Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year... Same Me.

I love New Year's Resolutions.  I don't care how cliche it sounds, but I love the idea of starting over, that I have a whole new and shiny chance to be organized.  It's similar to my love of new office supplies.  Seriously, I can't wait until my kids are old enough to need to buy school supplies.  I love fresh starts!  Anyway, this feeling lasts about a week until I realize I have broken most of my resolutions (ugh the cliches are piling up) and I have another whole year to wait until my next shot at a year of being organized.  As if this can only happen on January 1st.  Whatever.

So this year was no exception- for the most part.  The Dude and I made resolutions this year (that in itself was an accomplishment as we usually forget until it seems kind of late to do them) and we broke them down to personal, family and professional.  We weren't messing around!  Most are obvious, and not that interesting, but for me, the professional ones were the most important.

I am a stay-at-home mom, and for the most part I really love it.  However, it is so hard to try and find time to write with two little ones at home.  I know I am not the first to have this issue, but it is the first time I've had to deal with it, and I am not doing a great job.  Demonstrated by the fact I have not written   anything since I finished NaNo at the end of November.  I actually missed the last 6 weeks of writing.  I have been writing in a notebook all kinds of ideas that have popped into my head, but I haven't had time to actually write.  BUT... thank goodness for New Years Eve... I've made resolutions... so clearly that is going to change!

My biggest realization was... I won't ever write if I don't take the time to write.  Yeah, hello captain obvious.  I know this, of course everyone knows this, but in practice it is so easy to lose sight of this.  At the end of the day, I can't usually tell you what went on in the house, but after chasing a 3 y/o and a 9 mo baby intent on following the toddler everywhere, I'm exhausted.  Completely exhausted.  And after getting the kids to bed and saying hi to The Dude, and hearing about his day, the idea of using my brain and sitting and writing, well it's not at the top of my list.  Except it's all I think about, so TADA... that's my resolution.  To set assign time where The Dude is putting the kids to bed or whatever so I can take a few hours and actually write, and not feel guilty about it (which any parent can tell you is HARD).  The idea of using time where your kids are awake for personal things, well it makes me feel guilty (rational or not).

I also came to the realization I have turned into (horrified look) a morning person.  It's hard not to be when you have kids.  So I think I'm also going to try and add an hour or so in the morning.  Which probably means my kids will just start getting up earlier.  The reality is I won't be able to do this all the time, and until both kids are in school (or I've sent them to live with their grandparents), writing will have to come either really early in the day, during any naps where I can actually get both kids down at the same time (this never happens anymore) or after they go to bed.  But my resolution is to make it a priority and I haven't yet lost the bright and shiny optimism about this resolution.  So we'll see, but here is what I have resolved (professionally):

1.  To make writing a priority;

2.  To make better use of social networking to meet writers/book bloggers;

3.  To set aside 2 hours a day, at least 3 - 4 days a week to write; and (here's the big scary one)

4.  To have one novel by the end of 2013 in "finished" enough form to submit queries on it.

I have no clue if it's realistic, or if I will actually accomplish it, but I have to be optimistic.  Although it has been awhile since I've written anything, I haven't stopped thinking about it, and about how badly I would love to see something I've written in finished form.  My biggest fear is this will be one of those goals where I have really good intentions and really poor execution (I am famous for this), but the great part is it's almost completely up to me, and I am still motivated.

So after resolving to make writing a priority, my biggest decision was what to do with my WIP from NaNo.  I still really like the story, but I think it is so disorganized.  I don't know my characters very well, and I didn't exactly plan out and structure my story line, and I think it really shows.  It is probably one of the reasons I am having a hard time picking it up right now.  I am also being wooed away by another story idea I have been thinking about, but haven't had time to start.  Not wanting to repeat my mistakes from NaNo, I took the advice of one of the author's who I follow and read Donald Maass' "Writing The Breakout Novel."  I found it extremely helpful, especially in structure ideas and ways to develop characters.  At least I don't feel like I've done nothing the past six weeks.

So, like the new year, I am starting over and working with a new story.  I haven't given up on my NaNo WIP yet, but I am putting it aside for right now.  Waiting to see if I can figure out a few roadblocks in my story before I start writing it again.  In the meantime, I will be working on a story that hasn't stopped bugging me.  Taking the time to work on the structure and outline my characters will hopefully keep me on track.  I don't regret the way I did NaNo this year, I learned a lot about myself and the way I write.  Namely, I need more structure in my life, a concept which isn't natural to me.  So hopefully I'll keep up with this blog and can look back on this year as the year I suck to my resolutions (even if I'm starting a little late) and finished my book!  At least I have high hopes for the year and for that I am grateful.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Social Distraction...

So it is looking more and more like I am taking the month off from writing and I am starting to feel really guilty about this!  I really want to get back to my book, I am determined to finish it, but I have hit the point where I am coming up with other ideas... ideas I may like better... ideas that seem more interesting than what I am working on (or should be working on) right now.

Or maybe the real problem is I am stuck in the middle of my story right now, and the idea of getting through it is completely overwhelming.

Anyway, because I am a master at procrastination, I have instead focused on starting to really use twitter and goodreads (because that is productive... well at least it's fun).  These sites are awesome for readers and writers.  I have to say, I am shocked at how interactive readers and writers are with each other, and how ready everyone is to give advice.  It's really kind of amazing.  Everyone is very supportive and constantly promoting each others books.  I can't even count how many books I've heard about because someone was tweeting about it, or reviewed it on goodreads.

My kindle is now full and my gift cards are now empty.  I can't wait to start reading... but maybe I should start writing first.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts on NaNo

Okay, so it's like a week late, but NaNo is done... and I FINISHED!  Well, I finished my 50,000 word deadline, not my novel.  In fact, I am maybe 40% done with my novel, which means I will have a TON of editing to do.  Or I will be writing more than one book.  Either way, I haven't done a thing since I finished on November 29th (I actually finished EARLY, now there's something completely unusual for me!)

I took a week off (mostly) on purpose.  NaNo was, for lack of a better word, intense.  It was a month full of mini-deadlines, as any night I didn't write my 1,667 words, I knew it would need to be made-up.  It would have been so easy to let the words pile up and then quit, but I am pretty excited I made it through the month, and even more so, that I actually enjoyed the month!  A month of being "forced," to write was just what I needed.  Even better, a month with a free pass not to worry about editing at all, well that was the best.  Well, it was the best while I was doing it, now it's going to be a nightmare!

Truth is, I literally haven't read a single word I wrote last month.  In fact, I'm a little scared to read anything I wrote last month.  Whether what I wrote was good or not, (probably mostly not good) the month was worth it.  I loved writing my story and I am really hoping to finish it soon.  However, the idea is daunting.  I think it will be harder to get myself motivated to write now, than it was during NaNo.  Not only do I need to finish the story, but I know how much editing is awaiting me.  Which is probably why I haven't picked up my story since November 29th.

All in all, I am glad I did NaNo, but I did learn a few things about my writing.

1.  I really should try to outline before I write.  Yeah, I know some people like to be "pantsers," and write as they go (Disclosure: I did not make up the term, "pantsers."  They actually use this on the NaNo forum and it made me laugh every time.)  Anyway, I should not be one of those people.  It resulted in the beginning of my story being WAY too long and I haven't even gotten to the meat of the action.  This is only going to make editing that much more fun;

2.  I really need to outline my characters.  My book has 2 main characters, but 7-8 fairly prominent supporting characters.  That's a lot.  Next time I really need to come up with sheets that have notes on what each character looks like and their background story.  It would be easier than going back to see what name I chose.  (I had to do this more than once- seriously, it was like naming a child, I had the hardest time deciding on names and then I couldn't remember what I had finally chosen.  Not that I've forgotten my kid's names.  Well...);

3.  I need to find some writing buddies.  I think one of the greatest things about NaNo is the community of writers (this year 300,000) who are going through the same things you are, at the same time.  It helped keep me motivated to know other people were working on their books at the same time; and

4.  Social media is a complete distraction.  In some ways it is amazing.  The YA community has a strong presence on social media, probably not surprising as the readers are all young and into technology.  Authors, bloggers and book lovers interact a ton, especially on twitter.  Twitter is a TIME SUCK.  I'm not exaggerating.  I could get lost on it and I often did.  While it's important to make connections throughout the whole process, I think it's easy to get distracted as well.  So I think I will be setting "work hours," where I block out social media (there are actually apps that do this!)

So now that NaNo is done... now what?  I am trying to make a game plan for what to do next.  Here are my options:

1.  Continue like it's NaNo and get my story done first and then worry about editing;

2.  Stop where I am and go back to start editing to make things clearer from here on out;

3.  Put this story away for now and come back to it at another point (I keep taking notes on ideas for other stories... which keep trying to seduce me away from finishing what I've started); or

4.  Put off making any decisions and just passively not write for awhile.

Okay, I'm not really considering option 4, but I can see how easy it would be to fall into that one.  Truth is, I have like a million things I want to read that I put off all last month.  Some books, but some were blog posts by authors talking about "how they write," and giving a lot of tips on technical aspects (wish these were posted before NaNo!)  Additionally, one author I really liked recommended any new writers read a book on writing novels before starting to write.  So I'm trying to figure out if it would be helpful to read this and then continue, or just continue.

In the end, I will probably do a combination of 1 & 2.  I think I'll go back to take a few notes on my characters so I can have a more cohesive second half of the book, but not worry about major editing until I'm done.  In the future, I am definitely going to outline though, I hate the idea of being that organized (it's contrary to everything about me) but, I think it's going to only help me keep on track.

So here's hoping that December will be a successful month... even though it's already the 10th and I haven't started writing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Greetings From the Middle

Well it has been awhile since I have been able to write a post on this blog.  It seems my free time has been limited, and whatever I do have, is taken by actually, you know, writing.

We are more than half-way through the month, which means I am now starting to look at my progress and worrying about:

  1. Whether I am going to hit the 50,000 word goal (currently at 32,762);
  2. Whether everything I've written is complete crap (answer: yes, probably); and
  3. What comes next (can I actually keep writing this story to the end and get through the process of editing it enough so that it is readable?).

I first heard about NaNoWriMo on twitter.  Some authors and book bloggers were talking about whether they were participating, and the pros and cons of the theory behind it.  The cons seemed to argue it was an artificial way to write a book- that you can't just force writing.  The pros argue it is freeing.  I tend to agree with both sides.  If you are just writing words (quantity not quality) then are you really accomplishing anything?  On the other hand, giving yourself the freedom to just write, not edit or worry too much about content, but just spend a few hours every day writing whatever you want, well it can be a catalyst for something great.  I know this because I stare at the list of authors and books I have read who got their start by taking the NaNoWriMo challenge.  I think they must have had the very same thoughts I've had, or any amateur writer has, and yet look what they accomplished.

I have found this process interesting, and for the most part, fun.  At the beginning, like most people, I was so excited about starting that I didn't really over-think things much.  I didn't bother with an outline (probably- definitely- a mistake), I didn't spend much time getting to know my characters (I meant to, but the November 1st date just really snuck up on me) and I didn't really know how my story was going to end (or really what was going to happen in the middle).  Like that matters, right?  

With all those things missing it is no surprise I am now having problems continuing (hence my procrastination writing this blog post).  However, in the spirit of NaNo, I am not going to really worry too much about how I need to develop my characters more, or that my story needs to definitely be tightened.  Instead, I will just continue trying to meet my daily word count goal (I missed the last two days and it is killing me) and comfort myself in knowing that once December rolls around I will be able to go back and worry about quality over quantity.

I am still determined to "win" this thing!  It just means I now have to write about 1,724 words a day for the next ten days.  No problem, right?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Work Free Friday...

Well we finished out our first week of NaNoWriMo (well technically a little more than a week) and when we hit the weekend, I got my first taste of distraction.  I just could not bring myself to focus and sit down and write.  It wasn't like I didn't have ideas in my head to write about.  In fact, I was still working on a scene I had been looking forward to writing, but which hadn't really gone as well as I had hoped.  (Yeah I know it is technically editing which is sort of contrary to the whole purpose of NaNo, but whatever, I break some of the rules- it's how I roll :) )

Rather, it was just like I couldn't bring myself to sit down and actually write.  I sat down to start my work and here is what I did instead:

1.  Checked Facebook

2.  Checked Twitter

3.  Checked my Email

4.  Checked Twitter again (this is seriously going to be my downfall, I mean there is always something new posted and all I have to do is click on some link and I'm distracted and going down the dangerous path which is the twitter time suck.  Its addictive.  Even the distraction free screen on scrivener doesn't keep me from getting on twitter.)

Finally, I gave up getting any work done on Friday.  It was late, and I knew whatever I wound up writing I would likely delete on Saturday, so instead I decided to take the night off.  I spent the rest of the night reading parts of books I've already read.  Which is weird, right?  The thing is, I was trying to figure out why I like certain books so much, why I would spend the little time I have rereading stories over and over again, and I think it comes down to the characters.  There are some characters you either identify with or you just love.  Of course this is a very subjective thing, but I was thinking what it is about these characters that I like so much.  What causes me to identify with them or have crushes on them and I came up with some common features, most of which I value in the people I know and love, or wish I possessed.  (Disclaimer: this may have just been my way to justify reading instead of writing, but whatever, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

The point is, by the time Saturday rolled around, I was ready to sit down and write.  For one thing, I felt kind of guilty about not writing at all on Friday.  For another, I am extremely competitive and I wanted to stay on track with my word count.  I wound up writing 4,957 words, which was more than what I needed to make up for my slacker Friday.

What is probably more exciting to me is the rest of my book outline came to me.  I had a general idea of the story I was going to write, but I was missing a lot of what happened in the middle and the end.  It sounds weird when I say that, but I was literally writing with the hopes the rest of the story would just come to me eventually.  Saturday, while working on my beginning, my middle and end plots finally came to me.  Now I just have to figure out how to exactly reach those points (little things), but at least I have a much better idea of where my characters are going (big sigh of relief).  

Which got me thinking about what I've already written.  I expect the beginning of my story may be too long.  I mean I was just spewing verbal diarrhea hoping I could come up with an interesting enough story to keep my attention so I could reach 50,000 words.  And as I hadn't really managed to think of a complete story ahead of time, I was winging it until the story came to me.  Excellent plan, but probably not the best way for me to come up with a cohesive story.  Plus, if I detail the middle and end of my story the way they should be, I will be left with an extremely long book.

Which basically leaves me with two options:

1.  Edit the crap out of my story (necessary regardless); or

2.  Break this up into several books.

I am not sure how you determine whether to write a stand along book or instead write a series.  Part of  me thinks this is kind of presumptuous.  Ok a huge part of me thinks worrying about that is presumptuous.  Whatever.  Instead of worrying about it, or even thinking too far ahead about whether I can even come up with enough to fill one book, much less several books, I am going to just continue what I'm doing.  Writing without worrying (well at least not worrying much).  Hopefully, the rest will work itself out later.

Day 11 Stats:

Wrote Today: 1,770 words

Total Written: 23,002 words 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Toddler Birthday Party Nightmares... and Day 7 recap...

So I must have tried to start my blog entry last night a half a dozen times but my brain was just fried and it showed in my writing.  I wasn't making a lot of sense.  So instead I went to bed early with the thought I would write my blog post while Terror 1 was at school and Terror 2 was napping.  Which means I have like thirty minutes to do this.  So this may just be a lot of me spewing verbal diarrhea and not a whole lot of making sense.

I mostly blame the fact that The Commissioner has been out of town so it has just been the three of us for the week.  Which means I don't have much time to do anything non-chore related until after the girls are asleep at night.  Usually, I have a few hours during the day while Terror 1 is at her preschool but that time has been filled with errands lately, not the least being our planning of Terror 1's birthday party.

She's turning three next week.  We've never done a birthday party but now that she's in "school," and has all these friends who do them, she is aware she has been missing out.  So we are going ahead and planning out a birthday party.  Of course just having a simple thing at home wouldn't be enough so now we are going all out and having 20 of her closest friends to a little party at a local zoo.  Seriously?  She's 3 and probably won't remember any of this.  And 20 kids?  What were we thinking.  But the biggest headache has been the gift bags.  Any parent will tell you that the gift bags are such a waste.  They are filled with crap that gets lost or broken within a day, but if you don't have them, your party will be considered a failure by every toddler in the area.  I only wish I was joking.

We had such plans to get organized and not have to resort to buying the usual crap from Party City or wherever.  Except as I've said, I'm all great when it comes to planning, but poor when it comes to execution.  So we are a week out with no time to order anything and I'm going to be making a second trip to Party City this weekend (don't ask.)  I've already bought gift bags, erasers with zoo animals and stickers... I'm still going to buy animal crackers... not sure what else we will put in these bags.  It just seems very random.  And I should probably order a cake soon.  Ugh.  I hate planning birthday parties!

So that was my rant on all things not writing related which have been the focus of the week.  As for writing, well I managed to have a pretty good day yesterday considering how exhausted I was (although I haven't read anything I've written from yesterday so I'm not sure how much of that will need to be erased!)

I wound up writing 2,022 words, which brings my total to 14,438 words.

I haven't started on today's writing, but the Commissioner will be home today!  So as long as we don't wind up getting distracted with birthday planning, I'm hoping for a productive evening.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6 Recap

So like most people, I've been glued to my TV, twitter feed and Facebook watching as the election results came in, and ultimately called for Obama.  I can't even express how much I love election days.  And the fact that my candidate is the one who won tonight doesn't hurt.  Listening to his speech tonight literally gave me chills.  I teared up.

Anyway, all that is explanation as to why I'm posting late tonight, and why I am going to keep this extremely short.  After all this excitement, I am ready to go to bed.  However, before I do that, I just wanted to post my recap of today's work.

I was, happily, able to meet my daily word count, and in fact exceeded it.  Today I wrote 2,112 words, which brings my overall total to 12,416 words.  And tomorrow, I get to write a scene I am really excited about! :)

Now, I'm going to go to bed with a smile on my face.  Obama was reelected (most important) and I met my word count (important to me).  It was a good night.