Now that we are over halfway through I wanted to do a December check in based on my December plan.
I think I’m done. I sent the email this morning saying final final final should be done. So…fingers crossed nothing goes wrong in the process and I’m done with this.
Pt 1: I did to a little bit of a push, I did a giveaway, I got some more reviews. Can always do more. Submissions are open and I’m looking for pieces for February and March. (I also took part in Raimey Gallant’s Blog Hop which falls under this a little maybe. Hi, new readers! Submissions are open for the podcast for February and March!)
Pt 2: I haven’t reached out to other podcasters. This is one of those things that makes me nervous beyond reason and sense. Checking to make sure the door is locked for 10 minutes kind of anxiety. I am totally interested in being a guest on a podcast. I can talk about lots of stuff. (For an actual list, ask!)
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.
So I know I’ve talked about the endless pushes to cut, but adding can have value too. Sometimes that value is in subplots and complexities. I think of the try-fail cycle often as I work on plotting things. These are reading about it things.
I love this podcast, I do keep looping back to it over and over. This discussion of pantsing talks about my favorite thing which is “yes-but/no-and.” This focuses on the try-fail cycle. Having a character just succeed and succeed is boring unless those successes just make things work. Successes that make things work are fantastically useful. Failures that make things worse are also useful.
(Yes, I’ve written on this before. This is more links and resources about it, hopefully helpful. It is something I think I will continue to come back to over and over. Character I don’t feel like I struggle with quite the way I struggle with good plotting skills. The thing I think that would make me better, weirdly would be doing something like running a tabletop roleplay game campaign, but that is a TON of work and requires knowing a LOT about the rules of the game. I am always in favor of throwing out the rules for a good storyline, which people who have been my GMs clearly know, but I think that works less well when you don’t have someone going, no no, there are rules, this isn’t all about the story.)
No not planning a romantic getaway, but romance planning for plot or story. I’ve had some troubles hanging onto my romance arcs. They seem to get shuffled to the background, which is frustrating when sometimes they’ve started as the primary point for the spark of the idea.
Every time it has shuffled to the back it was ultimately the right choice for the story. But I also wonder if I’m just not as strong at writing it so it is easier to shuffle than to strengthen.
So I took some time and read some stuff. Because reading!
I’ve read a few things slamming side quests lately and I get the desire to cut it. Far too well. I’m not a heavy author who needs to cut endlessly. I’m not a 100K word novel writer. I write extremely lean. And I’m feeling a little defensive about this whole cut cut cut!
In the past I’ve cut and cut and I’ve cut down and down and down and you know what if you say “just cut everything that doesn’t matter!” to someone like me, you get me to throw up my hands and go, “Girl meets boy, they fall in love, bad shit, everyone dies.” Guess I’m done. Oh wait. I can cut bad shit because why do we care? I can cut they fall in love. And really does it really matter if girl meets boy?
Well that’s not very fulfilling. (I’ve had several novels cut out of existence because of this whole cut cut cut mentality that is so common to read about.)
Cut things may be great advice for someone who wrote a contemporary romance that is 250K words. That doesn’t mean it is universally good.
Unless I’m writing flash fiction, editing means adding content. Usually a lot of content. Side quests can do a lot including develop the character, show you who they are, what they can achieve. We can watch characters fail. Failure makes us fall in love with characters when they get back up and dust themselves off and try again.
When I am reading I want to love the characters. I want to care about them and what happens to them. Otherwise the novel might as well be “Everyone dies.” Heck even nonfiction has characters I love, sometimes characters are dead bodies, or shrimp, or anything.
The magic of being an author is tugging those heart strings and making me fall in love, cheer, shout, whoop, feel. I guess I could just take some drugs, but books are…for the most part cheaper and much much better for my brain.
I like bare bones things, I think I brought that up when talking about flash fiction as adult coloring books. But bare bones doesn’t mean cut all side quests. It means create an interesting and engaging frame work. A blank page isn’t actually an epic adult coloring book. (I refuse to google this and find out that someone out there has a bound empty book and is calling it an adult coloring book. I refuse!)
Interesting and engaging content includes things that are more than everyone dies. Weave them together, make them valuable, interesting, grow the characters, tie it in, but don’t assume you are doing it wrong if you aren’t slashing things with a machete. Listen to your beta readers, do they feel like they need more? Do they say some things are a little bloated? Focus on your work and your needs. Not everyone needs to cut down to everyone dies. If we all did the world would be a very sad literary space.
I relistened to the Writing Excuses episode about side quests and I highly recommend it. It made me feel like oh, yeah, these aren’t bad things. Just because some people say cut ruthlessly, unless they are actually talking about my novel that they have in my hands, they might be wrong, or talking in generalities. I’ve never had a beta reader tell me I just needed to cut wholesale. I nearly always get the opposite. I want to know more about this or that or whatever. Which is good. And tells me that I’m not generally too heavy on side quests (or descriptions, or whatever else).
Writing excuses also talked about writing side quests as bonus content. Which I’m super for! A part of the 600 Second Saga podcast was developed based on that idea. Those side pieces, I love to read them. They are stories that take place in the same world but outside the primary story line.
(And here’s the plug! If you have some bonus content that you’d like to share with the world, bring in more readers, or flex your skill with something different way? I highly recommend submitting it to the 600 Second Saga podcast. I’m always looking for new authors, and side quests can be a great way to have a complete story, and develop interest in your world.)
I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.
This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.
I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.
I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.
What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.
Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.
So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!
Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!
I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.
I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.
And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.
I don’t love making resolutions, but I do think that the new year is a good time to consider plans for the upcoming year and what goals I have. And what strategies will get me there. Part of this is the world is full of looking back on the last year and looking forward to the new year. Part of it is I spend a lot of time at my day job with year-end reports and next year planning. Part of it is lots of things roll over with the new year. Resolutions without a plan fail, so I need a plan. When I have a plan I can work the plan.
A look back on 2015
My goals were a little loosey in 2015. Read more, write more. About half way through I was struggling with what my plan was, so I came up with one. Basically randomly. Well I say randomly, but there was thought. As much as I’d like to say it was just a guess.
30 and 3 in 3
The goal was to write 30 shorts and 3 novels in 3 years. 30 shorts is less than one a month, and plan to write the novels during NaNoWriMo. Oh and during that time edit things too.
The shorts have ranged from flash fiction, challenges, novelette length, novella length, and shorts for anthologies. A few have been finished up. A few were bad, and won’t see the light of the world. A few are in progress. I’m a few ahead. (I have a note in my giant spreadsheet that says I’m up to May.) I’m going to keep doing challenges that pop up here and there, work on the list of random prompts I have stacked up, and more of the Smoke Jumpers series.
I’ve got draft 1 of novel 1 under my belt. I’m aiming to start in January on edits for it. Actually I’m going to edit the first book in the series. I found the missing chapters from the end of book 1. They will, naturally, have to be entirely rewritten, but I found them! My other 2 of the 3 will be Diane’s first full novel and Jenna’s third.
A look forward to 2016 goals
Continue the 30 and 3 in 3 goal. For 2016 goals this means continuing to try to write at least 1 short a month. Do my best to edit up and do something with them. Next November draft a novel, not sure if it will be Jenna’s third book or Diane’s novel. I also want to get at least 1 maybe 3 more sort of novella length pieces for the Smoke Jumpers set. By the end of the year I want to have an anthologies worth for the Jumpers.
I have a strategy spreadsheet for editing steps. Starts with identify problems, create a plan, and comes all the way down to words I over use (and improperly use). I really need to dig in and start doing it more than I do now. Every week do some editing. Have a project to edit in the hopper at all times. And work it, according to the plan!
I have one novella length piece I’m working on and I want to dig in and start editing Jenna’s first book in January.
Read more, always read more. Read more out of genre. Read news. Read articles. Read novels. Read shorts. Read the labels on food. Read websites. Read directions. (Don’t follow them, but read them.) I think I’m going to write another post about this later.
Read and critique. I’ve been doing it pretty regularly, but I’d like to do a couple of novels in the next year. Either volunteering on the NaNo or Critters sites or some other way. But being thoughtful and considerate of the way story and characters and plot works for others will help me. And hopefully help them!
In addition to giving feedback, I need to continue to get feedback. Reach out and ask for feedback from others. Be thankful and appreciative of the feedback I get. Especially the negative feedback.
Don’t stop planning
Over the next few months I want to keep working on planning and aiming toward my 2016 goals. Planning is a big part of that. Write a lot isn’t a good resolution for me. A specific and achievable goal with a plan. I’m going to write a few more posts over January on some of these specific issues.
I challenge anyone else to have goals with plans to make the goals happen!