Monday, June 29, 2015

Irony and Naive Past Me



Oh, life. You do play the best jokes. 

Me Last Night: It’s good to be blogging again. I can’t believe the post I just put up (about the craziness of my three jobs getting in the way of writing) was only my third for this year. That’s kind of embarrassing. I mean, look at how much I used to post back in the early years.

*reads a few old posts*

*finds this one about moving from Maryland to Oregon* 

*reads this optimistic prediction of my future Oregon life and work:*

"I'm actually looking forward to having more time to blog and write once we're settled, since I'll be leaving my three jobs behind and searching for just one."

*bursts into laughter that is only a tiny bit bitter*


Speaking of not learning from past missteps, anyone want to join me for Camp NaNoWriMo this July? Just kidding with the negativity; you know I love me some NaNoWriMo (whether or not it's good for my project, eh), AND most importantly, the camp version allows you to choose your own goal, so I can set mine low enough that I don't sacrifice anything for word count. I'm thinking 20,000 words (because I was aiming for 500 words a day, but then 20K sounded nicer and rounder than 15.5K. I am already falling into my own trap, methinks). 

Let me know if you're going to camp!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Meaning, Motivation, and Where I've Been


Helloooooo! 

I haven’t been around here since winter – gah, apologies! – mostly because I took on a third part-time job back in February that just might have pushed my schedule from really busy to utterly overwhelming. It was one of those opportunities that I gradually fell into even while telling myself that I didn’t have the time. The position involves helping high school seniors successfully transition to community college, which is right up my alley and connected so well to what I was already doing that I found it impossible to say no. All three of my jobs allow me to spend time with some fantastic people… just not with my characters, my critique partners, or you, my lovely internet friends. I’ve been fighting for months to find some sort of balance with all the elements of my life, and pondering just where my writing fits after going months without penning more than a few paragraphs.

I am not one of those authors whose impulse to write is always insistent and all-consuming. I could never give up writing entirely, but I can easily go a few weeks or a few months without writing and feel fine (other than the undercurrent of guilt, anyway).  My hands do not start grabbing pens on their own volition, my characters do not stage a coup and take over my brain. My creative world just takes a nap, or finds other means of expression, and I have to work to wake it up again when I return to the page. 

Until recently, I haven’t had the energy, ability, or impetus to wake it up. My insane school year schedule doesn’t leave me with much time at all to write. I can steal some free minutes here and there, but at those times I usually feel too exhausted or frenzied to craft anything creative. I read instead, or try to catch up on work or sleep, or gaze out at our jungle of a yard and imagine myself doing something to tame it.

I also enjoy most of my time at work, however, so there isn’t that burning need to escape the daily grind that motivates some writers to give up their early morning or late night hours in the pursuit of publication. (Not that anything could ever, ever, ever motivate me to wake up before dawn like some writers, but you get the point. I used to wield my night owl powers for writing at least.) I find a great deal of satisfaction in my day jobs, so that even if I won the publication lottery, or the literal lottery for that matter, I think I would still want to hold on to one or more of them. (Although, okay, if I win the actual lottery, I reserve the right to spend half of the year on my dream New Zealand horse farm/puppy playground/sports and lawn games arena/writing retreat staffed with a personal chef and someone who knows anything about horses.) There are still many reasons I would love to be published some day, but that career change escapism is no longer one of them.

I definitely realize that having three reasonably enjoyable and meaningful jobs is a fortunate problem to have in the current climate, so I’m not trying to complain, or to claim that it’s impossible to write unless you’re living in a garret with a steady supply of free time and misery. It just means I have to fight for time and seek out other sources of motivation. 

All of this could have turned into my retirement from writing, but I promise it’s not! During the summer two of my jobs blessedly slow down a little, so I’ve finally had a little time these past few weeks to breathe and plan. I'm finding (to my relief) that I’m just as committed to writing as ever. I've accomplished a good deal of brainstorming and drafting this week, and it feels fantastic. It feels like a new pattern and balance to my life. It feels like momentum.

What keeps me going even when it seems more logical to let writing go? 

~ The fact that this world and its characters have lived in my head for years now, and I've put parts of their story on the page in multiple imperfect iterations, and yet I’m still not tired of them in the slightest. (Though they might be tired of me for making them wait so long for a final product.) 

~ The fact that I love the writing community and have always wanted to be part of the world of books that has shaped (and continues to shape) who I am. 

~ The fact that I want to prove to myself that I can tackle this puzzle of a novel and figure out how to solve it. I like to stretch my brain, and I don’t like failing or giving up. Even though plotting and fantasy world-building are seriously so freaking exhausting, guys. HOW DO ALL OF THESE AUTHORS DO IT?

~ The fact that I have some wonderful (and wonderfully persistent) people in my life who have been supportive of my writing dreams for a while now, who may hurl kumquats and pineapples at me if they don't get to read a full manuscript from me in the reasonably near future. 

~ The fact that my writing time never feels wasted, even now when I have so little time to spare. 

I don’t know yet how I’ll find a better balance come October, when work gears up full throttle again. I just know I have this summer to carve out as many vacations as possible into my fantasy world and travel as far as I can with my endlessly patient, frequently stranded characters. 

How goes your writing life? Can anyone tell me the secret to finding that life balance? Or crafting an effective plot? Either one, I'm not picky.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest

The String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest hosted by Flash Fiction Chronicles opens TODAY! The prizes are generous and the challenge is exciting. They're looking for stories up to 250 words that include at least 4 of the terms from their intriguing word list, and for an added bonus you can choose to write to their theme, a quote from Galileo. See the list of 10 words and the full rules here. 

I love this contest. I've never made it into the winner's circle, but I've received honorable mentions and come up with the kernels for stories I've expanded and sent elsewhere. Even when I don't come out of the week with anything to submit, I still enjoy the creative whirlwind set off by that word list. 

It only lasts for a week (closing at midnight PST on 2/15/15) so get writing and best of luck!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Reading Year

I juuuust barely made it to 100 books in 2014. Yay! I was tempted to break down every last snazzy statistic like some bloggers have done (check out Jessica Spotswood's awesome post), but my brain started going all bleary with the counting and crossed categories, and I'm eager to get a jump on my reading and writing goals for this year instead, so I'll save the analysis for another year when I do a better job of labeling as I go. 

Here's the simpler summary:

Read: 100

Owned: 44 (including 35/50 on the Off The Shelf Challenge...need to work on that)
Borrowed: 56

Audiobooks: 11
E-books: 12
Good ol' paper and ink books: 77

Non-fiction: 21
Fiction: 79

And, in alphabetical order...

Top Three Nonfiction:


Top Ten Fiction: (yeah, there was no way I was getting this list down to only three)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

or whatever wintry holiday(s) you celebrate :-D.

May your day be full of peace, joy, and the unbridled enthusiasm of our dear dog Karou opening her presents: 



If there's a problem with the gif, try clicking here: https://imgflip.com/gif/fpb50

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Breaking Free From Word Count Tyranny (but only after winning NaNo)



I should have announced it earlier, but yes, I did it! My sixth NaNoWriMo win. Though my graph was decidedly, ummm, more exponential than linear:


That sad plateau in the middle I blame on (1) having an extra busy work week (2) getting quite sick and (3) finally getting my hands on the first season of Sherlock. (Sooo gooood!)

Thank goodness for holiday weekends. This year was the first time we weren’t either traveling home for Thanksgiving or hosting a Friendsgiving at our place, which seemed sad at first, but it meant I could use my days off of work just to write (and write and write and write until I caught up), including one marathon day where I wrote a PR 10,000 words (which still seems absolutely crazy). Also I could eat most of the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Win Win Nom Nom. 

I also think I did a fair enough job meeting my other goal, which was to write something less forced and random than I usually do during the NaNo frenzy. I’m not saying what I wrote is all careful and organized and polished and ready to be shown to the world (ha. haha.) but it is definitely closer to the mark. There were fewer throwaway scenes, less goofy padding language, and more realizations about where my novel should go. 

But HOLY SAVE THE CAT is there still so much work left to do. Despite the progress, so much of the plot still feels like a mess of decisions I don’t know how to make. 

So I’m very glad I did NaNoWriMo, but I also know it shouldn't be my model moving forward. I tend to get overly attached to quantifiable goals and chase the numbers at the expense of everything else, and right now I need solid ideas and connections more than I need piles of potentially unnecessary words. I still need some sort of structured motivation though. I think (hope!) I’ve figured out the right compromise: I’m sticking with the sticker calendar method, but changing the parameters. It’s not just about word count any more, but about having a solid writing day. 

I remember reading some advice from (I think) Raymond Chandler, who suggested setting aside a few hours each day for writing. You don’t necessarily have to write during that time if you’re stuck, but you aren’t allowed to do anything else. The idea being I suppose that if you stare out of the window long enough with little to focus on other than your story, any writer’s block you have will start to work itself out and your fingers will be back on the keys. 

So I can still earn a sticker for 1000 words, or from, say, figuring out a major plot point, but I can also earn it just by putting in over an hour of highly focused writing time. It can be brainstorming, outlining, drafting, or editing, so long as it’s just me, the story, and maybe some staring out of the window, but no tricksty web of the internets or any other distractions.

I’ll have to see how it goes and report back. How are your post-NaNoWriMo writing or revising strategies going?