The days are getting shorter as summer starts to fade. Spooky time approaches- my fave!
So I finally took the query plunge and sent my finished MS to a handful of agents. I have pretty realistic expectations- I won’t be the slightest bit surprised if I only get form rejections. But I’m thinking it’ll help inform me on the state of my novel. The way I see it, there are three options. One, my novel is actually ready and an agent requests a full. Two, my novel isn’t quite ready and I need to have some more beta readers clue me into why. Three, the novel isn’t working on a fundamental core level and I need to take what I’ve learned, shelve it, and move on to the next project.
At least there’s a couple big motivators on the horizon. Pitch Wars is coming up quick and I think I’ll throw my hat in the ring. My MS is certainly in waaaaay better shape than last time I entered. I had barely finished it in time last year. After that we’ll be coming into NaNoWriMo so of course I have to try again. I’m hoping to start getting into a rhythm on this new project in October and create some good habits before November. The new WIP is kind of a Inuyasha meets Howl’s Moving Castle type fantasy. Still working out the details. All I can do is try!
But I’m getting that itch again- I took enough time off over the summer to recharge. I want to get back into it. The motivation is back but is the discipline? (World of Warcraft is testing me but I must be strong! Haha)
I also really need to sit my but down and read Save the Cat already, especially going into a new project. I keep opening it and starting and finding an excuse to read something else. I just get so intimidated and overwhelmed. The imposter syndrome kicks in hard. I need to relax, let go, and have fun with it. Write for myself and stop worrying about making it perfect or marketable or whatever.
What’s everyone else reading, watching, playing, or writing right now??
Heeeeeey remember how I said I needed to ease my way back into writing regularly? Weeeeeellll, then I remembered Pitch Wars was a thing…twelve days before the deadline. So I worked nonstop, writing probably over 100 pages worth of edits, rewrites, and hole-filling in order to meet that deadline. I honestly thought there was no possible way I would have it done and presentable in time, but I did it! I gotta admit, I am wicked proud of myself. Not only for submitting to the competition but for actually finishing a book! It’s not perfect by any means; it needs some structural troubleshooting and a ton of shine, but it’s a real & complete story. I’ve never had that before. (and 93,00 words to boot!)
I really don’t believe there’s much of a shot of me being picked since this was such a last minute Hail Mary, but I think the experience is going to be a great one no matter what. I wrote successfully under a tight deadline for the first time. I had my first run-in with query letters, a synopsis, and formatting. I’m making a bunch of new friends on twitter in the writing community. Plus, I finally have a full story to share with my friends and family and get some constructive feedback. I’m a huge step closer to being ready to start an agent search and try to break into the publishing world. This is so unexpected and so exciting that I feel like it’s already a victory no matter the outcome. Still, I won’t lie- I would be over the moon times a thousand to be picked for Pitch Wars. To gain the insight of an industry professional before wading into the querying trenches – how can I even begin to assign a value to something like that?!
So, here goes nothing! Let’s see what happens next.
I love this time of year- always have. Cool, gloomy weather after a long hot summer, spooky aesthetic as the nights get longer and, of course, Halloween. Halloween always promises a good time. (especially when you love costumes as much as I do) I have a handful of various Halloween parties and stuff this week that I’m looking forward to. It’ll be a nice break before NaNoWriMo next week.
I know in past blogs I probably mentioned I wasn’t planning on participating this year. I wanted to focus on revising my book one rough draft- especially since I am so tantalizingly close to completion. And I know at the end of my last post, I said work on part four was getting complicated, but I still had hopes of finishing on schedule.
Well, that all kind of went right out the window. I’m stuck in the mire with my editing. I’ve gotten so caught up in analyzing my narrative direction- questioning my characters’ motives, their emotions, their believability. I won’t say I’m losing faith in my story- I’ll never say that. But I feel like I’ve got my nose pushed so far up against it now that I can’t figure out if I’m going forward or backward. I’m lost. I need to take a big, BIG step back. I thought maybe recharging my creative batteries with other stories would help (and I think it’s starting to) so I’ve been binge watching Volton (loving it) and I just started reading Throne of Glass. I’ve also (finally) gotten the nerve up and sent what I have so far to a couple close friends whose opinions I await with both excitement and dread. I need to know if what I have is working and, if so, on what level. Even if it’s bad news, I need to know.
Meanwhile, as I was watching everyone else gear up for the November Writing challenge, I was struck by how long it’s been since I went back to plain old writing. Though my revision process has included a ton of writing as I fill holes, bridge gaps, and rewrite scenes, it’s not the blank-page, zero-direction style of writing like when you sit down to make something new. And I miss that. And if I’m going to take some time off from revision, it doesn’t seem wise to stop creating altogether. Last time I did that, it was so hard to get started again. So why not write? The timing is perfect and I love the spirit and camaraderie of NaNoWriMo, even though I’ve never “won.” 50,000 words is a heck of a lot when you really get into it. I think my record is around 30k but I’m a sloooow writer so that’s pretty good for me!
I found a cool format I want to try this year. It’s called Reverse NaNo and it seeks to combat the burn-out you get towards the middle and end of the month, capitalizing instead on a strong start. Basically you begin the month with a high daily word goal (over twice the daily target of traditional NaNo) and then every day it gets a little less. I still don’t know that this will mean a victory for me, but it definitely makes better sense with my energy levels! Here’s a link to the daily writing goals if you want to see the breakdown.
In the meantime, I’m still leaning into my other hobbies as a break from the frustrations of writing. I practiced some more photography using pop vinyls as models since I didn’t have anything else to shoot. I want to be ready to take a TON of pictures at Daisho Con next month and I want them to be good! I don’t have any cosplay to work on (thankfully) so I’ve turned to making more dice bags and dice trays to scratch that crafting itch. I need to make another bag and tray for a brand new D&D campaign I’m joining next week! Super excited for that.
Finn & the Lich
Spyro the Dragon
Overall, just trying not to get my hopes down. I think I just need to take this frustration and channel it into productive new directions. That’s the theory, anyway. We’ll see how it works in practice.
Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll check back in next month once I’m in the thick of it. And good luck to everyone else competing this year!
It’s been a high stress couple of weeks but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was feeling overwhelmed to the point of depression and now I think I’m finally treading water again.
I’ve sorted my money situation, I think. I reevaluated my budget, revised my payment strategy, and I should be out of this hole I’ve dug by summer’s end. It just meant cutting back on some of the things I’m able to do this summer and delaying some cosplay and convention aspirations till next year. But that’s ok, it’s necessary, and I feel good about it. So that’s one cinder block off my chest.
I’ve made a ton of progress on my WIP. Part three ended up being about 50 pages and it’s a few solid hours of work away from being totally finished. That will put me at 150 finished pages or about 50,000 words. I have 25,000 words in the partial parts five and six to go over and add to in the coming months. It’s looking like the finished product will be around 90k. (for comparison’s sake, the first Harry Potter was 76,944 words) So that means I’m officially over half-way done and I’m honestly pretty proud. I’ve never had a writing project so close to completion. And at this pace, I know I can finish it this year. Plus I just got some positive/constructive feedback from my favorite beta reader and that put some wind back in my sails.
Now all I have to do is make it through this Sunday. Sunday is my Dad’s memorial and it has been gnawing away at me for months.
My father passed at the end of April after a long and ghastly sickness. Born with a hereditary kidney disease, my Dad’s had poor health all his life. He was in and out of hospitals since I was a baby, so it’s something I was used to- it never affected his spirit and he brushed off each incident, his personality unaffected. About five or six years ago, he moved south to be with his long-time partner (basically his second wife though they never had a ceremony) and my young half-sister. She had moved back home to be close to her own family, which made sense. I know he felt like he was abandoning my brother and I, and as hard as it was to be so far away from him, I believed he was making the best decision both for himself and his daughter.
And then he got sicker. About two years ago he got into a car accident and began behaving strangely. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first signs of vascular dementia- brain damage caused by the lack of blood flow and multiple mini-strokes, which were side effects of his kidney disease and the treatment involved. The only way I can describe it is… it’s like my Dad began to fade. Every time I saw him or spoke to him he was a little bit less himself. And it utterly dismantled me. My father has been a pillar in my life, an unshakeable force, a constant. I was terrified of talking to him, I dreaded visiting him. I couldn’t stand to see what was happening to him. And he only got sicker, his body failing just as quickly as his mind. He ended up in a nursing home, which was a relief in some ways, knowing he was safe and surrounded by those best suited to care for him. And it was awful. My brother and I would drive down and visit once a month, about 8 hours in the car round trip. I’d get so sick to my stomach seeing him that way, I’d barely eat the whole weekend. He had gotten so bad, he didn’t even recognize us the last time we visited. So it was almost a mercy when he passed, but still my heart feels shattered.
The way I deal with this kind of grief is to squirrel away- to be alone with the things and people I’m close to. I do not like to put my sorrow on display. I do not know how to deal with both my feelings and strangers at the same time- I’m too introverted and too awkward to do both. So planning this memorial, as simple and casual as we’re making it, has still been trying. I don’t know my dad’s partner or her family all that well- I lived mostly with my mom as a kid, so we never got super close. That makes planning the event an emotional tightrope of trying to take care of as much as I can and constantly feeling like I’m overstepping my bounds. Plus I haven’t been to many funerals (only one as an adult) and though this isn’t really a funeral, per se, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I worry that I won’t be prepared, that I won’t know what to do or say when I get there. I realize, as many have reminded me, that there isn’t much for me to do beyond receive those that want to come say hello and be myself, but still I feel lacking. So though I know logically that the event will go fine, I can’t wait for it to be over, for the relief of knowing I can move on and deal with my grief privately. I know it’s not the right way, bottling stuff up like this, but it’s my way and I can’t imagine I’ll be changing anytime soon.
And we’re almost there. I read something this week that, oddly, gave me such peace of mind: Life’s too short to give a shit. Don’t laugh- I know it’s crass but it honestly made me stop and take stock of what I was worrying about. It sounds like something my dad would say. My dad is gone; he’s at rest. All this other bologna doesn’t really matter. I know I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all that counts. Whatever happens, happens, and I need to disengage and keep on moving. It’ll be all right.
Managed to get at least a little writing and a fair bit of editing done. Not as much as I would have liked, of course… perhaps in no small part due to a certain distraction I may or may not have purchased for myself.
Yeeeeeaaaah, kind of worth it though. A girl needs her outlets! Writing is frustration- I need to let off some steam, slay some monsters!
So, at this rate, I’m going to miss my first goal- now it’s up to me to determine by how much. Luckily I’m going out of town for a few days and I’m hoping a new environment (and some distance between me and my PS4) will help me get a little more writing done.
I’ve also spent a lot of my time nose first in a book lately, which I feel less guilty about since reading is basically training for writing. Current read is book two of the Kingkiller Chronicles- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. If you’re looking for a great fantasy read, I can’t recommend book one (The Name of the Wind) enough. Not that I have to; it’s usually at the top of everyone’s fantasy recommendation list. It’s like a woodsier, grittier, more medieval version of Harry Potter.
Plus I heard they’re moving closer to production on the TV series/movie for it. Music is a huge part of the story and they’ve named Lin-Manual Miranda as one of the creative minds involved so that’s kind of amazing. Now Mr. Rothfuss just needs to get book three out. I know I’m going to be beside myself when I’m done with book two and I can’t jump right in to book three. Although I have plenty more left in my to-read pile.
Especially now that I joined a book club! I’m pretty excited about that- but I’ll save it for another post.
Happy writing everyone- wishing you all a productive week and power over all your distractions. (glorious as they may be)
P.S. – I’m kind of digging these less formal, more personal updates. Cathartic for me and keeps me updating the blog even when I have nothing of importance to say. All writing is good practice in the end.
Woof. What a month. Made it through the holidays and survived the big boat show at work. Needless to say, I haven’t written or edited or done much of anything bookish in weeks. But my calendar is beginning to clear and it’s time to get back at it. So I’ll consider today day one of my 2018 writing schedule and I am incredibly anxious to get going again.
I’ve tried to use this blog as a way to check in with myself, stay organized and stay motivated and… it never seems to work. But I think it’s worth trying again. No harm in it, really- if it doesn’t help and only serves to get in the way, then it’ll just go dormant again.
So! Let’s get a rough outline going.
The big question is, as always: will this year be the year I finally finish my freakin’ manuscript for book one? I reeeeally hope so. I’m going to try my damnedest to get there. And boy am I becoming impatient to get it out there and get some people looking at it. I love writing for myself- I deeply enjoy the process and it’s a lot of fun but there reaches a point where I’ve been working with these characters and ideas for so long that I crave feedback. I wish I could post it chapter by chapter on a site like fictionpress or wattpad but I know that’ll complicate things down the line if I feel that it’s good enough to submit to a publisher. And I don’t want to count myself out just yet. I want to try. So that means I need hurry up and finish it so I can start the publication process. If that doesn’t pan out, then I can explore posting it or self-publishing or whatever.
So that brings us back to the main goal: finish the damn thing.
I have the rough draft split into six pieces and I’ve got two done with edits. I’m about half way through part three but there’s still a lot of additional writing to do as well.
Let’s aim high and try to finish a piece every month. There’s half the month left and part three is half done so that works out. If I can successfully hit those goals that means I’d more or less have a finished draft by the end of April. That’s probably a bit ambitious but I’ll give it a shot and go from there.
I’ll try to update this thing at the end of every week. Or not! We’ll see what life brings.
Good luck to everyone else going through similar struggles. Happy writing!
Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.
It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.
And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!
And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.
But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!
Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…
Ooooh boy- If this was a physical journal, the dust on it would be three inches thick. To be honest, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I’m trying to get myself reorganized and I want to get back into blogging, if not only to strengthen my writing habits. And I haven’t stopped writing. Progress on my rough draft has been crawling along. It hasn’t come quickly, but at least it hasn’t stalled.
I think I’ll try to start penning little weekly updates, just to keep myself accountable as I try to finish my editing. Writing for a blog that no one really reads feels a little like screaming into the void, but even that has its purpose, I think. I’d like to kick my editing into overdrive and get the lion’s share finished before November. That’ll free me up to participate in NaNoWriMo again.
That’s the plan anyway. I just need to become a little more disciplined.
Through many years and many attempts at being a dedicated writer, I’ve learned there’s a lot more to completing a novel than simply sitting down and putting pen to page. To write a book takes practice, planning, the formation of solid habits, and the strategic use of tools.
Having finally found my stride as a writer, ( I think!) I wanted to share some of the tools that have made my writing process far more productive and a heck of a lot easier.
Writing a rough draft is arguably the hardest part of the writing process. And everyone has their own style: some prefer a desktop computer in a quiet office, others a laptop at the crowded coffee shop. I like to be alone and I like to be mobile, but above all, I need my rough draft to be hand-written.
I’ve tried a thousand times to type up my rough drafts but I just can’t get used to it. I’m not a bad typist; I grew up with computers and I type all day at work. But something about sitting at a keyboard and trying to conquer the always-intimidating blank page kills my energy. I need real paper and a nice fountain pen or a crisp new mechanical pencil. I need to be able to write in the margins, to scribble and cross out and draw arrows. I write twice as fast, three times as more, and am infinitely more satisfied with the quality of my rough drafts when they’re handwritten. And, for years, this was one of my biggest roadblocks. How do I convert a messy handwritten draft into a typed piece, ready for edits, without sitting down and committing to the frustrating monotony of transcribing? I despised it and I wouldn’t do it. Anything I’d written would never make it to the computer screen, so writing anything at all seemed almost pointless. Then someone showed me Dragon Dictation.
Dragon Dictation is a free app that converts spoken word to text with surprising accuracy. Now, all I have to do is read my rough draft to my phone. Dragon is able to take fairly large chunks at a time and, once I’m done, I can highlight the block of text, copy, and save it out to my email or my google drive. It’s a simple, effective solution to a problem I’ve been battling for ages.
For managing my writing sessions, I use a combination of two apps: Forest & Ink On. Forest assists with productivity by helping me avoid distraction. It also acts as a timer for my session. I select how long I want to write and the app starts growing a fictional little tree. Backing out of the app to access the rest of my phone kills the session and my tree. It helps me cull the urge to pick up my phone and I don’t get sidetracked mid-session. Plus it doesn’t interfere with my music. (I usually listen to Spotify from my phone when I write) When the timer is up, it lets me know with a soft chime. Then I can record my progress in the Ink On app. Ink On lets me set up projects with their own individual goals and tracks my progress. It also gives me a calendar with writing totals for each day. I love it’s simple, clean interface. It’s become indispensable in tracking and managing my progress and goals.
I love this site and I can’t wait to experiment with it more in my upcoming edits! This site is more than just a simple spelling & grammar check. The Hemingway Editor actually analyzes your writing for common draft problems. It highlights long, hard-to-read sentences, complicated wording, adverbs, and use of passive voice. It’s a fantastic tool for self-edits; especially for someone like me, who can be a little blind to my own stylistic problems. While the site is free to use, you can also purchase your own personal copy (which includes offline use) for $9.99.
When your project is finally complete, the next step is usually presentation. Whether it be a full length novel, a short story, or a humble blog post, it’s always nice to have an appealing image complimenting your work. And unless you’re one of those ultra-talented types who’s good at both writing AND art, you may need a little help creating the perfect graphic. If you don’t have the contacts or the budget to get a professional, Canva works in a pinch. I especially like using it for temporary cover art, so I have something to make my works-in-progress stand out. It’s simple, easy to use, and inexpensive. A lot of the stock art is free and most of the fancier images are only a dollar each.
And that’s about it! I hope you find some of these helpful in your own projects! If you have any neat apps or sites to share, please post them in the comments. Happy writing!
Some days the writing comes easy- I can’t help but write. I scribble ideas and excerpts in the margins at work, on napkins at coffee shops, on scraps in the parking lot. Other days it’s a real battle. (Let’s be honest, most days are like that) I avoid writing till it’s too late and I’m tired; or I sit down and stare at a blank page, frustrated. In those instances, it’s important to set myself up for success by blocking out the things that might break my focus, and using any means to make writing fun and easy, er, easier.
So if this scenario sounds a bit too familiar, here are my own personal five easy steps to a better writing session. Maybe they’ll help!
1) Add Some Allure-
This is going to seem overly obvious, but when I buy things to make writing more fun, I am more likely to write! (crazy, right?!) I think I used to avoid or feel guilty about buying the fancy notebook or the nifty pen because I knew it wasn’t necessary- it certainly wasn’t going to improve my writing. But when you’re going to sink a lot of time and energy into something, you should splurge! Get that leather-bound number with the fancy clasp or the gold-leaf paper and don’t be afraid to fill it with your messy, haphazard first drafts. Get that twenty dollar pen with the luscious purple ink! I even went so far as to drop eighty dollars on a spiffy little Bluetooth keyboard that attaches to my hand-me-down iPad. Now I can edit on the couch without heaving the laptop out of my office, and guess what? I edit more! Take your writing seriously- if you have the money to buy yourself a neat toy, do it! I know I don’t need any of it, but I also know it definitely helps. Make it fun!
2) Do NOT Edit-
I know I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress it enough. When trying to write a first draft, it is imperative that you do not go back and self-edit. I know it’s tempting; it was an incredibly hard habit to break. I, like most writers I’ve met, am a perfectionist. I write something and immediately want to start dissembling it, searching for the perfect word, the ideal phrasing. It absolutely destroys any momentum I’d worked up and progress skids to a halt. I’ve learned that I have to suck it up and push through. Never reread, never look back, no changes or corrections, no matter how small. I have to get that rough draft down and on paper with all its imperfections before I can allow myself to dig in and start pruning and polishing. Editing has to be it’s own separate step or I’ll never finish.
3) Positive Reinforcement-
Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, my writing sessions naturally occupy the same space as my free time. That means writing is directly competing with my more frivolous, effortless hobbies. (video games, reading, youtube, pointlessly wandering the internet, etc) This means the only way to ensure writing actually takes place is to do it first. I don’t allow myself to do anything unproductive until I’ve gotten something on paper. And the times I haven’t done this are proof of its effectiveness- If I let myself play before I work, I’m far more likely to see a big fat zero on my daily word count. So I let all my other hobbies become rewards for writing. I draw a lot of my inspiration from what I’m reading and what I’m playing, so these hobbies are actually an important part of the creative process, so long as they don’t encumber that process. Write first, play later.
4) One Small Step At A Time-
After work, the commute, feed the pets, dinner, clean-up, and whatever else life throws at me, there’s often not a ton of time left in the day. Sometimes I only have ten minutes of writing in me before I feel burnt out and desperately need to enter the wind-down stage of my evening. And I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that. I set a monthly word goal that breaks down into small, bite-sized daily sessions; but some days I can’t even muster up enough creative energy to make those meager goals. So long as something, anything, hits the page each day, I’m happy. And I still sometimes miss days entirely. Which is less happy. But each and every day is a new start and a new chance, and I can’t carry those failures with me- they’ll only weigh me down. I have to keep moving forward, one little step at time. Which means tiny writing sessions nestled in the nooks and crannies of my daily life.
5) Stay Focused-
Even when I’ve successfully willed myself to sit down at my desk or hide away with a notebook, distraction still threatens to disrupt my work. Music is a must so I always have a pair of headphones handy. (I talk about my theory for selecting writing music here.) Then there’s the ever-present lure of the internet. When I’m on my laptop, I turn off my wifi. Since I use my phone to listen to music, it’s always near me while I write, tempting me. To solve that issue, I use the app Forest. I highly recommend it- not only does it lock me out of my apps while not disrupting my music, but it also serves as a handy little timer for my session. (Plus I get to grow a cute little forest of productivity, so bonus)
And that’s how I do it! I hope some of this stuff helps. Happy writing and good luck!