2016 and Goals

This year I had one writing goal for 2015 and I did not make it.

I wanted to have at least four short stories finished and sent out to publishers in hopes that my name would start getting out there.

Nope.

I’m not good at big lists. I’m not good at anything that’s too involved and too complicated. But I thought that four was a small enough number that I could do it and yet big enough that I would have to push a certain production schedule.

Then life got in the way.

That’s ok. Here is the new goal because I’ve had better luck sticking to it:

Write every day.
Finish what I am writing before moving on to the next thing.

I’m not going to push for any ‘send this out of x amount of markets’ until maybe next year. I AM going to try and get something ready to send to Writer’s of the Future because the prize for that is a workshop that I’d like very much to go to.

But over all? I’m sticking to habits instead of concrete goals this year.

As for the blog:

Tentatively? I want to have post out every three or four days regardless of the day. I feel like anything like a set schedule will be something I won’t keep as in the past I’ve not managed more than a few months at a time. Yes. Deadlines are important and part of training the New Writer-Author-Wannabe.

But if I think of it like, “Eh. Every few days” instead of “OK MONDAY WEDNESDAY FRIDAY OR YOU’RE DOGMEAT” then I feel like that’s more doable.

Plus, these blogs first thing in the morning before I get started with my creative projects have been good word makers and brain cleansers.

So there we are!

I will say, there will probably be a gap in February as I am going to Mexico, a gap in September as I have a work trip to Las Vegas as well.

Have a lovely Wednesday y’all.

 

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Mondays, Perseverance and Clean Starts

Every year I think, “This time, this time I’m going to do it better.”

Maybe its the clean calendar, full of open days that have no obligations or memories attached to them yet. It makes a new year feel like a new notebook. Pages fresh and clean, no blot outs, no torn pages…everything has the potential to be new.

But those new notebooks come with a lot of pressure. You are taking a thing that is beautifully pure, unvarnished with your mistakes and you pour yourself into it, ink drop by pencil scratch.

New Years are like that.

2015 brought a lot of changes into my life. We bought a house. We got a Roommate. My location for my Wage Labor job changed. My husband made it through another semester of college. We got Star Wars. My roller derby team disbanded. My parents moved. My sister brought a new man into our family. I’ve gained pets with my roommate. I’ve had to throw away old things, relocate the things I have, and then turn around to get new things to replace the things that no longer fit.

Writing is like that for me. Always changing. Always moving. Most of the time, forward, as new ideas and new stories come to me. Sometimes backwards as life gets in the way of the thing I really Want to do.

Yesterday, after returning home from the holidays, I began to re-organize my kitchen. My kitchen is the hearth in my home. We all have to eat after all, and if you’re going to eat, you’re going to need a tidy place to make the food.

I also reorganized my current work in progress. My process for both is similar.

For my kitchen I took out everything that I had in each cabinet, looked at it, matched Like with Like and returned it, stacking it neatly so that I could find what I needed. For my novella, I pulled up Scrivener, and then copied and pasted in my project, scene by scene, labeling each card with the character’s POV and folding them together so as to make better sense of where the heck these two crazy kids are going.

Every year is the year we’re going to do it better. And it starts with doing better every day.

It’s so much easier to take it a day. A page. A cabinet at a time. And that is my goal for 2016.

One word.
One step.
One day at a time.

Top 3 Writing Podcasts and Staying the Course

I work a day job that has nothing to do with writing or creating in general. I’m passably good at it and it pays my bills, lets my husband go to school and generally keeps us fed and clothed. It starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. It goes Monday through Friday and gives me vacation during the year. It’s stable and I feel incredibly grateful that I am blessed enough to have gainful, paying employment.

But despite reaching this achievement of the American Dream, in so many ways, I look forward for the day that comes when I can hang up the office scrubs and stay home full time to write and work on my projects. I look forward to one day being able to really push myself as a writer and to sell that which I have been sweating at alone to craft.

It’s hard to keep my motivation up when the wage labor gets intense. After all, what I’ve been doing the past two weeks is training myself to do a part time job along with my full time one. I am so excited to tell y’all that it has been FIFTEEN DAYS of consistent writing. I have gotten up at 5:30am, I have put my butt in the chair and on each of those days have managed to work on SOMETHING that is going to be one day (hopefully) sold to readers.

The best motivator during this time of growth has been podcasts. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to listen to music or podcasts while they’re working, and I recognize this might not be a solution for everyone, but I have found that if I can at least squeeze one or two episodes of a writing-centric podcast while I’m doing some of the more repetitive tasks at work, I’m able to stay focused on what I’m going to write for the next day. It’s the best of both worlds: I am fulfilling my wage labor obligations while also hearing this encouragement from fellow writers.

So, here are my top three recommendations from the last two weeks.

1.I Should Be Writing / Ditch Diggers:

First up, I’m going to cheat and count these two podcasts as one entry because they share a host.  Mur Lafferty caught my attention with her podcast “I Should Be Writing” that is aimed at beginning authors. It was the second/third day of my own personal writing challenge and she was talking about despair and how it can get to you while you’re trying to do a creative thing. I was hooked, because Lafferty  gets it. She truly understands what fragile and in contrast, strong creatures creative people can be.

http://murverse.com/podcasts/

She does a joint podcast with Matt Wallace for her second one, which is Ditch Diggers. This ‘cast has a totally different feel from ISBW. Matt and Mur are speaking to the professional writers who do the writing gig every day. They talk about struggles that professionals face and how they overcome it. They’re hilarious and their banter and chemistry as cohosts really drives the episodes. They also do some pretty excellent interviews with fellow indie artists and creators. I’ve learned lots for my future with them and I hope everyone who needs a little solidarity will pick them up and give them a listen.

2. Upgrade Your Story

http://www.upgradeyourstory.com/podcast/

Ally Bishop is an editor who puts out the ‘Upgrade Your Story’ podcast in an effort to help newer writers and seasoned vets improve their craft. While Mur’s casts are about the lifestyle and motivations of a writer, Bishop is a mechanic for the nuts and bolts of writing. I have found that listening to her podcast while on my way to and from work have helped the editing side of my brain when I am working on tweaking my few finished stories for sending out. Give her a listen. She has over 90 episodes so she’s likely covered something useful to you.

Finally, last but certainly not least,

3. DIY MFA

http://diymfa.com/category/podcast

One of my mutual Twitter followers just finished her book a few months ago and is in the querying/synopsis stage of Agent-hunting. She posted a link to Gabriela Pereira’s ‘cast about Query letters and as I listened I realized how useful all of this advice was to me.

Lafferty and Bishop deal with the writing and lifestyle aspects of the craft, Pereira has framed her cast as if you were taking a remote MFA class. She has interviews with many different professional writers on each episode and lets the listener take to the episode as if they were in a class, learning and growing through a lecture series. I’ve found listening to her while doing things around the house, driving to work and some of the more tedious data-entry that’s required in my job has helped me shake lose areas where my stories are stuck. Plus, because she has so many different interviews, it lets me grow my perspective on what others do.

So that’s it. That’s my list of people who have helped me keep my motivation as I work my way through finishing some of my projects that I have on my task list right now. These are my own opinions, as always, and I’m not receiving any compensation for recommendations made on this blog.

Who inspires you when you’re doing non-writing things?

Upcoming Content and Paying it Forward

Upcoming on The Writings, we’re going to have some personal blog posts about observations I’ve had during this wild and exhilarating writing-career journey, commentary on on-going projects, book reviews and Author reviews.

I might also repost or link business articles and other posts I find entertaining, so if that’s your thing, fab.

Today I want to talk about reach and the pay it forward effect that we writers can experience while we sit alone in our rooms and talk to ourselves.

When I was in college, one of my best friends was in the process of getting her first book ready to sell. I was so damn Impressed y’all. She was working full time at a library and yet still managed not only to finish a book, but also had begun trying to get an agent to sell it. I began to try a little harder on my own writing, try a little harder to become a better writer and become different from where I was at.

Then in 2012 I graduated, moved, started MY first ‘Adult’ job that was a 9-5 style office gig and my writing dried up. What had been easy in college, became something I had to fight with myself about.

Feb of 2014 I challenged her to a one month March-madness word war.

That word war began a spreadsheet that has spanned since then to present day.

For the last 10 day I’ve busted all the eggs (aka the zeros) and put SOMETHING there.

Accountability cannot be under rated. It was because of that sheet that I wrote 163k of words on different projects from March-December.
This year, between taking time off to move and fighting depression and anxiety, I have 36k between Jan-May plus what I’ve pulled up this month.

Those words are almost 200k of progress and effort that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for fellow writers pushing me, family members asking and putting myself out there so that I could learn. Thanks to all.

Coming up in new posts:
Book Review on Anne Bishop’s The Invisible Ring
Podcast Reviews
Editing versus Drafting

 

Habits and Streaks

For the last six months I’ve been doing some other things in my life. I bought a house. I moved a roommate in. I have had some changes at my day job that have caused some adjustments and over all, just slipped away from my writing goals.

Like I said in May, things like this happen.

As I’ve said in other posts, that’s to be expected when you follow me. I am unfortunately, a months on/months off type of writer.

Of course, the goal is, as always, to get better and to have the months off be shorter, the months on be longer and the projects that result from the work to be well crafted and enjoyable.

Right now I am on a streak. An 8 day streak counting this post, in which I have put down effort and work towards a writing goal. I got asked by a Twitter follower yesterday if I came into my morning writing sessions with a word count goal in mind but the stage I’m at in the writing game, ANY words on ANY project that pushes that puppy one more step to completion is a success.

I miss my old writing classes. We’d have to turn in a short story a week and that sort of ‘graded’ deadline was always really motivating. But when you’re a ‘young’ (as in not experienced with no name recognition, not age) writer like I am, we don’t have the luxury of some boss agent or publisher laying down the deadline. And I’m still in the ‘prove yourself worth the time’ stage of writing.

That’s ok though. Right now, I get to write what project I want when I want to. I get to decide if the morning is going to be gay romance novella or my gumshoe urban fantasy.

It’s like being invited to several parties all at once.

I’ve made update schedules in the past but broken them after a few weeks, so new plan.

I’m going to post when I can. If when I can happens to be regularly, then y’all leave me a cheerful comment. If not, then at least you’ll know I took that time to peck away on one of the projects I’m stalking until completion.

Until then, I’ll keep walking this road that always seems to lead, eventually, back to my chair.

Goals for Writing and Life

If you really want it, you’ll make it happen. If you don’t, you’ll make excuses.

I was reading that quote while browsing Pintrest and reeled back from the truth bomb.

It made me start to think about what my goals are and what really is important to me. So I made a list.

A: Living a positive and healthy life

I qualify this as trying to be more conscious about how I interact with people and what I consume. I feel like we’re all responsible for what we do, how we treat others and how we are impacting what’s around us. In the broad sense, that could mean recycling or participating in some social project. But it applies to small things too: Making sure your animals are in clean and safe places. Being the best partner you can be or the best family member. Making your friends feel comfortable and safe. Sometimes being positive and healthy doesn’t just mean trying to smile a lot and doing your work-outs, but also your emotional impact on those you’re around. People don’t always remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.

I think it also ties back to writing. When I write, when I tell a story, I want to convey the high and lows that I am getting from these imaginary people that live inside my head. If my main character is franticly trying to save the vestiges of her mother, I want the audience to feel that. If he’s working as hard as possible with a lot of risk to keep an innocent person from being punished unjustly, I want a reader to be able to identify with that. I might not always be able to find the right words to convey the image, but if I can convey the emotion, then I feel like I’m doing pretty well.

B: Living with no regrets.

Regret is defined as disappointment of a lost opportunity or sadness for a choice that was made. On one hand, I feel some regrets are inevitable. It’s a matter of opportunity cost. You don’t always get to see the complete map of choices you have. Sometimes the other path is shrouded. You can’t let that stop you though. Sometimes things are scary and you have to move forward anyway. With that said, it’s ok NOT to take an opportunity if you don’t think you can handle the consequences that come with that opportunity. We have to recognize that the choices we make in life are like walking down a path. Sometimes our paths can lead us to dark or lonely places. Othertimes the path brings us to a huge field where no clear destination is present. Remember that no matter what road you’ve chosen to walk down, there are always branches that present themselves so that you can change. Maybe that leads you in a circle. Maybe that leads you deeper than you wanted to go. But you always have a choice.

I used to feel really terrible about all the days that I didn’t get my butt in my chair to write my daily workshop of words. But I won’t let myself be upset anymore. If I was doing something OTHER than writing, then THAT was the thing I wanted, not the writing. Sometimes that thing is watching an extra few episodes of a show. Or watching a movie. Or going to the gym or eating or visiting friends. Doesn’t matter. I won’t punish myself for the path I didn’t walk that day. Because there are always branches off those paths that lead back to this chair, this screen, these keys and the mind of my reader.

If we want it, we’ll make it happen. Sometimes you want something other than the words more. You have to acknowledge that and decide if that’s the direction you’re still going to go. I’m ok with that. I need those moments away from this desk and out of these walls to EXPERIENCE my life and to enjoy things. I need the sun and the cold and the rain and the laughter of people around me. I need the tears and the touch. I need the other plots, need to keep my eye on what’s going on around me.

Positive, Healthy and No Regrets.

What are your goals?

How to make use of writing prompts

I often find myself getting stuck in a story about half-way through. The official writer term from this varies from writer to writer; some call it The Middles, but it reminds me more of the doldrums that old time sailors encountered. The wind has stalled, the sea is overly calm and my boat won’t move forward.

This middle part is deadly to most of my works-in-progress and while I’ve been better over the last year at finishing and completing projects, the doldrums are often the most iffy part of my process.

So that’s why I keep a stack of writing prompts in a side file on my computer to help me move the story forward.

Often my issue with stagnation is that I didn’t spend enough time getting to know my characters, or I haven’t explored some manner of my plot. This helps when you get to a section of your story that really requires some exploration of a character trait. That’s when I like to take a moment and free-write character moments.

For example, during my last project I realized that I didn’t know what tattoos a character had on his body. While I didn’t necessarily need to describe all his tattoos in detail, it might be important later when another character saw him. So, I did the thing: I wrote out the ink origins for each of the pieces and kept them to the side. Even though that writing didn’t appear in the book and probably won’t, it lets me understand his relationship with his body and in turn his feelings and reactions when he shares that body with another character in an act of intimacy or, alternative, an act of violence.

Writing prompts act like a kick in my butt to propel me forward into a story. How do you use prompts?