Reinterpreting my own advice

My efforts to keep writing as a significant entity are coming along swimmingly. Even with time off for the “weekend”, I’m ahead of schedule and finding it easier each day to separate from whatever else fills my time and use it to get the words done at my writing desk.

I’m doing my best to celebrate that progress, though the voice of contention has to chime in. I can pick up on the novel and produce the next pages of text without too much effort, but the summer job is keeping me from percolating on the short stories I need to write. Not enough quiet thinking time. Sometimes, writing a novel feels like throwing thousands of words into a giant hole. I can’t help the ever-so-slight sense of not doing enough, all centred around how I haven’t added anything to the short story list, even when I’m successfully exceeding my daily word quota.

Part of my drive to push a few extra hundred words in here and there stems from the inevitability that my next holiday will be writing-free. Date of departure is approaching rapidly, and I’m helpless in the face of three weeks of writing lost to being away.

Not only am I making up for those days off in advance with my extra effort now, but I’m looking ahead to what my writing plans will be when I return. One of the biggest things I tell many creative friends is to forgive themselves when life gets in the way. We’re a damn critical bunch, and harshest upon ourselves for any perceived lapse.

I’d love to believe I could keep up my excellent daily word count for the duration of my holiday, but every single other vacation has proven otherwise. There’s just not enough time or mental energy to spare when I’m out of the house. I could try and fight it, but I think this is one of the instances where forgiving myself is more important than struggling against the path of least resistance. I mean, it’s supposed to be a holiday, right?

Afterwards, though, I have to be honest, and persistent, and stubborn when vacation time is over. It’s too easy to pretend like the excuses have validity and weight when it’s “just writing”. At no point would I call my manager and tell her I can’t come back to the day job because I’m recovering from holidays. I wouldn’t give up partway through my shift because I’m tired and it’s hard to rebuild the routine. Writing is no longer a just-for-me activity. I have external expectations to meet.

So that will be the thing I fight against, and not simply forgive: the tendency to let myself cruise along as if writing is just too hard when I’ve taken a break. Yes, it is difficult to get back into the groove with a three-week-hiccup in the way, but not enough to actually matter! Step one is my mental approach. I have two jobs to come back to, end of story.

It’s one thing to be forgiving, and another to let myself wallow in lingering post-vacation laziness.

~A

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It’s that New Year kind of feeling

People all around the world are making goals for 2014. I’m not talking those “New Years Resolutions” deals, the ones destined to fall through once January slinks away and people return to their normal life habits, but more about how everyone takes stock, reassesses where they’re going, and reorients back toward where they thought they should be instead of the detour 2013 took them on (also known as the many varieties of, “ahaha, and you thought you were in control of your life, I’ll show you!”).

I don’t often get very new year-y, preferring to make constant little adjustments with each new moon. But lucky for me, the new moon falls on January 1st this/next year. So my thoughts are getting just a teensy bit caught up in everyone else’s planning. Not only for what I want in the following month, but what 2014 should do for me.

After the first flush of “success” with The Damning Moths – by which I mean a bundle of books have sold, and I’ve gotten real, live fan letters from people I don’t directly know (!!!) – the obvious goal is to power forward with the other books I need to finish creating. I don’t think that even counts as a new goal, except that November and December are super busy months and almost always represent a slump in my writing, so I’m feeling the internal pressure to write more, progress faster, and perceive myself as more productive and professional.

Starting on January 1st, I’ll be doing more to treat writing time like other work time. My real challenge there is in mindset. With the day jobs, I leave the house, do what needs to be done, and come home again. Writing is too personal for me to successfully take out into a public area like a coffee shop or library (what with the whole writing in a robe, not wearing pants thing – okay, more that I get distracted and start people-watching, plus don’t much like having an audience for my scribblings). I think I will start by carving out a small workspace in another room away from my main computer which is all tied up with being social and used for entertainment, to give myself the illusion that I am “going to work” when I sit down to write. I’ll schedule it in, just like my other job.

So there you have it. The goal at the top of my list is make a physical space to represent being a real writer. You’d think having a book published would cover those kind of feelings, but no. Maybe having a little separate desk won’t change my perspective much either, but it’s a good direction to start.

~A

Skip another Sunday

Isn’t it amazing how you can get an absurd amount of things done, yet still feel completely unaccomplished? Welcome to my week. I can’t even tell you what I did, I don’t remember most of the specifics! All I know is I’ve been very busy, lots has happened, and family have been thoroughly visited, though we haven’t wrapped up those activities just yet.

Somewhere in the last few days, I’m assured a Sunday occurred and I missed blogging. I doubt anyone else noticed any more than I did at the time, since we’re all being drawn away from the usual internetly duties. Christmas break, when will you be relaxing? As usual, I need time off from my holidays.

At least with the change of pace, I can’t really get bored. That’s not to say I’m ever especially without things to do; I might get bored every now and then, but I’ve always got a new project, or something exciting to research if nothing else! But there’s something to be said for being dragged into unusual activities and being less of a hermit than I am for the rest of the year. That may or may not be a good thing.

As much as I love cooking, I don’t normally spend nearly as much time as I’d like baking tasty treats, but Christmas brings out the best in cooking delights. You better believe I am chief taste-tester, too. Mmm. Then there’s always the double batches; some for gifts and sharing, some for home. The fridge is full of snacks. It is very delicious.

I also enjoy visiting with family and friends who don’t live locally. They all troop into the greater Perth area to see us and other extended family, and it’s just pleasant to catch up. Some of them are folks we won’t see again until next Christmas, so making the most of the time they’re in town is important!

And I’ve always loved wrapping gifts, and the excitement of seeing people open the presents and find their surprise inside! I’m sometimes a bit sneaky with wrapping; if I don’t want the recipient to guess what’s inside, I’ll often hide the present in a deceptive cover first. Towels, bubblewrap, and oversized boxes are only some of the “normal” ways I’ve disguised the real gift. There have been the odd occasions of cobbling together mismatched boxes to make a very odd shape, or using an interesting basket or even a small suitcase before Christmas wrapping is applied. Hey, I have to keep myself entertained.

Of course, on the subject of skipping blog days, blogging will also be cut back this week with Christmas day falling on Sunday! But don’t worry, I’ll still be around, even if my brain is too fried to remember to comment! After surviving the rest of this week, things should return to normal, somewhat.

~A

A time for responsibility

It’s one of those words, isn’t it? Responsibility? Even we who are well into adulthood and are already used to taking care of things tend to baulk at life’s requirements every now and then. Not least when we have conflicting responsibilities!

I’m probably going to miss my self-imposed deadline for finishing TDM by the end of the year. The sheer amount of things I have left to do in preparation for Christmas is certainly enough to keep me busy, and then there are always other obligations and vital activities to attend. Yesterday, I helped a relative move house. Today, I finished a number of Christmas gifts. Tomorrow, I need to do more. When will I fit in writing, or editing? When will my mind slow down enough to let me dedicate my thought to the deep processes necessary for critical editing?

I like Christmastime, but man, is it busy.

I’ve considered a daily schedule of sorts, to try and fit in all my projects, but I know how I am. If I’m on a roll, or making something specific, I prefer to finish what I’m doing before moving on, not just stop at a designated time and come back to it later. This is the same for all my work. I’m not very good at schedules, regardless of how flexible I make them.

Writing is usually relegated to the “lesser responsibility” pile, unfortunately. Grocery shopping is more important, cooking meals is more important, sleep is sometimes more important. Finishing Christmas gifts is getting more important, as I need to send a number of them overseas ASAP, then going to the post office to wait in line for half an hour will proceed to become more important than my editing time. And while I might be able to write snippets while standing in line, or in the car (as I’m always the passenger), I most certainly cannot edit in those garnered moments.

If nothing else, I will try and put aside an hour every day, whether it be first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, or any other time I can be reasonably assured of few interruptions, and actually stick to editing a little each day. I know how much progress you can truly make as long as you keep chipping at something daily. I’ve used that technique to great success before! So it’s just a matter of being responsible to myself and my passion, as well as everything else I’ve taken on. My story is definitely that important.

~A

Half way points

In the spirit of InSecDraMo, I thought I’d stop in today and give you all a mid-November update!

Okay, to be fair, I (re)started editing TDM on October 27th, so I got five days headstart on the ol’ month of writerly work, but that goes a little way toward off-setting the problem of Halloween a couple of days later, then my wedding anniversary and birthday falling in this month and taking me away from work (rightfully so, I suppose). For November itself, I’ve missed four days. I’ve added over 3,500 words to my manuscript, and cut or changed innumerable more (meaning I have no way of keeping track of exactly what I’ve cut, re-written, or replaced).

In terms of actual editing, I am more than half way through the book. There’s no accurate measurement for editing-to-word ratio, since I know for a fact that I will be adding in certain scenes further in the story, thus upping the final count. As far as current word count goes, I’ve edited up to the 57% point. That is a VERY good feeling.

For InSecDraMo, that would mean I’m ahead of schedule, and doing a mighty fine job of it! I admit, I’m struggling a little at the moment, and that’s a big part of why I’ve missed days. This chapter is amazing and totally awesome, but still desperately needed a hard edit. There were things I’d decided I needed to change, no question about it, and it’s just hard to add those elements in when it temporarily mangles an otherwise epic scene.

The story will still need work later on, but it’s definitely getting somewhere. I am still so in love with these characters, and the situations they are getting into make me some kind of gleeful maniac. It’s all a little mean, but an author has to do these things to the ones we love best! Right now, I think I have an excellent chance at reaching my editing goal and have it ready for my betas to read at the end of the month. Exciting! I know at least one of them is eagerly awaiting this story.

~A

While everyone else is busy writing

It’s NaNoWriMo time, after all, and most of my writerly friends are charging ahead with their writing abandon. You’re all doing so great, too! I can’t wait to hear about your progress throughout the month.

I piked on NaNo this year; I’ve been way too caught up editing TDM, and since the original deadline I set myself was to have a solid second edit finished by late November, I decided it was time to get down to business.

Cue InSecDraMo! Barb Riley of Written Not With Ink blogged about her November plans, coining InSecDraMo, or Individual Second Draft Month.

I already had my blog post all written out for today, too, but Barb inspired me. It’s pretty exciting to see others hitting the second draft with me this month, so I figured I should spread the word. As I commented on her blog, I have been trying very hard to edit in proper order, start to finish, but it’s just not happening. Every day, I start reading from a chapter earlier, to make sure the edits flow on correctly. Every few scenes, I cross-reference something earlier in the story. This is a really intensive edit, but I am loving it.

Something interesting I noted: I’m also adding a huge amount of words. Normally, my edits cut, cut, cut. Sure, I’m doing plenty of that still, but I am writing a phenomenal amount on top of those cuts. I think it has a lot to do with how ridiculously fast I churned out the first draft of TDM. It just flew out of me in five short weeks, and now that I’m into a complicated edit, I’m adding in all the delicious, necessary details that fill in for the reader what my brain already knew during drafting. So far, I’ve bumped the word count by 1,000 words per chapter. Wow.

All this talk of editing is getting me super excited to get back into it! That has to be a good sign. Honestly, I love this story so much, I can’t even tell you.

Good luck to all NaNo-ers, and especially to my fellow InSecDraMo-ers, too!

~A

The plan, the challenge

As you may know, I’ve switched to working on the potential-novella referred to as M. I read the opening I wrote several years ago and felt somewhat overawed by how awesome the idea was, and wondered why I stopped. I can honestly say it was because I hadn’t plotted any of the story out besides the general idea; it slowed me right down, and I can see that, now. At the time, I just drifted onto other projects that had more immediate appeal, without ever realising what was holding me back.

While the ideas for this story were still there, they needed a lot of developing. And as my last blog entry covered, the strange little ideas I’d worked out, and the interesting plot directions I wanted to use have finally started to make sense as a whole story. I got excited and I have begun planning out the plot properly. The best part about doing this is always knowing what to write next. Once this is sorted, I can sit down and throw whatever words I want at the page. Editing will be challenging, but the important part is always finishing that first draft.

My plan is to have the overall plot finalised, to whatever extent I usually do, by the end of this week. Then starting Sunday, I intend on writing like a maniac (or if you’re a fan of Dear Sugar, writing like something else!). Novellas clock in around 40,000 words in length. I want to hit that in two weeks. Madness? Oh, yes. With my lifestyle, most certainly. And that’s precisely what draws me to it.

I have always been inspired by challenges. Put some kind of ridiculous deadline in my head and I want to tackle it wholeheartedly, just to see if I can. Looking over my writing records for TDM, I don’t often reach 3,000 words a day, but where’s the fun in it if I already know I can manage ~2,000? I could do it in a month, but two weeks? We’ll have to see.

There’s always the distinct possibility that I will get directed, bored, or grumpy with this whole plan before it’s finished. You guys can always call me on it if my happy little word counter isn’t rising daily.

~A