Journal

An Interview & Notes

If you missed it (and I almost did myself! Whoops!), I did an interview with Apex Magazine Editor Lesley Conner via Zoom yesterday, along with authors Elana Gomel and Beth Dawkins. It was a great conversation about writing, process, how the pandemic has impacted productivity, balancing kids and writing, and the kinds of books we’re drawn to. I had a blast! If for nothing else, watch it for Beth’s hair, because she looked FANTASTIC.

I don’t know how much of a “year in review” post I’ll be doing this year, but I read 21 books this year. Of those, these are the ones I enjoyed the most:

Sayaka Murata is one of my new favorite writers. While I haven’t yet read her novel, Earthlings, I immensely enjoyed Convenience Store Woman. Lately, I’ve found I have an absolute craving for the mundane life portrayed in fiction. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. But Convenience Store Woman hits my other love, too: weird. This book may not be for everyone, but if you want a quiet but strange little story about a woman trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t quite understand her lack of ambition, you’ll find this one wildly satisfying. I loved the hell out of it, and it made me laugh, too.

I read a lot of non-fiction this year (I find it’s much easier when constantly interrupted by wee ones to read non-fiction rather than fiction), but this is hands down my absolute favorite, and may just have changed my entire perspective on writing. Beyond it’s scary-sounding title (spoken like a true recovering perfectionist), Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell is a deeply heartfelt, encouraging read. Beyond the last chapters which provide some great methods for editing, Bell spends a lot of time on the first two chapters: how to write the draft, and how to rewrite a draft. It changed my entire process for writing long-length work, and reminded me why I write in the first place. I’ve been recommending this book to every writer I know since I finished it. Short but packed with thought and generosity, definitely check this one out.

Sometimes I read an ebook on vacation and just realize I’m going to need a physical copy of it someday. Anna Quindlen’s Write for Your Life is one of them. A short, sweet treatise on why journaling and letter writing is so incredibly vital for the average person and humanity as a whole, this book will definitely give you permission to document your everyday life, even when it feels dull as hell. Her thoughts on handwriting as a tool both for capturing someone’s authentic voice and the moment in time in which they wrote it (that letter from Great Aunt Clara was touched by her, crafted by her, and sounds like her, even long after she’s gone) were deeply moving. Definitely gift yourself the ideas in this book. It’s deeply encouraging.

I was a little on the fence about recommending this one. There are some things I just…didn’t quite love about how he presented his subject. If you’re a woman, you’ll know it when you see it. BUT–BUT–it did leave quite the impression on me in terms of organizing time and being more deliberate about what one chooses to take on. I do recommend it, though it is undoubtedly skewed Western and Male, but if you can look past that, there are some compelling ideas for anyone wanting to be less “busy” and more “productive.” It definitely gave me a lot to chew on.

Journal

The NANO Diaries 2022 – All’s Well that Ends Well

Well, folks, 16 days is my limit on NANO this year. It’s getting to that point where not having the time to think properly about what I’m doing is severely slowing my word production, in addition to the realization that having a new puppy and a two and a half year old at home may not be the most conducive “productivity” time. I think I’m also just at a point right now where speed is my lowest priority when it comes to writing. I don’t want to just pound out words. I want to take my time and think, and because the thinking takes so long to get done, it just isn’t an effective system for me at this moment.

Maybe I’ll try again next year, but for now, I’m just going to focus on re-establishing a daily writing habit of any kind, and pick away at the stories I’ve got started. At least I did finish one story I’d been dying to get done, so I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered. I’ve certainly written more this month than I otherwise would have.

In the meantime, for those of you still charging along, YOU GO GET ‘EM! YOU’RE HALF-WAY DONE! YOU’VE GOT THIS!

Journal

The NANO Diaries 2022 – Day 11 & 12

Welp, I have a cold. It’s not COVID, according to the test I took this morning, but the boys have both been sneezy and drippy for the past couple days, so it was bound to happen. But that meant I didn’t get any writing done yesterday, and anticipate not getting any done today. (Could happen, if I perk up, but right now, I’m sticking it to the production-obsessed work-at-all-costs economy and giving myself the time to recuperate.)

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to jump back in feet first. Finger crossed.

Journal

The NANO Diaries – Days 5-8

Sometimes I forget why I don’t always participate in NANOWRIMO. It’s such a cool idea, such an energy-inspiring thought: punch out 50k in a month! Think how much you’ll get done! HOLY CRAP, that’s like 10 5k short stories! YEAH! Let’s DO IT!

And then the first week passes, and I realize that one of the challenges I struggle with during NANO with small children, is that my brain is half-dead, and finding quiet time to actually think about what I need to do, what words need to be written, is HARDER than getting words down. I’m pretty good at being wordy. Meaningful words, though? Or even just intentional words, rather than deliberate overwriting? That’s hard.

All this to say, I’m still chugging along. I’m at 8695 words so far this month, though whether I’ll be able to plow much beyond that is something I’m leaving up in the air. I need more thinking time, more filling-the-well time. With a kiddo under 3, and a new puppy, that’s just becoming very difficult. Was it a good year to attempt NANO? Uh, probably not? But I’ve still got 8.7k more than I otherwise would have, so that’s something. Right now, my primary goal is to reestablish a daily writing routine, even if it’s just 500 words. I’d prefer to do time-based work rather than word count-based work, but for this month, I’ll stick to word count.

Journal

The NANO Diaries 2022 – Day 4

I wasn’t anticipating getting any work done today, but I managed to scrape out 1019 words! Miracle of miracle! They were interrupted words, and not done in the most creatively conducive environments, but words are words, at least for NANO.

That’s the one issue I find myself running up against with NANO each time I attempt it: it really hangs on the idea of words-for-words sake, quantity over quality. While I support this and found it quite useful early on in my writing career, I’m starting to find that I can easily manufacture a lot more words than a scene actually needs in order to hit (arbitrary) word count requirements. I much prefer in my non-NANO time, to track time spent on a work. Sometimes you need to just sit with a work. Sometimes more words don’t mean you’re moving in the right direction.

But NANO is a time for words, so words I write! If you’re interested in books to help you learn how to prune your (possibly bloated, as mine will be) work whether from NANO or just ordinarily, I highly recommend The 10% Solution by Ken Rand and Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell (this one is my new personal editing favorite). Brilliant insights in both. Bell’s book largely encapuslates Rand’s in his Word Weasel sections, but if you need to ease into cutting back words, I’d consider starting with Rand’s book as a great intro, and when you’re comfortable with that, dive deep into Bell’s to find all the amazing things you don’t need to keep. While Rand’s book helped me level up my prose and start selling fiction professionally, I feel like Bell’s book helped me to understand what being a writer really means.

Journal

The NANO Diaries 2022 – Day 2 & 3

Off to a smashing start on this daily notation business, haha! Wednesday was a killer day, clocking in at around 2500 words. Yesterday, I managed 1000. Today will be tough, so I’ll have to wait and see if I can keep up the 1k/day pace or if today will slip and I’ll need to make up the difference over the weekend.

CURRENT PROJECT: An Unremarkable Talent
Genre: Ghost/Lit/Curio Fiction
NANO Word Count Total: 5123

Journal

The NANO Diaries – 2022

I’ve spent a lot of time this year working on the novel project (which finally got to a zero-draft by the end of October! Hooray!), so I decided early on to try writing short stories for NANOWRIMO this year. I’ve got a big backlist of short story ideas I’ve wanted to tackle, but telling myself that I’d hold onto them until November helped me stay on task with the book.

I have no idea why I thought I could write 1667 words a day when I can barely scrape out a couple minutes here and there, but yesterday went well! I wrote 1481 yesterday, all in the evening after everyone else went to bed. I think that’s got to be my golden hour for the time being. Everybody else goes to bed around 10:30-11, and if I stay up after that, the house is quiet and I can really focus. It has the added benefit of allowing me to keep going if the words are flowing, which other, shorter sprints don’t always allow during the day.

November may end up being a month of little sleep, but I’m hoping to come out of it with a fistful of short fiction drafts I can work on next year. We’ll see if that ends up happening, but I’m cautiously optimistic!

So if you’re curious to see how this NANO is going, check back here! I’ll be trying to post a note daily (or semi-daily) on progress.

CURRENT PROJECT: An Unremarkable Talent
Genre: Ghost/Lit/Curio Fiction
NANO Word Count Total: 1481

Journal

Mental Burns, Heatwaves, & the Chaos of a New School Year

What did I work on this week?

Not as much as I’d like…but also more than I was expecting? I chunked away on the novel work-in-progress and actually pounded the keys on a new short story, when the beginning suggested itself to me after a particularly challenging bedtime routine with Thing 2. But after writing over 2k on Wednesday in that flurry of inspiration, I was BURNT Thursday/Friday, so didn’t get anything really done. I’m not far behind on my overall word-count, though, but I need to stay focused this week. I’m definitely hitting a slowdown on the book, when I need to start connecting things and generating inspiration just takes more effort. But it’s coming along.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I just started reading Old in Art School by Nell Painter, which is both fascinating, invigorating, and oddly traumatizing as someone who adores the idea of becoming “an artist” but also recognizes her own tendency to just do whatever the hell she wants, painting-wise. I’ll probably never be a “true artist,” but I sure as hell will have fun.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking out-loud, trying to figure out a working pattern that will function for my life, while also not just continuously pushing things off “until I have more time” because HAHAHA, I never will. Right now, I’m looking very seriously into utilizing the NANO energy to generate a whole smorgasbord of short fiction during November, which will then give things time to rest before April, when I might be able to edit them. Juggling a novel WIP and generating new stories is HARD.

Also started watching Fatal Forecast on CuriosityStream, which has been interesting. I found the Heatwaves episode particularly interesting, because it really broke down why heatwaves are so dangerous to humans. Fascinating and horrifying stuff!

I also updated my writing planner, which has been sorely neglected after a week of not going into the office (a combo of traveling adults and Andy being on-call), and I went a little nuts and got a bunch of new stickers. (Why? Because I love stickers!) If you’re a notebook freak like me, keep an eye on my Insta this week, because I’m planning on posting some shots of the writing planner.

What am I working on this coming week?

Getting back up to word count! I’ve been tracking progress not based on daily word generation but on a months-long running total spread sheet. That way, I know where I ought to be in order to hit my deadline, but also it takes the pressure off the production of an individual day. For example: I’ve calculated my running total based on 500 words added every day until my expected word count (right now, ending about mid-October), but I often write more than that in a sitting, so I’m usually a little ahead of schedule. This helps me buffer for when I don’t write on the weekends/miss a day here and there, but still helps me see when I might need to push a bit more to get back on target.

Also, it’s the first day of school this week, so schedules will be a-changing, and things are going to get a little unsettled and nuts for the next couple weeks. I often mistakenly think I’ll get a lot more done once Thing 1 is in school, but I usually don’t. XD Thing 2 keeps me on my toes.