It has been a long and eventful year. Make that a couple of years. Un and under employment, two moves, losing a pet, family moving in...and back out again, two graduations, my husband changing jobs twice then going from one two to to three jobs at one time. And that's just what I can remember. I started all that with a pretty decent writing routine, but all the changes between locations and the time I have available and in schedules have pretty much battered those routines to death. And now I find myself almost in the same place I was a few years after I finally started taking my writing seriously: struggling to get the words down, struggling to get into routine again, and feeling myself flounder.
Change is the one constant in life. To be successful in any endeavor, we must be able to adapt to change. In a way, a regular job with a boss and a steady paycheck can anchor us and help us weather the other changes in our lives. Writers who don't have that constant have to find a way to navigate change while maintaining their commitment to their craft, and it can be very easy to end up where I am now.
So, for me, it's time to rebuild. I need a new routine that takes into account my domestic goddess duties, which are more time consuming since I no longer have children in the house to help, and my part time editing job while at the same time making sure I make time for and do my writing. I'm also spending more time working out so I can lose over 100 pounds. It's a lot to work in, but these are my priorities, and everything else I choose to do has to be taken on in light of these things. A lot of evaluation going on in my life right now. It's been haphazard in recent months as my schedules and routines have fallen apart and my environment has changed, but now, as life becomes less volatile, it's time for me to determine what I'm doing in a more deliberate way.
Some habits got broken over the last year, especially my night time writing/revising habits. It's time to reclaim them. Other habits are new and finding space for them has been challenging. The good news is that we are finally in a better place and focusing on survival is no longer eating up all my resources. Transitioning into a new schedule has been a little harder than I expected, but the foundation is there just waiting for me to grab hold again.
Hopefully, as I get myself back together as a writer, there will be more going on here at Alden. Journeys is going to transition into my being my writer blog (hopefully with more interesting content than my LJ ever had, though a few of those posts may end up coming over here as well since I'm leaving LJ as a blogging platform). There are a lot of updates that need to be made here at Alden, including the layout (since the all green has been here a few years now), and being around here more should help. It won't happen instantaneously—rebuilding takes time and there's a lot of bad habits and laziness to clear out now—but it will happen. Just don't mind the dust between now and then.
Changes & Challenges, Life & Writing, Life Stuff, Personal Insights
The Benefit of Habits
The upheaval is over, and we're finally settled for awhile. Thank goodness. There's a lot of things I have to get back to doing (and am having trouble getting back to!), but thankfully, writing isn't one of them.
I think I mentioned before that when I first started writing, it was hard getting into some kind of regular schedule. There were weeks when I was lucky to get 500 words. But I persisted and slowly developed a habit of writing almost every day. It took years, and I've had to adjust the timing or the how a number of times over the years. For awhile there, I had to do 10 to 20 minute sprints. When I was substitute teaching, I had to learn to write in the spaces between classes: when I had free time or at lunch. More recently, I've changed to night time writing, bridging the end of one day and the beginning of the next. But regardless of the how or the when, I kept working on trying to write every day. Weekly goals helped (although I rarely made them at first). But the biggest help was persistence. I was determined to make writing a part of my day, and I never gave up on it even when I missed days at a time. And eventually, without me even realizing it, I developed a habit of writing most days.
And now, when my life has been in upheaval, I get to reap one of the important benefits of developing that habit: I kept writing. Except for the days we were actually moving, and the days of packing and the first few of unpacking, I've been writing most every day. Everything else may have gone down the drain, but not my writing. And now that things are settling, I'm not having to struggle to keep on writing. I have had to adjust back to that bridge time, and I've had to work a bit to put down more words (since, yes I was writing, but I wasn't writing a lot during the upheaval), but the actual writing? Not a struggle (at least once I was no longer exhausted). As a result, the second book in the Randi Kayde series is well on its way, and I'm nearing the end of the first in another series.
It's so easy to let life derail us, at least for me. I've been stressed, sick, worried about where we were going to live, and so on and so forth, yet I've continued to write. At the time I was developing this habit, it was frustrating. One week, I'd have 350 words, the next 2000, and the next none. I couldn't understand why I couldn't just sit down and make sure to write something, anything, every day. But I kept at it, and now when I've needed that habit the most, it's paid off.
If you're struggling to make writing your habit, remember two things:
1. You don't find the time to write, you make it.
2. Keep at it. Don't let missing a day or three stop you. Eventually, you'll get there.
Life & Writing
Coming Out Of Darkness
The last few months have been an interest mix of good and bad and stress. After Charms went off to betas, it wasn't too hard to not think about it too much. We had bigger things to worry about, the main one being the need to move out of a house that was literally toxic to our physical health and the health of our finances.
Turns out it wasn't as easy as we'd hoped.
We honestly were looking for a rent to own and ended up in attempting to buy instead. There were a lot of things going on around the sale (and still are) that made it even more stressful than it really needed to be, and I found myself unable to do do as much as I was used to doing. Instead of swapping between two novels, I could only focus on one. Short stories? Ignored. Submissions pretty much were ignored as well. My energy and focus was so completely wrapped up in surviving the process, I barely had enough left to write and manage the few responsibilities I have other than motherhood.
And you know, sometimes we have to focus on what's the most important in our lives and let other things go because there's just no space for them. But at the same time, I was still writing and attempted to keep to my usual routines as much as possible. It's the habits and routines of my day that help keep me grounded when everything else is going crazy or the stress is so high all I want to do is sleep. And it is those habits that help me settle into new routines and new places when I need to. And, honestly, they help keep me sane. If I let the stress overwhelm me enough to stop me from writing, I don't think I'd get through as well.
By the same token, there were days when I didn't get out of bed, when the lure of sleeping of the stress was too much to ignore. And sometimes we all need a day in bed. It's not wrong, it's not bad (as much as my inner responsibility voice would imply otherwise). As long as you're not spending days or weeks in bed, a day off of life isn't a bad thing and can help you face the next day better than you would have without the day off.
Things are not still resolved when it comes to where we'll finally be living and whether or not we'll own this house, but things ARE better than they were. We went through some of the worst stress I've ever experienced, but we came out of it in a better place, regardless of whether or not we get to keep the house. And I'm slowly recovering my ability to work on more than one novel, I'm kinda looking at my short stories again, and I've been submitting. I'm slowly building back up to the level of work managed that I was doing before things got really bad. And it's not nearly as hard as it would be if I had let everything go.
And I'll take that.
Life & Writing, Personal Insights
Writing In Crises
This has been a difficult year. Actually, that's probably an understatement. Last year, the recession didn't really touch our household: we were already in the un/under employed category and barely surviving. We had no savings, no investments, heck, we didn't even have a car because of a hydroplaning accident early in the year. I didn't think we would be much hit by the recession, to be honest. We were already near rock bottom, just above living on the streets. But this year did hit hard. We managed to keep a roof over our heads, but just barely. The strain took a toll on pretty much all aspects of our lives.
When there's a lot going on in my life, especially a lot that takes most of my energy and focus just to survive, things other than surviving become footnotes in my day. If I can find whatever I need to do it, then I do it; if not, well, then it doesn't get done. I suspect most of us are this way. We have a finite amount of ourselves to put into anything. When survival takes up most of that, everything that's not important has to be pushed aside. And this is where I was, pretty much, for most of 2011: skating from one crises to the next, keeping a roof over our heads, juggling the bills, doing everything I could to keep my family housed and fed while making sure my husband finished school.
Where I was fortunate was time. I stay home because my son needs me, and with only one car, there was no way to make a job work, assuming I could find one I could do during the limited hours I had open. So I had more time to do other things, even when most my other resources were pretty low. And instead of using that time to sleep or to worry, I wrote. I worked on Charms almost every day. It was probably the one thing that saved me from letting our circumstances drag me down. And I attribute that ability to keep writing, despite the stress life was piling on my shoulders, to the habits and routines I've spent years developing.
I started tracking weekly word counts and goals back in 2004/2005. I originally used a refillable planner, but later decided on separate annual planners. The first year was spotty at best. I didn't list any goals, was lucky to get 500 words in a week, and had entire months where I wrote nothing at all either in the planner or on paper. That started to change in 2007. I'd miss a day or two a week, but most days have writing progress recorded. The lowest week: 232 words. Most weeks averaged 2 or 3000 words. And I did have one week where I made over 9000 words. Just seeing the annual word count rise was enough to encourage me to keep going. By the end of 2008, I was including small, weekly to do lists. Those lists got larger, and I started breaking them down into daily to do lists by 2009. I learned to keep the planner next to me, open so I could see my list for the day. Just that one thing helped me to develop a habit of working on my writing every day.
And that habit and this year's planner have kept me writing through all the stress of this year. My planner is by my bed. I take it, and anything I need to work on, with me when I go places, if I can. Each night, I write the next's day's to do list, which always includes some writing. Each day, I cross things off as I get them done. This year, despite everything, I averaged about 6-9000 words/week, with some weeks as high as 15-20,000 words. My total word count this year is just over 584,000 with another 6-10,000 probably before the end of the year. I admit that the count would probably be significantly lower if I'd been working, but the habits I started developing in 2004 saved me this year. They kept me writing even when it was almost too depressing to keep doing much of anything anymore. And I can't highlight the encouragement and company of fellow writings enough. They believed in me, and that helped keep me going when I could no longer find a reason to believe in myself.
And I learned one other thing: that I can do it. We look at circumstances we've not experienced and say, "oh, there's no way I could do that!" I'm here to say we can. I've learned it a day at a time, a week at a time, a month at a time. You make your goals doable. You write them down. You cross them off as you finish. You track your progress, and that progress will keep you going when you don't see progress happening anywhere else. When you're ready to give up, those habits kick in, and the next thing you know, you're doing whatever it is you needed to do that day. They become our strength when we feel we have none. They help push us onward when no other reward is in sight.
Yea, it was a bad year in so many ways. But sometimes it takes a bad year to see what we're really made of, to see that we have the strength to do the things we need or want to do in spite of it all. And in the end, we come out even stronger and we've learned something about ourselves.
Keep on writing. No matter what.
Changes & Challenges, Life & Writing, Obstacles & Overcoming, Personal Insights, Rewards
There's Writing & Then There's Writing
So, keep meaning to update, but it just never seems to come together as often as I'd like. There's a lot of reason for this, the first being real life. It's been busy. Hubs was finally offered a job, and we've been working around new schedules as his winter quarter ended and the job started, and again now as both he and our oldest get back into college together (at the same school, even, which actually is helping us incredibly when it comes to the payments we need to make). My younger kids are about to have their spring break, which means a week or two more of upheaval before everyone is out of the house and we have something of a routine for the next few months.
With all the busyness, I sometimes have to make choices in my writing time, which is hard because I really would like to get EVERYTHING in. But everything is A LOT of stuff: two novels in progress, shorts in revisions, upkeep of a couple of different journals (each with their own focus, for the most part), upkeep of three websites (including the author site), plus the management of the writing group. And all of that has to be worked in around being the mother of an active family and having the husband working AND in school. That means a lot of the things he was managing, I have to take care of now, so time has become even tighter for me. And with the oldest in college now as well, I'll be called on to baby sit more frequently. And three year olds are entertaining to watch (most of the time) but aren't conducive to high word counts.
So there have been a number of times (and will be more of them in the future) where the choice has been writing in a journal or working on a novel or story, and the choice for a writer is obvious. Which is not to say that's always what's going on—I do have this starting problem where I have a hard time getting things going so I procrastinate by doing anything but any kind of writing. I'm working on that. I'm also working on becoming a faster writer, but that's going about as well as taking care of all the things I procrastinate with. Thankfully, none of those things are Facebook or WoW. lol
And then there are the days where I have to push to get anything done.
So the pushing and the choosing the fiction over the journals means that the Blood Charms building draft is done and off to an apha reader to make sure my plot is worked out, the timeline works, and most the major issues are working out the way they should...and whether or not the novel needs another body or two or anything needs a little filling out. The break also gives me a few days to decide whether I want to push for a rough draft or consider the building draft as the rough draft and start revising once I get it back from her. I suspect it'll end up in the middle: taking care of the messes she finds, adding where I need to answer, then going into revisions from there.
In the meantime, I'm working on Quest For Ehlarayn, book 2 of the Heroes trilogy that was begun with Assassin's Choice. Still waiting on those beta readers, but they have until some time in May, so that's fine even if I am a bit antsy. When I originally wrote the Heroes trilogy, I actually did the novel plotting for all three books so I have rough drafts for all three books. But since then, book 1 has changed so much, that I need to make A LOT of adjustments to accommodate those changes (not in plot, thankfully, but even with the plot the not butchered, there's enough that has to be worked through that it's going to really expand the drafts). Lesson learned: basic plotting out of a trilogy all at once works; writing a trilogy all the way through all at once, not so much. lol
As soon as I get Charms back, I'll be working on that, and the next time I pick up Quest will be after I've posted it to DII and take a bit of a break from it. Then I'll get Quest up to par and up at DII before I get back to Charms. That's the plan anyway. Only time will tell if it actually gets followed that way. ;)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Personal Insights, Process & Craft, The Shunned
Not As Busy, Still Going
The house has fallen through. This is upsetting on so many different levels, but it also means that I have A LOT less stress and a bit more time to focus on my writing. There's still fallout to deal with: getting youngest into a better school than her home school, cleaning up the financial mess left behind, recovering or adjusting routines that were disrupted and now either need to get back on track or will need to be readjusted to things like youngest's change in schools, and so on and so forth...oh! And unpacking. We had started packing and the house has kind of...fallen apart in the craziness, so, yea, will be cleaning up, de-fleaing, and unpacking again. Not particularly thrilled with how things turned out, but I saw what was coming and got my grieving done before the final ax came down, so I'm angry at what happened (and how), but ready to move forward with what we need to do.
The good news is that I kept up on my Assassin's Choice revisions. I'm halfway through v6 and should have it finished and ready for beta readers by December. At least that's my hope. I've been so focused on A.C. that my other projects have been pretty much set aside for the time being. I might be able to pick them up with less on my mind and less to do, but I'm not going to worry about it if I don't. A.C. deserves to be done; I've been working on it for far too long and it's just time to get it off the plate and maybe out the door.
Why would I hang onto it after it's done? My main concern is the chance of a multi-book contract. I don't see my Alden books taking 2 years or less from start to finish, and most have indicated that 2 years is generally the time expected between books in a series. So I need to get the second book to the point that A.C. is at now before I run A.C. itself around. There may be a day when an Alden book will take 2 years or less, it's just not today. ;)
As for the other novels in process: Blood Charms is ready for me to start the building draft (which is the draft before the rough draft: a lot of information is supposed to go into the building draft, but I'm not sure that's what will happen here), and Phoenix Rising is about ready for the rough. I've not been working on any shorts, and haven't been submitting much either. This is one of those things I knew to drop since the house stress was already making me crazy. Submitting shorts is already a frustrating process, so I really didn't need that on top of the house stuff. I probably won't get back to submissions until the new year. The current focus is A.C., Charms, and Phoenix. Once A.C. is finished, I'll be moving on to book 2 in the trilogy, Quest for Ehlarayn, which is already stripped back and ready for me to get back to work on.
In other news, the husband is in culinary school and very happy. Unfortunately, he also lost his job, which is actually only bad because of the lack of a paycheck. The job itself was making him miserable and being run in an unethical manner. We plan to report and sue, it's just taking us time to get it all figured out...and to find a lawyer. In the meantime, he's looking for work in the industry. He's not done a resume snow storm as of yet since midterms are a big concern for him right now, but he's started putting a few out, and the school will be holding a career fair especially for its culinary students next week, I believe. We're looking forward to it. In the meantime, we're looking a little on our as well.
So, it's going to take some time to get us back on our feet, especially with the job situation the way it is, but I'm ready to move forward and work on it. And to get back to a full schedule of writing.
In Progress, Life & Writing, Life Stuff, Novels
I keep meaning to post here and keep getting distracted by other stuff. Even writing has fallen by the wayside of late because there's so much going on.
The good news is that A.C. v5 is done! I'm working on some changes I need to make, which will end up being v6, then it will go out to betas. The hope is that there won't need to be much done for v7, and I'll be able to start working up a query letter and the scary synopsis. If nothing else, I can say it's DONE and I actually FINISHED a novel.
Among the things keeping me busy:
» A freelance editing job. Took up 6 weeks, and then was aborted. I discussed the extensive story problems I had with the author, and he chose to put it on the back burner despite the fact that it had been accepted by a small press. It amazes me that people trust my judgment that much...now why can't I apply it to my own work? ;)
» Buying a house. I can't believe how much WORK it is to buy a house. I knew it would be initially time consuming because you have to actually go look at houses. I didn't realize the time sink would continue all the way through until after the move...and we're not there yet. At this point, we're waiting for a check we need to help pay a few expenses and for a grant program to process our paperwork. After everything we've done, the hoops we've had to jump, I've told the husband I'm not doing it again unless we can buy outright. I think we've pretty much decided we're just going to stay put and never move again. lol
» Oldest's unemployment, which impacted the household finances in a big way even though she was out of work only for a couple of months. Of course, the house stuff has also turned the finances upside down, so it's been a bit of a mess.
» Getting the husband into culinary school. He starts in October! We're so excited for him! :)
» Dragon*Con this past weekend. I wimped out and only made it through half of Sunday—still have a lot of healing and strength building to do since the surgery.
This is all just the tip of what we've been dealing with. There's been changes in routines, eating habits, and all kinds of things going on. Most of it has been good, thank goodness, but there's been a few upsets.
Right now my biggest challenge is finding time to write in a day that's broken up into a dozen little pieces and often has other things going on that takes up what little pieces I have. Working on it, but it's definitely tough. About the only thing not suffering right now is Twitter, and that's just because it's so much easier to slap up a brief "here's what's going on" than to write a scene or chapter or blog post. Things should be less crazy once the house is finalized and we've moved.
Speaking of crazy busy, have another house related call to make and need to take oldest to work then go to the grocery store, so better get going.
But, yay! A.C. v5 is done!
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Life Stuff, Work & Writing
New Focus: Writing
I've made a major change in my life recently: I left my editing position to focus on my writing for the next few years. My son requires me to be home for at least the next 4, and the editing position was eating up all my time, so resigning and spending the time I'm required to be home on my writing instead made sense, especially since the money being earned really wasn't enough to do anything with and won't be enough to do anything with for a long time. I spent the latter half of the week before last clearing out of the company and sending them all my files. Last week was my first week as "only" a writer (and a mother).
It has gone very well, actually. I was having a great deal of trouble finding to revise A.C. when working for the press, and in the last week and a half I've sorted out chapter 32. Hopefully I'll work through the remaining 5 chapters more quickly now, get the fixes I need to make for the next round sorted out, v6 done up, and it out to beta readers by summer. The plan is to get it on the query-go-round before winter. I've already been threatened within an inch of my life if I don't even try. *g* I do have a few agents I want to query and one small press I think I would love to get into despite it being a small press. Have to admit, a lot of it comes from the name of the press, but they've treated another author I know very well.
In addition to that, I've started a new novel project. I'm pretty much doing it for fun—it's in a genre that I love to read but am unfamiliar writing, so it will be interesting how it goes. So far, the ideas I'm working with and the outline are being pretty well received by my writing group. I love this particular phase of writing, when the ideas are fresh and exciting and all you want to do is work on that one thing. But B.C. isn't my first priority and shouldn't be my first priority. It's just nice to have a non-Alden novel in the works.
So, the change has gone well so far. I'm actually getting through my writing goals rather than having the same goals over and over for weeks at a time. I've also managed to make some time for personal improvement, like exercise. And I'm enjoying being able to work on my writing without the nagging sense that others are waiting on something from me like edits or some other response. I know at some point there will be less energy and excitement, but I'm hoping to have my routine pretty much down enough by then that it will carry me through.
Okay, been avoiding my short story long enough, time to get to it.
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, The Shunned, Work & Writing
And Three Weeks Later
It's just been crazy of late, a lot of it good crazy, but crazy none the less. The editing job has become very busy. We're getting a new manuscript every day, and a lot of them are very good and so go on the to the reader panel (which I'm also supposed to be a part of), plus I've had a novella in edits that was just finalized. So that's kept me very busy. With my days so full of the job, it has been hard to find time to work on my own things, especially once the kids get home. Fortunately, that looks like it might be changing as early as next week. The tax return this year is really decent (the one advantage to almost no income last year) so I'll be picking up a "work" laptop, work meaning writing and editing. My desk top will remain my graphics/web work computer, and I'll probably be using it during the day before the kids are home from school, but once I have the laptop, I can extend my day and actually get more work done. At least that's the hope.
As for what I've managed over the last 3 weeks, chapter 30 is done, world building for Phoenix primarily (though there were some loose ends I finished up for A.C. as well), 2 shorts have been revised and one sent to my crit group while the other has been subbed—in fact a total of 7 stories have been submitted, and I've written 2 articles for the other editors that I lead. I've also had one weekend down because of problems with my DSL provider and have been fighting some kind of sick since the end of last week. Chapter 31 has been on my to do list, I just seem to keep having problems getting to it. Guess I should take care of that, huh?
I'm actually doing pretty good on all my goals for the year so far. Probably the worst category is finances, but that's to be expected. The return will help some with that as well, then we have to make the rest work. I've read 2 books so far this year, one while editing it, the other a published novel; my exercise has taken a different slant, but it is working even though most people wouldn't call it exercise (the fact that I see progress in my strength and stamina tells me it's working whether it's traditional exercise or not); my salt intake is way down, as is my PS2 playing (I've replaced it with reading); I'm averaging 5 days out of the week on feel good things; and I'm only 3k short of where I should be for my word count for the year. Hopefully I'll start getting ahead once I have the laptop.
So, in general, things are going good so far. Even with being sick right now, I don't have much to complain about. This winter has been relatively quiet health wise; the youngest hasn't even been hit once with her usual bouts of bronchitis which she usually gets 2 or 3 times through the winter. I do hate being sick, but hopefully it will continue to be a mild season for us and this will be the only time I need to complain about it. I just need to get a move on with A.C. Phoenix has been doing quite a bit of growing, but I'm finding it to be more my avoidance WIP at the moment, which is not necessarily a good thing, although it does help with that word count goal.
Speaking of which, I just finished doing some work on that tonight, and now I need to move on to A.C. Just need to push on through....
Or threaten myself with another short story. *g*
Goals & Progress, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Work & Writing
I Need To Write
We writers all have different reasons for writing, but the one reason I think that puzzles non-writers the most is the need to write. They do not understand how writing can be a need. Even though I am a writer, that particular reason to write used to puzzle me as well. But not any more. I've discovered that I'm a writer who needs to write.
I've written all my life. I started with cheesy poetry as a kid, wrote a few kid short stories, tried my hand at lyrics (sucked), and went back to short stories around high school with an interest in writing a novel. Didn't have novel ideas at the time, but was definitely interested. Even after some dufus "pointed out" that everyone was writing the "great American Novel" and that anything I wrote would probably land in the circular file, I kept writing. To be sure, I stopped with the short stories and went back to poetry (it was safe) and eventually picked up gaming (which was safer) as outlets for my need to write, but I never stopped writing even when my goals for it changed because some idiot told me I couldn't cut it and I was too sensitive a kid to take that and use it to fire me up. I wrote until I started subbing, and even then, for the most part, I found ways to write.
However, the one time writing would fall out of my life was when I was long term subbing. Long term subbing takes up your entire life because you may be the sub, but you ARE the teacher, no matter how impermanent. You create lesson plan, hunt down or create materials, create tests, grade, go to meetings, and do everything that the regular teacher does. There's no time for life, much less writing when subbing long term. It's a hard job and I enjoyed it for about 3 years. My last long term position took all the joy out of the job for me, and I finally resigned from subbing at all. But whether I loved them or hated them, there was one thing all my long term positions had in common....
The lack of writing.
I had no time to write at all. I barely had time to read more than the textbooks at hand, the materials from meetings, and so on and so forth. Long term subbing was hard. But I'd had other sub positions that were longer than a day and shorter than a week, positions where I was expected to create/grade the homework and so on, and I never had the same downturn in emotions and attitude as I did when long terming for months. The biggest difference? No writing. For MONTHS. Not a few days, not a week or so -- months.
And I discovered what happens when I don't write fresh words for a long time: I become irritable and snappish, I lose interest in other things I enjoy, the PS2 gets more time than my creative well, and I end up being someone very different, someone unlikable and almost impossible to live with. Once I start writing, and I mean writing fresh words, new words, working on stories and creative projects that are new and untouched, all of the nastiness fades away. I come back to myself.
I haven't been writing for awhile. Oh, every now and then I pick up Phoenix, but I don't work on it consistently. My focus has been A.C. and critiques for my writing group, not new stuff. In fact, most of the stuff I've even looked at lately is stuff that needs revisions. I even set aside my short stories for a few months because I was tired of dealing with the market aspect of things. I never even thought that there might be another reason to write those shorts: to keep me sane while I worked on the novels. And lately there seems to be a change of mood that has no other real source, nothing I can point at and go "that's what's making me this way." That's how it always is for me when the not writing mood builds -- it seems to have no real source that I can point to for the reason.
So, tonight I'm going to set aside A.C. despite being behind, set aside the crit I started, even set aside Phoenix and work on a new short instead. And starting tonight, I'm going to try to make sure I get fresh words in at least every few days. I suspect it will not only help my moodiness, but that it just might help me become faster in my revisions and help with the restlessness and lack of motivation that's been plaguing me lately.
Some of us writers write because we NEED to write. Apparently I'm one of them and I better stop ignoring that fact.
Life & Writing, Personal Insights, Work & Writing
Progress? Not So Much
Yes, it's been a month since I last posted. No, the progress hasn't been so good of late. Seems I have a touch of SAD, plus some life stress stuff going on, and I'm struggling to make a schedule that works in the sense that I actually get things done, and all of this has interfered with just about everything. The one thing that is getting done is my editing work, but that's purely because it's for someone else...and there hasn't been that much coming in or to do of late.
For about 2 weeks, I did nothing but sleep -- the consistently overcast skies made me more and more down, more and more lethargic, until, somewhere near the end of those two weeks, there was no doubt about it: I was depressed. The sun finally came out for a few days and I was instantly better despite the fact that the other issues in real life were still issues. Since then the clouds have been in and out, and so has the lagging, dragging, put me to bed feeling. The biggest frustration is how this also affects my night time work -- I'm just too plain tired to want to do much of anything at any time.
I finished A.C. chapter 27 in a timely manner, then 28 took 2 weeks. Now I'm trying to slog through 29, but finding myself dragging on it as well. As a result, I'm so far behind on my novel challenge that I dropped it. I am still working on my crit challenge (a little behind, but I think it's still doable) and the world building challenge (also behind with a 4500 word count required for each of the next 2 weeks to make it, but I think I can do it). I've switched from A.C. world building to Phoenix world building for the challenge just to be sure to make my word counts. Besides, once the basics are down, I find it hard to world build too far ahead of where I'm at in the revisions. With the way revisions are going on A.C. now, it looks like it will come to about 130k, give or take, but I suspect cuts are coming in a few chapters towards the end, so we shall see how close that is.
I have another project starting to tug at me a bit, but it definitely needs some background work before I can start developing the plot and actual novel(s). I'm considering picking up a notebook and just fiddling around with it while I continue to work on A.C. and Phoenix -- nothing major: basic world development, character histories, working out some of the decisions I need to make before I can start writing. Those things will take awhile, so I doubt I'd start the actual writing until well after A.C. is off my plate, so to speak. Of course, then I have Quest to worry about, but hopefully it won't be nearly as difficult to put together.
I do have to say, A.C. has been quite a journey. Sometimes it's been as frustrating as hell, but I think I've learned quite a bit about writing in general and my process in particular. Even if it never gets published, that right there makes it a success. At least it will once I actually finish it. ;)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Obstacles & Overcoming
My progress on A.C. and Phoenix has been slower than I would like it to be. Granted, a lot of that was the physical problems that literally slowed me down and forced me to bed. Without a laptop, doing any kind of writing was particularly hard. With my iron levels as low as they were, it isn't any surprise that all I wanted to do was sleep. So, I'm not kicking myself at being so far behind on either book, but I am disappointed in general. I was hoping to be finalizing v6 of A.C. by now and getting it off the beta readers. Instead, I'm still floundering my way through v4/5. And I had hoped to be working on v3 revisions of Phoenix by now, but I don't even have a rough draft done. Like I said, it couldn't be helped—being sick for 8 months took a lot of wind out of my sails, so to speak.
So the first thing I've done to help myself out is to readjust my goals for the two books for this year. I'd like to just get the v4/5 version done for A.C. And a rough draft for Phoenix would be nice, though I suspect that might be pushing it a bit. I may have to be content with just getting the building draft done plus a whole lot of world building.
Which brings up a point quite briefly: just because you're writing in the same world doesn't mean no more world building. In this case I need a whole bunch of different locations developed and I'm in a different time period than A.C. So, yea, a lot more world building on my end. The good news is that most of the basics are pretty set: magic, the gods, and so on, giving me a ready foundation for what I need to do for the other book.
Anyway, the second thing I'm doing to help get me going is to sign up for some challenges through my writing group. Now, admittedly, I do this every time they hold a challenge, but I decided to join into this one a bit differently than in the past: I've focused my challenge choices so they apply to these two novels, especially A.C. Now I do have a critique challenge in there, but the other two are novel revisions and world building specifically. Neither has a high goal at the moment, but I will push them higher if I can. I won't know if I can until I'm close to completing the ones I have: revise 7 chapters in 8 weeks and do 24k in world building. I had to resist adding other goals that could derail me by giving me too much to do—I need to keep my focus on the two novels at hand and what I need to finish for them.
The one down side is that I've cut my weekly word count goal for Phoenix itself, the reason being that I need the world building before I can go too much further into developing the book itself. That's part of what the building draft is all about: pulling together the information you need for descriptions and whatnot and putting all of it in the where it's needed. When you get to the rough draft stage later, it's just a matter of working the details in that you need where you need them and spreading them out a bit.
Trust me, it works, for me anyway.
My weekly and daily goals are now adjusted a little to make the challenge goals the priority. I'm actually not too worried about the world building stuff. Between the two books, if I can't come up with 24k, then I'm just being lazy. REALLY lazy. But the revisions do worry me. I'm in the last 11 chapters, yes, but I'm also in the chapters that are going to require the most change. Some are going to see drastic cuts. Others are just plain going to have to be rewritten. I suspect in the end I'll have 8 or 9 chapters instead of 11, but the chapter a week thing just may not happen with the amount of work that needs to be done to get there. But I guess that's kind of what challenges are all about: you reach for something you're not quite sure you can make and hope you actually do get there. If they were all easy, it wouldn't be a challenge, right?
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Process & Craft
Busy, Busy Week
It's been crazy since I last posted here. Since the 20th of last month I've:
» Checked the edits on 3 novels for Lilley Press
» Checked 4 various versions of the ebooks about to be released
» Gone through 18 slush manuscripts, and read beginning to end at least 6 of them
» wrote up revision notes for yet another novel
» edited a novella (round 1!)
» had 2 doctor appointments, one which was canceled but only after we arrived
» revised a chapter and a half of A.C.
» revised a section of Stolen Priest
» posted 8 crits to my crit group (and am working on at least 2 more today)
» started some world building profiles
» did the Admin stuff for the writers group, including removing inactive members, updating forums, and writing the newsletter
» held an editor meeting for Lilley Press
» hired a new editor
» scored 3 or 4 editor tests (well, 6-8 since it's a 2 part testing process)
» spent an entire day at Carmax trying to get a "new" car (we ultimately prevailed but weren't home until after 11 PM)
» reviewed and made fixes to a website
» spent a day and a half trying to find out if one child will actually get to go to high school
» registered 2 kids for high school
» took the husband to the airport--will be picking him up on Tuesday
» helped find errors in a pdf file when InDesign tried to eat the imported manuscript
» did school related shopping
» celebrated a kid turning 16 with cake and a movie
» had an "I will have to quit if it's not fixed" crises at work--dealt with, I think
» pulled my Metawriting from an ezine after huge editor/author issues--and the edits of the last article took 2 days as well
» revised the 3 handbooks and a style sheet for Lilley
» fought and won against one sucky Canon printer
» been to the farmer's market and 2 other grocery stores at least twice each (we know where to shop for what for the best prices)
» helped the husband with his resume
» added an authors page to the Lilley site
All that and some sleep in there, off time because of stormy weather, and family time.
Is it any wonder I haven't been around lately? I am working on A.C. as best I can during all this. With the release date coming and more subs coming in, it's been very busy at the job. I've hired editors to help with that, and may possibly be hiring one more just because I think we'd be REALLY lucky to have her.
Today is sort of a catch all day. I'm doing crits and updates all over the place. We'll see if I actually finish any revisions or manage to get back to any of my ignored writing. It'll be an all nighter, so there's a chance, but I'm also likely to be so tired I won't make any sense.
Life & Writing, Work & Writing
Life Takes Over
So, at the beginning of this month, I said my writing was stalled. Turns out it was a lot more than a stall and a lot more serious than we realized. I ended up having an emergency, minor surgery about a week ago. It wasn't really a big deal, but it did need to be done, and I've felt immensely better since. My energy levels are rising, my concentration is better, and, most importantly, the physical issues that were interfering with my life and my writing seem to have been taken care of. The problem now is getting back into the routine of things after being out of it for so long.
Getting back into my editing job hasn't been so hard. I suspect it goes back to being responsible to someone else and on an external deadline. Being behind by about 2 weeks has also eaten into the time I have to do my own writing. I usually reserve Fridays for my own work, but with the amount of work that needs to get done and soon, I've dropped that until I'm caught up. As for during the week, I spend the mornings working and the afternoons resting because I'm still recovering and want to make sure I get healthy as soon as possible. I want to work on my own stuff, I'm just too tired to.
I have done some tinkering with A.C., but not much. A.C. is my first priority, though, so hopefully as I get stronger, I'll get back into it and move along as well as I was before all this health stuff interfered. It's just nice to know the "stall" wasn't me being lazy, that there was a solution. The constant drag is gone. Now all I need to do is start building up some of those reserves I lost over the past few months.
It's scary how your physical state can have such a devastating affect on your writing.
Life & Writing, Life Stuff
There's been a lot going on—mostly health issues, but a few other things a well—and now A.C. and Phoenix are stalled. Hopefully not for much longer, but I'm having a lot of trouble getting back with it. It's like I didn't fall off the cart but got tossed off instead, and no one noticed I was missing so the cart kept going.
And this is going to be another place where I have problems if I ever become pro: how do you write when you're sick and stressed, and how do you get yourself back on track when you can barely get out of bed?
Don't get me wrong: I needed the week off I just took. I wasn't getting enough sleep. I could barely sit up most of the time. I'd not only not make coherent sense if I even tried to write or revise, I wouldn't be doing my body any favors either. When you're that sick, you take the break and just accept it.
But when you're done being that sick, you've got to get back on your feet, and I'm not doing so well at that. I'm picking at A.C. revisions, yes, and most of that needs to be done off the comp (I revise by hand; revising by comp doesn't work for me), but picking is the operative word here. I'm definitely not doing as much as I should be. I can't even seem to convince myself to do the world building I really, really need to get done for both novels.
I am managing to get back on track with my editing work, but my own writing? I just can't seem to find the motivation to get with it. And it's driving me crazy that my own motivation, or lack thereof, is what could be my downfall as a writer.
We've got more upheaval coming this month, but, somehow, I've got to find a way to work through it.
Life & Writing, Obstacles & Overcoming
Yes, It's Been Awhile
I've actually had an amazing amount of personal stuff get in the way of my usual activities, some of it health related, some of it family related, and a whole lot of it disruptive. Things appear to be settling now, for the most part, and I've made a few changes to make my days easier for me. Not sure they will get me on this blog more than usual, but they are already helping with the writing aspect of things. Now we just need the weather to be cooperative...which is not likely to happen consistently any time soon. We need the water, don't get me wrong, so the rain is welcome. The tornadoes and lightning, however, really aren't as necessary as they seem to think they are. ;)
Of course, the biggest concern has been my health. I had to go back on my iron to combat anemia, and finally gave in and went to the doctor when the last 2 weeks proved to be far more difficult than they should have been. He's put me on medication as a stop gap measure (which is already working) and is having testing done to see what we can do to keep the issue under control in the future. A lot of this has to do with my weight, and a lot of it has to do with my age. I was taking tiny steps towards a healthier me when the newest wrinkle showed up. With the temporary measures already having a dramatic affect for the better, I'm already trying to get back into some of the habits that were helping me before. I may hold off on exercise for a bit, though, just to allow things to stabilize before I go adding something back into the mix.
One of the biggest changes I've made is to my schedule. I'm not sure why, but months after leaving my substitute teaching job, I was still on the working girl schedule: up early, awake all day, to bed around midnight. For most people, this works...except maybe the midnight thing. For ME, this is a nightmare. I hate mornings (I like to say I'm allergic to them) and have always done better with a night time schedule--meaning to bed at 3 AM (or later) and up at 10 or 11 AM. I don't even start to feel creative energy until 1 AM or later, so being in bed at midnight robs me of my most creative time. After talking with the husband about this, it was agreed that I should try to go back to my own schedule, with a small change: I still have to get up to get the kids off to school. I just go back to bed once they are on their buses and sleep until 11 or noon. The old work schedule rears its ugly head still, so the shift over is proving a bit more difficult than I thought it would be, but, as I said earlier, the positive results are already being seen. I've been working A LOT faster on A.C. than I was before starting to switch over. Nothing beats working within your own creative cycle.
The editing job has also gone through some changes. Our acquisitions editor resigned for personal reasons that had nothing to do with her love for us. She just didn't feel it was the right fit for her. As a result, my position as senior editor is now merged with acquisitions, and I've had to do some shuffling around with my responsibilities to get everything to fit. Fortunately, it's still quiet for us. It may not stay that way once we have our August launch and release. I'm looking forward to it, but we also still have a lot to do to get 3 of our 4 books ready on time (the 4th may or may not be ready, and we're okay with that).
In other news, my essay "When Tears Fall" has been reprinted in Voices of Autism, an autism anthology. I am VERY excited about this antho. It's already received at least one wonderful review:
The fifth entry in the Voices anthology project from the Healing Project, this work includes over 40 different stories and vignettes written by parents, teachers, and people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) that showcase how families and caregivers measure perseverance, understanding, and success. Many of the selections stand out, including an author’s account of her autistic son, a seventh grader’s perspective on her two siblings with autism, a memoir by an adult with autism who relied on a tire advertisement to get through tough times, and an account of the challenges of dating an adult with Asperger’s. The book’s real strengths are the adult-penned passages, which will give readers a better sense of what autism truly is. Taken individually, the stories show glimpses of the impact that autism has on individuals and those they love. Taken collectively, they paint a rich landscape that many will find familiar. Highly recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with disability collections.
-- Corey Seeman, Kresge Business Administration Library, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
I hope you will consider picking up a copy. Autism is probably one of the least understood but most prevalent disabilities in the world today. 1 out of 166 people are diagnosed with autism, and it affects everyone in the autistic's life. Probably the most frightening part of the disability is that those who have it look normal. It's not like so many disabilities where you can tell there's something different just by the person's appearance. When you combine this with the lack of knowledge about it, the result can be devastating for the family. I've been a target of the blame game, of being told I should get another opinion because it's probably not autism, of having to fight for everything that my son is supposed to get by law. The only thing that will help is education. The essays and stories in this book come from our personal experiences as family members of autistics and from those with autism. Nothing could inform better.
Changes & Challenges, Getting Healthy, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Life Stuff, Personal Insights, Published
A Few Quiet Weeks
Between personal stress at home, work, weather, and a few other things, not much work has been done on my own writing recently (note previous entry). However, I have finally reached the current halfway mark in Assassin's Choice in terms of chapter numbers. I may be past that in actual word count because there's a huge chunk towards the end of the book that may get cut. Phoenix Rising also got a nice, healthy word count addition this week--I now have a Friday buddy that I meet with to work on "alternate" projects. Hopefully meeting with her every week will help keep me on track with it.
In publication news, two of my short stories are now available on AnthologyBuilder.com: "In the Blood" and "Intended". One of them even received positive comments from the site editor. I need to update the site to reflect that, I suppose. ;)
There's little else to post about really. I'm ruminating a new Meta and considering writing a new article on critiquing (yea, like we all need another one--but this one comes from something I realized about the crits I receive and how I react to them). I'm still working on a short, and, yes, it's very odd for me to plod my way through a first draft of a short like this. I just finished a S. L. Veihl book and have one other novel and an omnibus lined up for me to read. For work, one manuscript has been returned to the author for round 2 edits, and the second manuscript is about done with round 1.
I did start trying out a new hard copy method for tracking my submissions. It's going to take a bit to get all the old stuff in the columnar book...and I may end up having to do it all over again because I'm not so sure I like it. I like the idea of a book and the information I'm trying to keep (in general), but the book is a bit...big. I'm thinking of making my own template then having it copied and bound at Staples. We'll see.
And...that's about it. Told you it's been quiet.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Short Stories
Writing Through Stress
Despite the title, writing through stress isn't something I do well. When stressed, I tend to veg out and watch TV...anything on TV (well, almost anything—you couldn't pay me to watch Flavor of Love...actually, pay enough and maybe—we could use the money), or play on the PlayStation. There's just something about killing bad guys on the PS that even non-violent me can get into. But it also sucks up my brain and my time. So after editing for the day, I take my chapter down to the living room (where I keep an eye on my son after school) with good intentions, and yet I never follow through. I end up playing instead (especially now that the cable is out...DVDs? what are those?) And it usually doesn't help with the stress/depression.
Which really has me wondering how well I'll do when I actually have a novel out and another that should be on the way., but that's probably for another entry/discussion since there's a whole lot more that plays into that concern than the stress factor.
The last week and a half have been very stressful. Most of that should be alleviated tomorrow, but it still means almost no work this past week. I did manage a decent bit this past weekend, but that was early enough in the situation that it wasn't as bad as this week. This week has made it clear to me that I need to find a way to keep working despite the stress. I'm already 5 chapters behind schedule on A.C. It might be my own schedule, but I imposed it to try to learn to meet deadlines, which I'm so not doing right now. I met 99.9% of my deadlines in college, but that's a whole different kind of writing (although, some of my ECS projects were totally killer)—it wasn't nearly as hard as novel writing. And not nearly as time consuming.
Regardless, I've got to find a way to keep working despite the downs of life. I suppose the first thing is to resist the PlayStation (oddly enough, I can write/revise when the TV is on—it provides a way for me to handle the ADHD but doesn't seem to take over unless I'm too stressed and tired and can't find the energy/motivation to do more than just lay there and stare). I'd take today and toss in a season of Stargate SG-1 or a movie or something, but I have editing to do. My overly developed sense of responsibility won't allow me to let other people down if I can help it. I've got deadlines coming up and authors waiting on me to get their work published.
Maybe that's a clue for writing through the stress and making deadlines (especially if the novel ever gets submitted/accepted): somehow seeing it as my responsibility to others—the agent, the editor, the publisher, someone—and using that to stay on target. Right now, the only person I'm responsible to is me. For me, not meeting the deadline just means another delay in starting the query process, and that's just not enough to kick me in my arse and get me back on track. It should be, but it's not. There's no money riding on me finishing on time, no one else I'm responsible to for it, not even a grade involved. It's quite possible that having a contract will change the whole deadline process for me because then something WILL be riding on finishing on time.
Definitely something to think about.
Life & Writing
Trying To Find The Track
I'm trying to get back on track here, but it's proving to be slower going than I imagined. I still have the cough from being sick, though I suspect that, for the first time in almost 4 years, some of the issue is my asthma flaring.up. It's weird having to deal with that again after so long without it. There's also a little congestion left and the two are waking me up intermittently through the night. The lack of uninterrupted sleep isn't helping any, either.
One of the biggest things I'm having trouble with is working on my own stuff during the week. The only thing I can think of as being a hindrance is that I do editing all day. So, when ti comes time to work on my own writing, I'm about writing-ed out. I've already processed a couple of thousand words. A couple thousand more, even if it's my own, just overwhelms the brain. I'll have to work on that, obviously, in the meantime, it looks like it was a very good idea to make Friday a part of my writing weekend. Even though I'm not getting much done during the week, I do seem to be fairly productive on weekends (over 7k this past Saturday and Sunday alone). I just know I could get more done if I would just take advantage of my evenings.
Motivation. It's such a fickle thing.
I'm not sure how much I'll be able to work on this little problem in the near future, however. Because of being sick, I'm behind in my editing work, so I've had to drop the hour I reserve at the end of my work day (before my son gets home) for my own writing—I need to use that time to get a little more done on the manuscripts in my care. I'm also stepping in for the Acquisitions Editor who needed some personal time, and had to adjust my daily schedule as a result. So, right now, work is very busy, which makes me even less inclined to work on my own writing in the evenings.
I'm about 25k behind on my word count goal and 4 chapters behind with A.C. I still have world building I really need to get done for A.C. (and my other Alden novels in general), and I've picked up Novel Plot Building as an in progress project again. I really need to find a way to get past this block I have on doing my own writing in the evenings. I'm participating in a writing challenge to hit my problem areas, but that won't do any good if I don't find a way to get past my own blocks.
It's sad. I rarely suffer writers block, but I do have large amounts of motivation block. All these ideas and projects, and I just can't seem to push myself to get them done.
Have to find a way.
Life & Writing, Obstacles & Overcoming, Work & Writing
I Didn't Forget You
I've just been sick. Really, REALLY sick. It's definitely been a week to forget--everyone in the house caught it, including the husband who kept trying to act like he had nothing. It kicked his butt too. As for me, I slept. A LOT. A good 3 days of sleep. And didn't eat much. And didn't write at all. Or work, for that matter.
I'm pretty much behind on everything at the moment. I'm even 30k behind in my word count goal for the year. All I can do now is hope the rest of the year gets better from here, really. Most of this week will focus on catching up with work and taking care of things on that end. I'm still getting pretty tired after being up for a few hours, though, so catching up may not be the operative word yet. I don't want to push myself too hard and end up relapsing with this stuff--it was bad enough the first time around. I have goals for the week, it's just slow and steady is going to be the mantra. If I don't make the goals, so be it.
Life & Writing
Not A Writing Week
I spent most of last week fighting sinus crud and generally being sick. By Wednesday, I gave up, crawled in bed, and pretty much stayed there. By Friday, I was feeling better, but I decided to keep taking it easy--I've been fighting a lot of ickiness since I stopped subbing. My kids haven't been sick, so I'm not sure where it's coming from. Rather than rush back to work and risk another relapse, I just stayed in bed.
I did manage to get alden.nu back online and in working order, though. That took all of the weekend, but its done.
Now my plan is to focus on getting A.C. back on track. Have other stuff in the works as well, but A.C. is the priority.
Life & Writing
(Not) Writing For The Holidays
I'm having real trouble getting motivated to do my personal writing related stuff. My big focus the past few months have been A.C. and Phoenix Rising (also known as Phoenix 1 since there are a total of 5 Phoenix books planned), but even being 8 chapters behind in my revisions doesn't have me motivated enough to work on them. With these 2 books bogged down, so are my shorts and other work.
A lot of it has to do with how much I try to get done in a day. There's the "day job", the DII administrative stuff, the home stuff, and so on and so forth. Somehow writing has been pushed down the line until...until I don't get it done. With the holidays preparing to take over, it's only going to get worse. For example, this week starts the baking blitz I do every year. The early cookies will go out as gifts, the cookies made closer towards the weekend will get put in containers until Christmas. (Maybe. The family tends to attack the cookies making more baking necessary right before the holiday--also making it a good thing we don't do much on Christmas eve.) As much as I love it, it's also one more thing to take up time that could be spent writing.
Which is not to say I'll give up cookie-baking this year. Or any year. We must have our cookies. ;)
There are a lot of writers who tell me they have trouble finding time to write. My response is generally the same: you have to make time to write. And, really, I do, I just don't do the writing. I also don't believe in waiting for the muse to strike (and I'd link to a post about that, but it'll change once I get the motivation to make Alden.nu fixes...which I've also not been at all motivated to get to). And yet, here I sit, dragging my butt and not doing what I need to do. It really does make me despair of being able to handle deadlines.
I do think that the changes over the last few months are part of the problem, the upcoming holidays are part of the problem, and so on. There's just been so much going on--a change in work, a change in focus, people moving in and out again, and so on. It's fracturing my attention. Maybe it will get better after the holidays, but I still think I need to find a way to write through them.
And if anyone's got any suggestions, I'll take them.
Life & Writing
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