I swear, every time I start to get a little confident in my mothering skills, the Little Man throws me for a loop. It’s a weekly occurrence, now. What worked last week doesn’t work anymore. That nap that started seeming routine and awesomely long? Yeah, that’s gone now. Copious reading time? Yeah, no. I’ve been picking away at the same book for the past month. *le sigh*
Also seem to have some kind of bug, which I so *don’t* need right now. Plus the hubby’s back to his long-distance rotation (hopefully his last, but who knows?), so there’s that mental adjustment, too.
Today in Writer-Land
Very little happened here today. May have mentally fixed a problem the 4th scene was having, may scrap a character trait that–upon rewrite–feels a bit too forced. Over the weekend listed three important changes to make to the already rewritten portion, but haven’t implemented them yet.
I realize now that I have a tendency to try to change too much of the original story, which is a basic editing skills problem. Lately, I feel like I’ve jumped to a new level of development in my writing, only to realize I know *nothing* about writing. Ugh. I guess it’s good, but it sure is frustrating.
Also, my current year’s goals, in view of mobile baby, are looking pretty challenging to hit… *rawr*
What does it mean to be “serious” about writing fiction? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because of a piece of encouragement from a good friend of mine said the other day. A hundred career masters will advise the green apprentice within their field that if there’s anything other than [INSERT CAREER OPTION HERE] you’d like to do, then you probably shouldn’t be [INSERT CAREER OPTION HERE]. As per writing? Writing is tough. Sometimes it’s incredibly lonely, and the mind-games that can go on within one’s own head can be daunting. It’s not for the faint of heart, but then, neither is any artistic career (or any career one’s passionate about, for that matter). There are no “easy” paths for any long-lasting and fulfilling career.
So what does it mean to be “serious” about writing fiction? What kind of effort or accomplishments or goals or behavior signal “seriousness” verses “dabbling” or whatever else one does when one’s not serious about something? The thing is, I don’t feel as if I’ve been as serious as I could be, because right away a number of things popped into my head that defined–in my mind–what a serious author looks like and does. In fact, I made a list (Of course, I did!) of certain behaviors and efforts that–if I adhered to them–would convince me that I was “serious” about writing fiction.
This is similar to the non-official Rule of 5 that I sometimes cite–Read, Write, Edit, Submit, Repeat–but is more focused, and more personal to what I feel would make me feel that I was giving a full 100%. Think of the following as a list of traits I’ve sketched for some nebulous future writer version of myself: when I daydream about who I’d be as a “successful writer” at some undisclosed future time, this is what I see.
The List of Being Serious
1. I would adhere to a regular work schedule.
2. I would not only write rough drafts, I would edit them to completion and submit them.
3. I would produce at least a small, measurable body of work each year.
4. I would trust my process.
5. I would continue, with defined effort, to pursue an excellence of craft, always striving to be better than I am right now.
6. I would be aware of the market trends and news, but without self-judgement.
7. I would have fun and be relaxed.
There are, of course, a half-dozen details that go with those seven items, but those are the seven that if I could ever achieve, would make me feel–without doubt–that I was striving with my whole heart towards my dreams of writing success. Those things do not guarantee success, nor will they make any part of my individual writing journey easier: they’re just a template for who I hope to become in the coming years.
#6 and #7 are perhaps the most important, because I’m starting to realize that just as with pregnancy no two women experience this life-changing event in the same way, so too does each writer forge their own path–without much guidance or quantifiable structure–and that their path may not end up looking like any other writer’s ever has. What works for one of us very likely won’t work for others; habits, techniques, approaches, guidelines, “rules”, and lists, all the things we struggle with and all the things that come easily, are all different, and combined in a hundred thousand different ways to create our own career labyrinths.
I’ve only just started learning this, but the more I consider it, the more I feel like for the first time since I started eyeing a writing career, that I may have finally started on the right path–or at least found a new, unexplored path within my labyrinth–that will take me someplace unexpected.
Day 24 — Yesterday was another good day for the List! I got everything done that needed to be addressed by about 3pm, and had a guilt-free relaxing evening. Made some progress on the rewrite, plugged away for another bunch of pages as I retype the draft into the computer. I’ve found that retyping can really help me in the revision process–it’s something I’ve done for “Hope City” and for “Shepherd”–in that it makes me re-evaluate every sentence once by one, and in addition helps me to incorporate changes smoothly without really butchering the flow (which seems to happen when I just insert something that was previously missing).
Also made good reading progress on THE CHILD THIEF by Brom, which has been a delight to read so far. I love his reinterpretation of the character of “The Captain” as an honorable man caught in a very bad situation, spawned by misunderstanding on both sides. His revulsion for what his own men are becoming–while likewise despising the magical world that has trapped them–is just another layer that makes him a riveting character to read about. Love it!
Day 25 — Today has been a training day in the art of non-striving. Last week I had this sharp pain in my left hip which frankly kind of freaked me out (it was really, just, yowch bad). I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was quick and it went away pretty fast, with no real lingering pain save some tight muscles in my back and side. Week proceeds, and it doesn’t come back and there seem to be no other complications. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good. This morning? Tried to roll over and YOWCH again. This time, at least, it didn’t surprise me as much so I think I managed to handle the sudden spike of pain better, but still…not so pleasant. I had just read in one of my pregnancy books about stretching ligaments, so decided that since it’s happened twice now, I’d call my doc and see if it was worth going in to have it checked out.
Turns out, these nasty twinges are actually quite normal during the second trimester of pregnancy. It’s called Round Ligament Pain, and it *will* stop happening eventually, once the ligaments around the uterus stretch enough to accommodate the additional weight and strain being put on them. I must have been twisting in just the wrong way this morning and that time last week, and the ligaments just weren’t having it. Closest I can describe it (besides the rubber-band snapping, mentioned in the WebMD link, except imagine that being a really BIG rubber-band and also electrified), it’s like when you’re walking and the tendon on the bottom of your foot suddenly clenches down. It’s not like a Charlie Horse so much as real nasty twang. Quite unpleasant. Thankfully, the nurse assured me that this will pass eventually and is perfectly normal, which does help. At least now if it happens again, I’ll know what the flip it is and not worry that I’ve ruptured something or whatever my occasionally hypochondriac brain can come up with (OH EM GEE, IS IT CANCER?!).
Needless to say, however, my back and left side have been tensed up like crazy since I got up this morning. After a gingerly eating breakfast and taking the dog out, I got my reading done and finished THE CHILD THIEF, and even got a bit of rewriting in there–though not too much. Otherwise, I’ve forgone worrying about not accomplishing things today, and just tried to relax and let the body calm down a bit. It’s been interesting, because it does make me realize how desperately I cling to productivity to measure the worth of my day. If I’m not actively moving towards the completion of some goal I’ve set, I get very antsy and irritable, but most of all, I end up feeling very self-judgmental. All those reedy little Critic thoughts pop into my head and start asking (even politely, helpfully) if maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole writing thing, because obviously, if a bit of a sore back and hip pain can take me out for a whole day, am I really as dedicated as I’d need to be to have any shot of a career doing this? I mean, there are people out there who write 8 hours a day, or a minimum of 4 at least, so really, if even an hour is too much for me some days, should I really be tormenting myself by even trying?
Obviously, I’ll ignore the Critic, because–as I like to remind myself–I’ve heard it all before. But the conflict between cutting myself some slack now and then and that insidious inner Critic is sometimes quite a challenge to navigate. Today, I rested, because I needed it, and because I know that at the start of next week, I’ll get right back up and start working on The List again, because it *works* and I’ve loved using it so far. It’s helped me get so much more done in three days than I feel like I’ve gotten done in months, and I can tell I’m on the right track. But for today, I can put my feet up and take it easy, listen to my body, and not push it. Because pushing it too hard right now could very well make it worse, and I really *don’t* need to strain a ligament just to slow down a bit.
So today has been…strangely encouraging. When I got up this morning, I made a promise to myself that I would write out a list of all the things that I needed to do each day to feel like the day was successful, and that I would complete said list before doing anything else “fun” (as I oft do). That means no arts and crafts, no TV, no reading tons of unrelated books, no Facebook, (not even any email), or video games until the Day’s List has been done. I tried to keep it relatively small and something I felt I could accomplish by around 2:30pm or 3pm, after which, with everybody home and around, things get much less predictable, and I *like* the flexibility of being able to say “Yes!” to friends who want to hang out or to watching a movie or whatever without feeling guilty. (Guilt-management is the name of the game this year.)
The Day’s List consists of a few things I felt would make me feel productive, and would address some areas I feel have been somewhat missing in my day-to-day planning. What’s different from previous attempts to govern my time is that this list can be done in any order, and each task (save those with time requirements) can take as little or as long as they need, allowing a lot more flexibility, which I found was a weakness of the formal “this hour to this hour” scheduling I’d tried before. However, to have a guilt-free successful day, I must complete all of these. They are, in no particular order:
[ ] Get up/get the dog his breakfast and take him out/have my breakfast (This is normal day-to-day anyway, but it’s on the list since it takes up A.M. time).
[ ] 1 Hour of Writing (this is the requisite minimum for any day, timed because editing is difficult to quantify for me)
[ ] Cello Practice (which includes running through all of my exercises)
[ ] 1 Lesson of Mandarin I (trying to get back up to speed on this, as it’s a major goal of mine that seems to keep getting slipped by the wayside)
[ ] 1 Chore (vacuum, laundry, dishes, pick up, etc.–trying to get back on the tidy horse)
[ ] Water Plants (I’m notoriously bad at remembering to water plants–it’s a running joke between me and my husband–so this is on the list, but it doesn’t usually take long ^_^)
[ ] 1 Hour of Reading (this from specifically the book I’m trying to finish for the week, with a little flexibility for articles/short stories)
After those seven things are done, I’m free for the rest of the day. I can read more, I can write more, I can play video games, I can junk out on Project Runway or Big Bang Theory or Biggest Loser, and not feel remotely guilty about not getting more done. I’m going to try this for a week and see how it goes. *fingers crossed!*
EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!
Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass) Accomplished in Edits: Got through another chunk of pages this morning. Mostly focusing on cutting down words so I can see the story a bit better as a whole. Finding *lots* to cut out, so that’s a good thing, but still quite a few pages to go on that. Then, I think, I’ll tackle the Butcher “POV/Goal/Conflict/Setback” check, and see how each scene plays out in that regard. I’m cautiously optomistic, but still rather in the “poke it with a stick” frame of mind for this chunk of fiction. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. We might get snow, so it’ll hopefully be a quiet day with lots of editing time. :)
In response to this blogpost by Jodie Llewellyn, I’m just copying over my summary of writing goals for February, which are as follows:
This February, I’m going to focus on getting in a regular day-to-day habit of organizing my time so I don’t have days where I look back at 6pm and wonder where all the time went. I’m going to focus on editing for now, because that seems to be the zone I’m in, and I’m especially going to work on not feeling *bad* about that! It’s a new phase in the cycle, and that’s perfectly all right. If I could get my current work in progress completely edited and submittable by the end of the month, and maybe fix up another one to submission-status, too, I’d feel pretty darn good about that. :)
Today was a good day, if only because I got one major work-related project checked off my to-do list, and that alone feels great. I’ll take the progress, whatever its form! At least this means that starting tomorrow, getting the rewrite of “Miracle of Jane” done by week’s end. If I can wrap up that rewrite, I’ll be on Cloud Nine!
This week, I’m also reading THE CHILD THIEF by Brom, and so far, I am loving it to death. I’m wary of reading it *right* before bed, but it’s spectacular. I’m so excited about spending more time reading the next couple of days. Electing to tackle one goal at a time has been a smart move this week. I’m going to have to remember this. :)
I’ve also been getting back into journaling before bed about what I’ve been reading every day, which has been great! There’s something about having to put my thoughts about a piece or story that really helps me solidify where my head’s at, rather than just spinning the tires in thought loops. It also helps me keep track of the multitude of books I’m reading at any given time. I’m one of those oddballs that likes to juggle several books at a time. Currently, I’m reading the following six, in no particular order (except THE CHILD THIEF, which is my week’s “to finish” book):
Q184 by Haruki Murakami (Fiction) THE CELLO by Elizabeth Cowling (Non-Fiction) MINDFUL BIRTHING by Nancy Bardacke (Non-Fiction) REVISING FICTION by David Madden (Non-Fiction, Craft-Related) WONDERBOOK: THE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO CREATING IMAGINATIVE FICTION by Jeff VanderMeer & Jeremy Zerfoss (Non-Fiction, Craft-Related) THE CHILD THIEF by Brom (Fiction)
I tend to trade each of these other ones off as inspired. THE CELLO is my go-to bedtime book, for when I just need to relax and cool off from the day. I’m reading a *lot* of non-fiction books at the moment. Usually, I’ve got more fiction books on that list (spanning multiple genres), but it’ll continually shift as I finish one and pick up another (or two). Juggling books like this does tend to mean I finish the back-burner books slower than my weekly read, but it satiates my tendency towards distractibility and taste for variety.
And that’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have some good writing updates tomorrow. :)
So I’m not even going to try to disguise the fact that I am BLATANTLY AND UNABASHEDLY copying fantastist and brilliant author Cherie Priest’s blog style for the time being. (Also read my interview with her and her story in Apex Magazine here!) I’ve yet to find another format that so succinctly captures what I enjoy in a writer’s blog, so for now, I’m just gonna do what any beginner does: I’m going to copy the masters. :)
Basically, these will be brief, daily posts to keep myself on track and remind myself what I actually got done over the course of the day, even if that’s just getting in a much needed nap. They’ll be primarily writing-related, but I’ll probably add in a few little things about the day in general here and there when interesting. :)
WRITING PROJECT: In a world where wars are waged in shadow and the separation between man and machine is shrinking by the day, a war-droid wielding cyborg-girl begins a secret battle against those who would control her and destroy the only chance of a future she’s ever had.
Working Title: Shadow Games: Book 1 of the Shadow Engines duology Added Words: 2,431 Total Words (to date): 86,305
Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Well-meaning Keon finds himself in hot water again, returning to his home only to find that his return was perhaps orchestrated by his psychotic half-brother, Sarad. The local police are not amused, but at least the hostages are being released, so that’s good, right? RIGHT?
Notes: Continuing this project from NANO, and trying to wrap it up into a completed rough draft. Shouldn’t have too much left to go, really–just a handful of chapters–and things are clipping along rather nicely after the holiday break (surprise!).
EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!
Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters Accomplished in Edits: I’ve been going through the first couple chapters of David Madden’s Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers, because for those of you following this blog, you’ll know revision has been my major tripping stone these past few years. Today, it was more of a thinking day. I have something of a good core for NHBUM, but I’ve been struggling with the PoV–how much to show, from whose perspective, how best to effectively show the character dynamics without giving too much away too early while leading to a good payoff at the end. I wrote several aborted drafts in first Bluebeard’s POV (1st Person), and then an alternating Bluebeard/NewWife POV (both alternating 1st POV), but neither of those worked.
The latest, completed draft, was of the New Wife exclusively, in 1st again, but attempts to determine to whom she’s speaking and why she’s relating this story, and how to tell it without giving her secret away too much while still playing fair–Eh, needless to say, it’s been a minefield.
After today’s thinking, I think I may be on the right track, starting from pseudo-scratch using 1st person but this time from the plural perspective of Bluebeard’s seven dead and bitter wives who still haunt the manor. Instead of them trying to save the New Wives, these dead women are so humiliated and enraged by how they were tricked and trapped by this terrible man, that they instead seek constantly to prove that they were not stupid to look, that it was not *their* fault that they gave in to his test, and therefore attempt to prove this by sucking in all the new wives and getting them to look. It offers just what I needed in terms of tension and dynamic that both shows and hides the secrets of both Bluebeard and his New Wife, and yet ultimately should still make for a good payoff in the end. Anyway, got about 500 new words on the rewrite done, so that’s something, and I’ve got a clearcut path now. Looking forward to what tomorrow brings!
I’ll make this brief, because let’s face it, reading long lists of goals is probably pretty dull for everybody but myself. That said-! I like to get them up here so I have to hold myself accountable. :)
1) Read one book a week until B-Day in June (like the beginning of last year, only, don’t stop), with an overall year goal of 25 (I’ve got about 20-odd weeks until B-Day, so a book or two after that, considering sleep deprivation/adjustment time/etc./etc./you know, that whole Life thing).
2) Finish the rough draft of Shadow Engines.
3) Get as many new short stories written/edited/submitted by B-Day in June so I have something to juggle even if I’m not writing much for those few months (6 = good, 10 = amazing).
4) Keep up with a reading journal every day to discuss what I’m currently reading so I actually THINK about what I’m reading in a concrete way, rather than just spinning the ol’ brain wheels repeatedly without cementing anything specific. (Two concrete references in one sentence? Crazy!)
———–All of this to be moot and void after mid-June. No guilt!———–
Those are all the writing goals. The two others I have, outside of writing, is to 1) eat more veggies; and 2) try to keep up with going through one Pimsleur Mandarin 1 lesson a day, because I was doing so well with it a while ago, and it keeps falling through the cracks. I miss it so!
———–Again, completely moot and void after mid-June.———–
Life is getting back into its ordinary flow again, now that the hubby’s two week vacation is over. It flew by so fast, and sitting here two and a half hours away from him, it does make me think: I’ve got three very specific drivers for being ridiculously productive the next five-odd months. A) Doing the whole long-distance thing means I’ve got a lot of time to myself, and therefore a whole lot of time I could be devoting to something worthwhile; B) with B-Day fast approaching, I know I won’t have this much time (EVER AGAIN, at least for the next 18 years) to pursue my own goals uninterrupted, so I darn well better take advantage of it; C) I’m not working full-time at the moment, which means I’ve got my days mostly to myself, so again–no excuses, no fuss, no buts: it’s as optimal now as it’s ever going to be, so I’m going to take advantage as much as possible. Whether that’ll produce anything of particular interest or use, well…that remains to be seen. But at least we’ll see! :)
Oh, it’s that time of year again~! I’m not talking about the snow (though we’re due for 4-6 inches, I hear), or Christmas trees, or Menorahs, or presents (*did* I get everybody something?), or even cookies (MMmmmmm, cookies…). No, I’m talking about NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS time!
For those of you who are relatively familiar with this blog (when I remember to keep up with it, hmmmm, note to self…), you’re more than aware of my fixation on LISTS. Goal lists, submission lists, lists for reading, lists for writing, lists for just about anything that can (and should) be listed. Let me preface this list-obsession by stating that I am NOT a Type-A person. Nor am I particularly organized. Nor am I especially neat/tidy/etc./etc. I’ve never made it all the way through Seven Habits for Highly Effective People (or even the Chicken Soup for the Soul version: Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens). If I’m any type at all, I’m Type-H, “H” for Horizontal. I’m a recliner type person. I’d really rather do nothing other than watch TV or maybe think about writing without actually getting any words down. I’m exceptionally good at *thinking* about writing. All the other parts? Eh, I’m working on it.
Which is where the lists come in. I know my weaknesses: I’m lazy. I procrastinate. I’m easy-going to a fault. I’m somewhat prone to stressing out when said laziness/procrastination/I’ve-got-plenty-of-time-I’ll-do-that-later kicks in and gets me into deadline trouble. There are only two things that work to help me counteract my own laissez-faire, do-nothing natural state: Lists and Stickers. Stickers, because they’re shiny, and I’ve always been somewhat distractible (past life as a magpie, perhaps?); Lists, because they engage that tiny, itty bitty, teeny-weeny, office-supply loving bureaucrat buried deep inside me. (“Carbon-copy sales receipt notepad?! Awesome! How can I use that on a day to day basis…?”<–actual thought from last night at Staples. No joke.)
Lists mean goals, goals mean a chance for stickers and general pat-me-on-the-back moments. I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement, even if that reinforcement comes from myself. Often times, it has to.
So this time of year is prone to drafts of lists for what would make me feel accomplished by the end of next year. Obviously with the wee bairn coming along in June, that leaves me pretty much five months of relative normalcy to get whatever writing goals I have for 2014 completed. Not. Much. Time. But I’m planning to pack in as much as I can (whether or not I achieve those goals is another thing entirely) so that when the time comes, I’ll be able to enjoy the little bundle and take some much needed time off without guilt. (If I could get some fiction rotating the markets by that time, too, so much the better!)
This year, the main draft I’ve got is a bit presumptuous and will very likely to be a bit too much for me, but I’m more than half-willing to try (even though this month I’ve been a terrible slacker when it comes to the ONE GOAL I have to complete by December 31st. Oy.) More likely than not, by January 1, I’ll have a more reasonable list of goals in place. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about making lists, its that to overshoot and ask for too much will inevitably bring the whole list down on its head. My inertia won’t stand for *that* much change too quickly. Smaller goals are more obtainable, but there has to be a balance between that and pushing myself, too. It’s a delicate ecosystem governed by a madwoman. What can I say? It keeps me on my toes.
More updates coming as time permits. I’ll need to take a look at last year’s goal list and see what did and didn’t get accomplished, and then either delightfully clap my hands and give myself an ice cream or wallow in self-remorse (also with ice cream).
*Note: I do not pretend to be an expert cartoonist, but too bad, you’re stuck with my silly doodles anyway! HA!*