November is easy to plan for as an author. At least if you are planning for NaNo.
I read a recent post planning for the whole of 2017. I’m not sure I’m ready to plan out for all next year. Not that I haven’t done that. Just when I do that I tend to over plan, and then panic, and then stall. So…let’s not do that.
My December plan!
I have a couple goals for this month.
Finish up a project I’ve been working on for another author with a pen name. I’m like 85% of the way there. I’m looking forward to being done.
I’m hoping to do a few things:
do a little push for ratings and reviews on iTunes (this makes a huge difference in helping the podcast be discovered by new listeners)
try to reach out to some other podcasts to possibly appear as a guest
make some playlists to promote the episodes on YouTube
I have a couple different things I want to work on here. I have been slacking on writing my own flash fiction, so I want to write at least two flash pieces.
Take a brain break. (This might be next weekend!)
Redouble my efforts on editing Jenna’s first book. I’m not going to try to push to get the whole book done, I just want to get through a couple more chapters. Which should be entirely doable.
Finish the current project
Finish a novella I have half way done
Check in with the anthology project (there may be another novella for me to do there)
So that’s my December plan. Brain recharge is important. I want to spend at least 1 day not working, not my full time day job, and not my podcast and not authoring. …It’s been a long long time since I’ve done that. But a 100% day off day.
Hopefully I’ll also be able to get out and enjoy the snow.
I’ve never failed at it quite like this, but wow am I going to fail.
Frankly? I’m not even trying anymore. Which super isn’t like me.
I know what the problem is. I’m recording a novel. This…might be something I do very little of going forward. A big part of it is just how I operate, how my brain works. The project isn’t due for months, literally months. But I cannot handle having it hanging over my head so I’m pushing everything else aside it work on it.
It gives a weirdly false impression of how I work when I do this. And I’ve done a bunch of novellas, but primarily novellas and projects that are 2 weeks of work or less. I can get them done and have the feeling of accomplishment. (Which I super love.) But they aren’t hanging over me until I finish them (well they are, but they are much easier to be done with).
I’m working with an author I think is great and I trust to do all the right stuff or I wouldn’t be working on another novel (that wasn’t mine!) at all. But even still? I’m going to be more wary.
So…a note to future me
This feeling of panic happens, you have to set aside all other work and record as long as you can and then edit during the week and you leave no time or brain space for other creative endeavors. It is ok to do it, but know that until you finish the project, nothing else significant will happen. Accept that.
For current me?
It’s ok to focus on getting this done. But then no excuses, buckling down to try to get this edit finished. I’ve got a good plan. I’ve got a good start. A good strategy. Good characters added. Good characters removed. (Appropriate maybe…they aren’t all …good…) But I don’t have words that aren’t “good” right now. So finish. Get the editing done. Get the last recorded. Get the changes recorded.
Then sit down in December and January and hammer out Jenna’s story. Take the chisel and really work that draft into something worth sharing.
And write a short or two in the meanwhile.
No more excuses.
Art is important.
So yes, I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo, and it’s not great, but it’s ok. I’m learning something important. Hopefully I’ll actually take the lesson to heart this time. If not, future me, knock that shit off!
These are some (slightly messy! sorry) thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo.
I’ve shifted a lot of where and how I do the Nano writing. A few years ago I did it all in Pages on my iPad. I think 2 years ago I did it all in Google Docs and that was the year I fought A LOT with the slow down of google docs. When it gets big it gets really slow and clunky to maneuver. I tried doing it in google docs broken out by chapter but that was surprisingly hard to maneuver and make work as well. I think it was after that year that I bought Scrivener and then I dumped those chapters into Scrivener and worked with them inside it which was much much easier.
Something I love about Scrivener that I feel like I haven’t fully had the chance to take advantage of in a novel yet is what I’ve been doing with the Smoke Jumpers series. For Smoke Jumpers I put all the characters and locations into the project, all of the novellas (and flash pieces) are in the same project so when I’m like who is Ren’s oldest sister and which other stories is she in and where would she be at for this story? I can find that out. Having all the names, the locations, etc all laid out there has been incredibly helpful as I’m planning things.
I have been trying to set this up as best I can for Jenna’s books which I got a good start at last year when I did Jenna’s second book in Scrivener, but I haven’t pulled out all the stuff from the first book and I know I can still do a better job keeping up those other files as I do things like change description, etc. I’ve also been putting in notes like what someone is wearing if that is important and what scene so I can quickly check, I like the broken bottom screen so I can have the character description open while I’m editing a scene. I may end up doing this and having the old scene open on the bottom while I rewrite it above so I can take with the things I think do work.
For me when I’m moving from machine to machine my basic plan last year (pre iOS Scrivener which is GODDAMN MAGIC) would be I’d throw the last paragraph of whatever I’d written into a working google doc and then I could throw a few words at it from my phone or whatever, then I’d get home and copy and paste back out into Scrivener. I really was worried I’d forget this but it almost never happened. When I was on a roll or I had an idea even if I didn’t have the last paragraph from Scrivener in there I’d just throw it into that working google doc and I’d always remember to pull it out when I got home because I’d look at it and go, wait, I have more, oh google. And then pull it in. So there wasn’t any overlap issue there surprisingly.
While Scrivener is awesome, it isn’t the only game in town.
I ran across another tool on the NaNo forums was notebook.ai It seems to have a lot of the sort of things that I like about Scrivener. Though I don’t know that they have any of the formatting export to epub tools.
There are other options I’m sure, but these are the ones I’ve run across and used.
What tools do others use to write/manage/organize?
I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…
It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.
I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.
So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.
So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.
Um…Just do it?
I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.
I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.
One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.
I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)
I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.
When/If I Fail
It really is ok.
I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.
I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.
I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.
I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.
Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)
So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.
Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.
If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?
Pull out and enhance physical descriptions of the people I already have from both books 1 and 2
Write up description of the mashup/remade character
Consider the scenes that need to be added – figure out what the goal will be and about what they need to be and then let them noodle around in my brain
Set up time to write – create a real plan (either first thing in the morning, later in the day, weekends, etc)
Plan more backstory weaving in
Jenna’s novel is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy. A young woman who is struggling to regain her life after a long absence from the world is finally feeling settled. Now she’s finally gotten a job offer, she’s meeting new people. And she’s got a shiny little necklace.
The second book is written and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but the first needs to come in line with it. I know basically where the third will go for the big arc on it.
I’ve been seeing another round of smack talk about things. Because of course there is. This time it seems to be Romance. (You will recognize YA, paranormal romance, and many other genres/things in this, romance just happens to have it’s turn in the spotlight right now.)
There is a lot of desire in these conversations to say “These are my people!” or to scream it from the rooftops. A lot of this is trying to create in-group identifiers, but these are often created through out-grouping others.
“Romance people aren’t my people and if romance people aren’t my people then you are my people.” That’s not actually that bad. Where it gets really bad is when someone goes on a screed to outgroup, to exclude some group of people so that they can show you that they are …whatever they are trying to demonstrate they are.
I think this is a very cynical and self protective way to go about things. Declaring your unabashed love for something requires being more revealing. A loudly declarative statement of affection is like stripping down and saying I’m vulnerable here and here, please don’t kick me there.
And yes, wonderfully, much of the time those declarations get hugs and support. But even a few kicks can really hurt. Sure you get 50 hugs (if you are lucky) but just 5 kicks will take you way, way down.
So why would you do that when you can declare how something is bad. Not even that you personally dislike it, but that it is “objectively” (which is nearly always how these things are set up) bad or wrong. That is basically putting up a coat of armor. Even if someone kicks you, you are wearing armor. You are ok. You won’t be hurt.
Often when these things come up they are for groups it is easy to take potshots at. Who reads romance? Who reads YA? Who watches rom coms? I’ll give you a hint. Not people with all the power. I believe the fancy term for this if it was a joke would be punching down.
It is really easy to go, “Oh those – people who aren’t like me or you – and their – thing I don’t like!” Now you and me? We belong together. Look at us all buddying up. But I didn’t have to take a swing at someone with giant mech boots, I only took a swing at someone who wouldn’t hurt when they tried to kick me with my armor.
But I have the right to hate things!
Good for you. So do I. We all do. But why would you spend more time talking about the things you hate than the things you love. I know I’ve done it, and I will do it again in the future. I’m so far from perfect I can’t even see it’s shadow. But I do try.
But…I still want to be a part of an in group. As much as I’d like to believe it, I’m not immune to wanting to be loved. To wanting to be a part of a group. Wanting people to include me. I get the same little rush everyone else does when someone says that they like me, that I’m like them (if I like them of course!), that I belong with their group.
So yea, I’ll still say I don’t like things. I’ll still bash things. But I’m trying to be better, and I hope other people are too.
Scribophile is much more of a writing community. Which, I could use a little of…even if sometimes I wish writing was really the solitary pursuit we are lied to and told it is.
So much more modern. Omg the website…it feels current. It feels like it isn’t 10,000 internet years old. (Sorry Critters, but it is true.) There are some cool tricks along with this, like inline editing tool. This tool is amazing. Just drop your comment right into the line of the content it goes with. Done! (The potential downside to this would be a focus on line edits when someone is looking for something more developmental.)
It is a community. Like there are groups and forums and it is far more interactive. This is both a plus and a minus for me. Having a community to talk about things like marketing and using tools and the rest? Could be seriously helpful.
Karma (like the credits from critters) doesn’t expire. This is the biggest pro for me and why I am trying it. I don’t want to go back and do all the math, but my rough guestimate would be if the points were the same I’d have way, way over 200 Karma sitting around unused. With Critters, I just stop for a month because I’m busy and it all goes away. So I don’t use it like I should. From everything I can see, Karma doesn’t expire. Having that giant number there mocking me would be an incentive and pressure to use it. I need that. This is entirely personal. I need a giant number mocking me.
There are so many rules and feelings. Don’t critique unless you ask someone first, don’t critique if they are in this or that thing, don’t critique when it is a blue moon on a Tuesday. Aren’t you a critique site!? Don’t you want people to critique?
Seriously, I did one critique and now I feel bad. Don’t get me wrong, I think the critique itself was good and valuable, but I don’t know if I followed the magical unseen rules or not. So much bullshit. I don’t know if I want to, or currently have the capacity to, climb bullshit mountain to figure out if I can critique things or not.
YOU ARE A CRITIQUE SITE! No one should get pissy about a decent critique. Sure, one that is brutally bad? I get being upset. But so many rules. So much demand to talk to people. I don’t want to be your friend. I want to give you good feedback on your work and go to the next. A fucking blood pact that we super swear that we will read and critique each others work, not what I signed up for. This is like a store saying they don’t want to sell you anything.
None of that seems to be official site policy. The actual site makes critiquing really nice and easy. It is like HERE have a thing to read! Nice, simple, straight forward. But I read a few posts from the forums and now I’m feeling very much like I should take my ball and go home.
I don’t know. I really don’t know. Anyone know of any other good critique sites that combine the best of these two. I really want to give Scribophile a good try. I want to push myself harder to talk about my work and myself. That might sound crazy because I’ve put out several things this year plus the podcast… Is that crazy? Do I do enough marketing? (No.) Do I get enough feedback? (No.)
And now I’m going to contribute to this noise with my post! Late! Wee!
I also listened to The Reality Check about the dream jobs recently. There are a lot of jobs in the world we don’t talk about. If you narrow it to legal jobs even fewer. I would be most interested to see a list of jobs that people think about when they are about 14-15. When we think that people (kids, really) are supposed to start deciding what to do with their entire lives.
Is there any surprise that we discard a lot of jobs as not real work?
Real work is stuff like police, doctor, teacher. If you asked my niece and nephew what the job titles of everyone I work with are? I’d bet they’d be totally baffled. (Heck, I bet half the people I work with would be baffled by what those titles really mean.)
I work with people who write. Heck part of my job is writing. (It is a pretty small part at this job, but at previous jobs it was a larger part, at one, the whole part.)
But they don’t count
This is a weirdly common refrain. The people who write and survive are dismissed.
Well that isn’t writing fiction. So we are only saying fiction writing can’t be a job? And then there is this implication that fiction is like writing or sports or dance or acting. It is one of these “jobs” where a few people make ALL THE MONEY! And everyone else does it because they love it.
There are people who get by or are even *gasp* successful at writing who you haven’t heard of. There are also people in all those other categories doing the same. And not just because you don’t like sports or x music genre or ballet. People actually can do that as work.
Back to the hidden jobs, I think a lot of these are hidden jobs. Out of sight out of mind. And unless you are interacting with project managers or writers or cellists every day they might as well not exist. So you think that no one can make a living making power points or writing romance or playing the cello. But they do.
So I should quit my job!
NO! The throwing out the job because one single book did well? That’s like going well I got this one gig so I’m going to quit my job. Don’t…
Yeah she was lucky enough to have a husband to support her during this time. And if you have the resources to do these things, sure. Though I’d argue that having a job has a lot of other psychological benefits so if you don’t treat your writing like a job then you will suffer those things.
I do think you can, and there are people who do, treat writing like a job. But that means you can’t get precious about it. Just like you shouldn’t get precious about any job.
Once you start to get precious about things you get fired. (I hope. I wish.)
I read something a while ago that has been bubbling around in the back of my brain. I’ve read a lot about flash fiction and I’ve read a lot of flash fiction. I read something that said the person who wrote it assumed all flash fiction main characters were stand-ins for the authors.
I was stunned and confused. Was this person reading the same flash fiction I was?
I’ve read flash fiction with characters that have more depth than some of the epic novels I’ve read.
Writing flash fiction can feel like a way to just dash something off quickly. But great flash fiction evokes a lot of things in just a tiny little space. You are basically creating a world from white space.
I will say that I far prefer flash that is sci-fi and fantasy because it opens the world wide. The contemporary flash I’ve read does feel a little different, so maybe the person who thinks that all flash fiction main characters are author stand-ins.
Finding a way to develop a world with brush strokes that all draw your eye far beyond the edges of the canvas is the magic of flash fiction.
Thinking specifically about those main characters and how I build them.
Sometimes they are characters from larger stories. (An Axe is a great example of this in my work since I’ve been working on putting some more polish on the novella about that character.) Those stories are often small bites, more information of the character, side stories that didn’t belong in the book. I love doing these, they are fun, they let me explore other sides of a primary character. They give that character the chance to show other sides of themselves.
I don’t often run between a ton of POVs. My novels tend toward a single POV. Doing a flash fiction lets me explore what other characters are seeing. I often write these just as I’m doing planning work for the novels, I’ll write a handful of these for each of the characters to see what I’m thinking about them, most of these never make it past my drive, but sometimes I’ll really like one and clean it up well enough to send it off into the world. A Meditation was very much that. Jana was a character who was sort of a mash of things and I had done a couple of scenes with her separately. This flash came out of that. It was significantly rewritten, but it was partly about me learning who Jana was in the first round, and showing a little more of her in the final.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I will often find bits of inspiration, a situation, a story, a news article. I’ll pause and let this play around in my head until I’ve got characters and situation developed. Most of the time this sort of dies on the vine. But sometimes these become stories.
Thinking back to writing my first stories, I’ve sort of always been a shorter fiction writer. At least I don’t recall a time I was a tome writer. So, I’m sure there was a time when I was doing a lot of that. I hope these days I don’t do that nearly so much. I think of parts of myself in some characters. But some are clearly someone else. The Thing About the Future? That’s a mash of a handful of people I know plus a few stereo types carved into an actual character. On Fire? That’s a few characters from books and a few heartbreaking true stories I read all mashed together and then carved and molded. But Relics? Yeah, there are shades of me in there I suppose. Discovery? Not really, but I had a couple of people I know in mind, if you take this from that person and this from that person and yeah that person hates science (don’t ask me, I don’t get it) but that part.
So maybe sometimes there is shades of the author, but I think that good flash fiction is like all other fiction. Sometimes there will be shades of an author just like there are shades of people they know or celebrities or the personality test they took for a character. It is always a mash, carved and molded to be a unique character.
I’ve read flash fiction that doesn’t have people/aliens/monsters/ghosts as characters at all. Environment only. Or beautiful descriptions of ships. Or processes. I suppose you would argue that the author as the person who decides what to show you is the main character. But then you’re really saying that the author is always the main character in a way that is sort of no longer worth talking about. You literally can’t create anything without being the main character in that way. So it doesn’t really seem relevant. So sometimes there is no main character.
This all makes me want to read more flash fiction though.
Lots of good things! A book (a novella really) comes out on Friday and I got my iPad Pro.
I love it. Oh it is so nice. I have a few small things to work out still. But I can do all the updates for what happens after an episode goes live on the iPad Pro. This means I don’t have to be at home every single Friday night. I have to be at a connection to do all the “It’s Now Live!” stuff. The keyboard is great. The pencil is super natural. I keep sticking it in my hair and grabbing it out which it does well. It is smooth and a great weight.
It has all the features that I wanted, I’ve got a lot of things installed. I really feel like I’ve got it set up well. I still might have to reorganize the screens a bit to make it feel natural for what each screen is for. It works well to write in the spots I need to write. I can post and social media and all the things.
I still of course need the workhorse to record and edit the podcasts, but I can manage the rest from the iPad Pro.
And I got a fancy decal and case with the 600 Second Saga logo!
Book: Oak Stream Hollow
It officially releases on Friday, and there will be a podcast episode as well. But it is out early in audiobook so you can check it out on Audible now. If you’d prefer ebook format your usual purveyors like Amazon should all have it for preorder now.
Heather lost her job, her house is in foreclosure. All she needs now is a huge medical bill. But when Heather finds herself transforming, will she find anything in the world worth keeping?
This urban fantasy novella was a lot of fun to write. It is a single stand alone novella. Not one of a series (which I also enjoy and will have some of coming out next year) or something that will be a novella companion to a novel (which I’m going to hopefully have in an anthology later this year). But just a story. I like stories. I like telling a wide range of them and sometimes that means letting a story be over. Sometimes that means digging deeper and deeper into the world. I hope if you pick up Oak Stream Hollow you enjoy reading (or listening!) as much as I enjoyed writing.