Tag Archives: Progress

Past half way

I’m sure I’m not the only one who still thinks of the year as being fairly new. Now we are about to hit August and I’ve finally realised the end of the year is quickly closing in. I have also realised that I don’t have any short story submissions out for review, so my hopes of another publication this year are fading fast.

It’s pretty unlikely I’d get something published before the end of December anyway, given that the turn-around from submission to publication is usually about a year these days, but waiting until the end of July is really leaving it a bit too late. I need to pull my finger out.

Every week I look at my Duotrope email about the upcoming anthology deadlines, and every week I find at least two that grab my interest, but that’s as far as it goes. This week I need to change that, this week I want to pick something, write a story and send it out.

Sure, I may have left it too late for 2019, but it would be great to start 2020 with a publication. It really is time to get back into the swing of things, and I have so many short stories pestering me to be written.

 

 

Time for Change

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (or something very like that). I feel as if that defines my writing journey of late, and possibly that’s why I’m getting so frustrated.

I keep sending my novels out to publishers, they hang onto them for a year, and then they send me a form letter rejection. I’m still waiting for the form letter rejections for the most recent two, but I’ve been waiting 7+ months on both of them, and I’m sure that if the publishers loved them, I would have heard about it by now.

I’m not quite ready to give up totally on the traditional publication path and head down the self-publishing road (but I’m pretty close). And don’t get me wrong, it’s not snobbery about self-publishing that stops me, but rather having to teach myself the ins and outs of hiring an editor, a cover designer, marketing etc. It’s a lot of learning and I won’t do a half-hearted attempt, so I will put that off a little bit longer.

Instead I’ve decided to do the next best thing; networking. I’ve just joined clubs, courses and the SA Writers centre over the last week. If I can’t make some inroads into the publishing industry by getting to know people over then next 6 months, then I’ll self-publishing by Christmas! And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll meet some people who can teach me about editors, designers and how to market.

I’m getting too old to do this waiting thing any longer.

 

Creature of Habit

I tried to turn my laptop on today and it wouldn’t come on. I pressed the button a couple of times and then sat there, looking at my blank machine, wondering how it could break down with no warning?

My laptop at work has the ‘on’ button on the right side, in almost the same place that my home laptop has its volume buttons. I think you can see the punchline here. It took a lot longer than it should have for me to investigate the faulty ‘on’ button to discover I was actually just playing with the volume.

The computer is on now (button on the left side did its trick), but it made me realise how much we function on habit. Don’t get me wrong, habit is handy, it lets you do things while freeing up your mind to wander elsewhere. But I wonder if sometimes we let it limit us, because we believe we are doing the right thing, but there is actually a better way.

I think I’ve got to the point in my writing where doing things the same way is not going to take me where I want to go, so I need to do something different. I need to start a new habit. I don’t know what that habit should be, but I’m going to try and look at each decision from all sides, and work out if there is a different way.

Just an aside; we had the hottest day on record on Thursday, and nearly every day this week has had an overnight minimum in the mid-twenties – so sleep deprivation might also have played a part.

Juggle

One of the biggest challenges for non-professional writers is to manage the juggle to get enough time to write. A few years ago I was able to get a scratch draft of a novel written in 3 months while working full time, but I made big sacrifices. My social life was almost non-existent, I neglected my family much more than I should have, and I let the home maintenance (cleaning included) slide.

Over the last 5 weeks I’ve been working in a full-on full-time job, and my output in terms of words written has been a big, fat, zero. While I think I’ll actually benefit from the break, as I got deeper into the job I found that my classic think-about-story time (bus rides, standing in the shower, just before I fell asleep) gradually got taken over by work-thoughts. So, while my enthusiasm to write was there (and even grew) my idea store was drained.

The full-on part of the job is over now, so I hope to slide back into part-time and free up a whole chunk of brain for writing. But I know I can’t go on like this forever, and I’ll have to commit to full-time work again for a much longer period if I want to help pay all the bills. But I really hate the idea that in doing so I will be sacrificing more stories.

It just makes me wonder; how many fantastic novels are we missing out on, just because their authors need to earn a living? I guess this is the problem faced by artists everywhere, and that’s why sacrifice is so caught up with creativity.

Chopstick wisdom

The other day I was washing some chopsticks in the sink, and while rinsing them I accidentally dropped them down the drain. I think if I had been trying to do it I wouldn’t have managed to get them lined up so perfectly. When I realised to where they had magically disappeared, I couldn’t help but laugh.

But this left the dilemma of how to get them out. I knew that if worse came to worse I could unscrew the pipes and pull them out, but it would be messy and require probably more strength than I have. So I got creative. I grabbed another chopstick and globbed on a nicely worked (and therefore warm and sticky) piece of blu-tack.

It only took three attempts to get the first chopstick out, but the second one proved far more difficult. I brought out the hairdryer in an effort to dry the down-the-drain chopstick so it would be more likely to stick, but even this had only limited success. The chopstick would come part way up, but as soon as I started to pull the blu-tack through the drain opening the stick would drop like a stone.

It was a bit frustrating and I wanted to give up, but I realised there was a good lesson in life here. I could give up and live with a chopstick in my drain, catching all the goop, and no doubt eventually blocking the drain, or I could persist and maybe succeed. I did persist and only two more attempts later I managed to snag the chopstick and pull it out.

The thing is, you never know which time you will pull the chopstick up and it will hold long enough for you to get it out. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you stop trying to pull it out, it will stay there. If I keep sending out my writing, it will get picked up some time. If it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day, it will never get out into the big wide world.

So, I’ll keep sending out my stories. I’ve pulled out a few chopsticks before, so I’m confident I can do it again if I just keep trying.

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 4

I might be going out on a limb here, but I think I’m going to hit this week’s target. I kind of have to, because even if I do get to 44K by the end of today, that still leaves 6K to write to get to 50K by midnight Wednesday. I think I might still be writing up until midnight Wednesday -which coincidentally is about what time the lunar eclipse is going total in Adelaide, so I wanted to be up anyway.

Will I finish the novel? I think so. Are there some gaps in it; yes without doubt. This will definitely be the scratchiest of any of my scratch drafts to date. It’s the first time I’ve written stuff like <describe the house in more detail here> in my manuscript. I’m cool with that. If something was going to hold me up, or I needed to research it to get it 100% right, then I’ve left those bits for the edit.

Would I do JanNoWriMo again? I don’t know. First of all, I am not sure if I’ll ever get all of January off work again, and there is no way I would have managed the 50k if I was working. Secondly, January is super hot! We had so many days either over 40°C or near enough to. It was awful trying to sit at a computer in those conditions, and probably not terribly healthy. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my previous novels were written over winter.

Finally, I don’t know that I did the novel justice. I suspect I will have whole chapters that are going to get cut. I also feel like I pushed the characters along in places they wouldn’t necessarily have gone if I had given myself a few more days to ponder. As it was I had to take a three-day break mid-JanNoWriMo to massively brainstorm to work out what was happening next. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do. I guess I’ll find out when I go back to do the edit.

Next week I’ll let you know some of the lessons I learned from JanNoWriMo, as well as letting you know what my next project will be. Besides finding a job, of course. I guess I’d better start thinking about that too!

What would I know?

Okay, so I thought I had the answers about how to get stuff written. I was wrong. This new, dark novel is killing me. It’s like wading through a cold tar pit in the dark with a blindfold on. I have no idea where I’m going, my progress is slow and it is terribly uncomfortable. I’ve decided that I can’t spend this much time is such a bleak space. It is making me depressed, and this isn’t what I want from writing.

I get the feeling I would need to be in a super-happy place in my life to have the resilience required to write this novel, and something tells me that if I was fortunate enough to find myself in that place I wouldn’t want to write the novel. I really can see that there is a reason why I have only written dark short stories before. If you can’t close the door on the story with a ‘the end’ before you walk away from the computer, it follows you around.

So for the first time in two years I’m going to have to concede defeat; I’m quitting the novel. I have decided it is best for my mental health, and it is much better to make this decision two weeks into the project rather than two months (or more). It also leaves me quarter of the year to finish something else. And after the two weeks I’ve just had, I think it is going to be something fun.

It will be interesting to see how my outlook on the rest of my life changes (if at all) when I start spending my imaginary life in a better place. I think there might be a much bigger crossover between my two worlds than I realised. I’m still not sure what is crossing over which way though. I hope changing the fiction will change the fact. I can’t keep eating this much chocolate.

Lists

I love task lists. Their big brothers are Excel spreadsheets, which I also adore, but task lists hold a special kind of magic for me. They are a promise of achievements yet to come. Just writing the list gives you a taste of what it is like to complete them.

I have an ongoing list of stories I want to complete. Each title has a box next to it for me to tick (in red so it stands out) when it is completed, and a space for the date. This list is constantly growing, but also looks very nicely actioned. That’s probably my favourite list.

I also have a weekly list of 20 tasks; 10 personal items, 10 writing items. Anything not completed by the end of the week gets rolled over to the following week. I try to always achieve a pass mark, but sometimes I only scrape a ‘C-‘. I’ve been doing these task lists for over 10 years.

This week I ramped it up a notch. After writing my 20 tasks I divvied them up into daily tasks and allocated them to each day of the week. This was in an effort to stop me from getting to Sunday and finding I have 15 things to complete (as is often the case).

I still have one day of the week to go, but it has worked brilliantly! Even on days when I thought I had my evenings free, but then they turned out not to be so, I still completed my tasks. I skipped out on most of my usual TV viewing for the week, and got to bed a little later than usual on two nights, but the tasks got done.

I won’t lie, it was a lot of work and a bit of stress, but as I ticked off those tasks at the end of each day, I had an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. Not only that, but for the first time in months I’m going to be getting at least an A level pass even if I do nothing for the rest of Sunday –and that feels fantastic!!!

For those not used to task lists, a good way to set them up is to think about your major goals (finish writing your novel, go back to Uni, whatever) and then break those down into smaller and smaller steps toward the big goal (write novel plan, find academic transcript etc.). Those are the steps you put on your weekly task list. If you find you are not getting around to ticking them off, break them into even smaller steps. It is amazing how much you can achieve. Try it!

Caring about characters

This week I finished writing another novel. That’s four novels completely finished off in my life, two in the last 18 months. With the first three, when I got to ‘The End’ I bawled my eyes out. This time I didn’t. I don’t think that bodes well.

When I cry it is not because the books are so soppy at the end, only one was really, but it is because I know I’m leaving the characters and I won’t see what happens in their lives any more. It is like breaking up with a bunch of friends all at once.

Does not crying in the last book mean I don’t care what happens to these characters? If that is the case, why would anyone else care about them? If a reader doesn’t care about the characters then they will have no drive to turn the page. I think as soon as I can work out why I have no emotional ties to these characters then I can fix the book.

On the up side, I got my beta-reader feedback about my other novel, and I am so excited to get back in there and incorporate what was given to me. I can’t help but think some of that excitement is because I miss those characters and I want to spend more time with them. I think that is how I should feel with all my books.

 

Croquet writing

I’m in the middle of my next novel, and after the success of my last attempt at pantsing, I was tempted to try that again. This time, however, I’m on a very strict timeline, so I can’t run the risk of running totally off track. If I do that I might not be able to finish it before I’m forced to go back to work.

So in an effort to capture the speed and agility of pantsing, but have the dependability of planning, I’ve come up with a marriage between the two which I’m calling croquet writing. I’ve set some target events that have to happen, but how I get between those is anyone’s guess. So like the hoops on a croquet lawn, I know what I’m aiming for at any point in the story.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I haven’t invented anything, it is just planning but with a bit less plan, but it might be exactly what I need. So far it is working, I have the same feeling of having no idea what I’m going to write when I sit down at the keyboard that I had when I was pantsing, but unlike pantsing, I can clomp through a rough patch to get onto the next plot point and then run from there.

I suspect there will be a lot of editing required for the rough patches, but maybe not as much as for the pantser where I had to cut out whole chunks of stuff that went off on a tangent that was never realised, or where I had to go back and insert foreshadowing for stuff I didn’t know was going to happen.

I’m at the half-way point now, which is past my usual fall-over spot in a novel, so with any luck I’ll be writing those magic words soon; The End.