k, yo to end of round. 144 sts. Knit 24 rounds.

Increase row 5: k, yo to end of round. 288 sts. Knit 48 rounds.

Increase row 6: k, yo to end of round. 576 sts. Knit 96 rounds.

If you’re working something huge:

Increase row 7: k, yo to end of round. 1152 sts. Knit up to 192 rounds.

WHEN IT’S ALMOST BIG ENOUGH

When you have about 20-30% of your yarn left, or if knitting one more round in stockinette makes you want to scream, it’s time to think about your border.

You can finish with seed stitch, garter in the round, a lace border like old shale, a knitted on lace border (and if you do that, you can ignore the bind-off), or an I-cord bind off.

WHEN YOU DECIDE TO STOP

You can stop where you would do an increase round, or when your circle is big enough. Have enough yarn for 4 more rounds of knitting when you stop, because it’s a doozy:

Penultimate round: k1, kfb.

Final round: bind off. The increases will keep the edge from puckering.