Routines

Part of my ability to get words down into a word processor comes from Routine.

I used to think that I could only write when the ideas came. That’s why I enjoyed reading books. It seemed to me that writers were magical people that had ideas all the time and had no problem getting them out onto a piece of paper. Maybe, I thought, they just mailed in their great ideas to a Book Maker who immediately realized how wonderful it all was and sent it to press.

My first writing-advice came from the Rivan Codex by David Eddings. In that book, he talks about being a writer in his prologue, speaks about how he developed his fantasy stories. He talks about Editing, something that I wasn’t familiar with in my teens. I remember realizing then as I read that book that there was so much more that went into creating a book than just writing.

In college I learned that you don’t just sit down and create a masterpiece. I mean, of course SOME people do. I know Dean Wesley Smith is a big proponent of not editing your story to death. However when you’re in that beginning phase of learning the craft, you have to throw a lot of pots before you get one that makes it though the kiln without shattering.

The key to that practice is routine. When I was learning Clarinet, I had to put in an hour of practice a day. When I was attempting to learn my multiplication tables, it was repetitive routine. When I am learning skating skills for Roller Derby, it’s focused skating to teach my muscles where they need to gain strength.

Writing is no difference.

My routine, at the moment is as follows:

Alarm goes off at 5:45am. Get up, put on robe and slippers, find glasses. Go to desktop and plop bottom in chair. Turn on music and put on headphones. Open up word processor. Type until 6:30. Get up and go get ready for day job. Come home from day job. Do an hour of making dinner, picking up or whatever small errands need to be attended. At 7, come back to chair and put butt in it. Open up word processor. Work until about 9:30. Go to bed. Rinse. Repeat.

There are days that are challenging. On Monday, I had some afterwork responsibilities. On Thursday I have an event I’m attending with a friend. Both of these things break into the evening word count. On those days, you make up where you can. Sometimes I’m able to get the words in at lunch at work. You just have to find those ‘dead times’ in your day where you wouldn’t normally be doing anything.

I dream that one day when I go full time (Not before 2019 the rate I’m going) I can just work for blocks of time and won’t need to snatch here and there, but even full time writers have to make the time to get things done.┬áRock those writing routines, y’all. It’s amazing what we can get done in 15-30 minute stretches.

NaNo Updated Part 3

We’ve had a couple write-ins so far and progress is going well.

I’ve added a word count widget on the sidebar of the blog for accountability sakes.

When I started doing my Word Challenge with my friends in March, there weren’t daily goals so much as there was the challenge to see what others were writing and the attempt to keep up the habit of the daily word work. Now, I’m running into the challenge of sticking with one project and only one project. Before I’d hop between two to three projects a month. Sometimes this short story, sometimes edits on that short story and a chapter here or there on a novel in progress. NaNoWriMo is much more intense.

Because I’ve worked on the same project for the last two days and it’s NOT a short story.

Usually, at least for me*, a short story has one to three talking characters with three try-fail/scene-sequel sequences. Then, there is a conclusion. Novels, on the otherhand, I set up more like this long rollercoaster.

Chapters 1-10 are the cranking chapters. I like to lay out my dominoes so that I can knock them over, explode them, or shoot them down in a spectacular manner later. Around chapter 20 or so, I like to dip you down to the lowest part of the story, let my main character hang naked over the volcano of her problems for a while then have her haul herself up, cut her feet out from the ropes with the knife she hid in her hair peice and climb her way back to the top and take out the figurative-marauders that put her in that pickle in the first place.

Well. That’s the idea and the plan. The truth is that I’ve never successfully completed a novel. I usually get the first cranked up chapters and then quit because the writing bogs or gets boring. :/

So here is to a year of breaking through barriers and not quitting. It’s Day 5 of Nano today and hopefully we’re all the word goal of 8335 or at least getting there. Hang with me dearlings, and we’ll ride this challenge out together.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is that of an unpublished writer who is documenting progress as she works towards full time freelancer status. I am not an expert. I just am creating a record of what I do in this business every week so that those who are learning like me have a place to reference or learn from.

Goals

I am, historically speaking, a procrastinator.

I think I’ve covered this before, but for today’s post it’s important to understand that reaching benchmarks and meeting goals is something I couldn’t do for a long time. Honestly, I have a hard time determining where in my life that changed. In college? Maybe? In High School I was the person who ‘never met her potential’ because she ‘never tried hard enough’.

A goal was something my teachers would talk about setting and meeting, like it was a homework assignment. Goal to get into college seemed far away when I was more concerned about if I would be able to afford the cute knee-high pleather boots that matched my pleated mini-skirt.

When you’re working about 25-30 hours a week to help chip into the family income pool, it takes away the drive to do much outside of school, even if a teacher tells you that it’s for your own good. I had very little complaints about work ethic from my employers and to this day I’ve yet to be fired for slacking.┬áSo I knew, subconsciously, that the possibility of working hard was there, after all I worked hard at the day job. It was hard getting my brain to accept that I also needed to work hard for myself.

Deadlines help but if you don’t know where you’re trying to end up, it makes traveling down your road a little difficult. After all, with no destination in mind, how are we suppose to navigate the path in front of us?

When I read a book, one of the things I marvel at is the way some authors can pace a novel to hit every emotional point during their try/fail sequences. These sequences are also known as Scene and Sequel. They happen when your protagonist starts their journey off with the assumption that their plan is going to go one way and then it all goes sideways. At DragonCon this year, Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera was a guest. Now, Butcher is, in my biased and young professional opinion, the best writer I have ever seen at Scene/Sequel-ing. He puts Harry Dresden through hell and back in each of his books and yet it always feels fresh. This is a hard thing to do! Especially when you have over 15 books in a series. I asked him how he did it? How he trained himself to pace his novels in such an exciting way.

To paraphrase, Butcher told me that you have to think of your novel as a roller coaster. While you have your climbing action and your loop-de-loops, your sharp turns and your angles planned into your plot, it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t know where you’re ending up. I was inspired.

For my next two short stories, I realized I needed to find my ending before I could really understand that horrible middle stage of writing. And once I did, all of the knots in my plots became clearly untangled.

Just like it’s applicable to writing, Life benefits from this advice.

I haven’t known what I wanted to do with my writing career for a long time. I grew up being told by everyone I knew that Writers Couldn’t Make A Living Writing Fiction.

Yet this year, I got the StoryBundle deal for NaNoWriMo and read Dean Wesley Smith’s books about killing the sacred cows of publishing. (Link HERE if you haven’t heard of this gentleman). Then I read his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book, The Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Now, I currently am no where near ready to launch myself into a career with freelancing. I have some debts to pay off from college, my husband is currently IN school right now working on his degree as he worked full time while I was in college, and my body of work is tiny due to not buckling down to create until this year. Yet now, with these two writer’s advice, I feel like I understand what I want better. I understand my DESTINATION.

With NaNoWriMo started this weekend, I hope that you understand your goals. Right now, the goal might be short: Write a novel in 30 days. I’m moving on the working theory that while that is a good start, my goal should be to KEEP writing after this novel is in the can.

Writers Write and finish what they write. Then write something else.

Deadlines and Why they give me life

I am a professional procrastinator.

Well, I would be a professional but I keep putting off applying for the business license.

It all started in grade school when I would put off a ‘hard’ homework assignment in favor of finishing a coveted book. I hated that I did it, hated that I would put all this stress on ‘The Thing’ whatever it was. Usually ‘The Thing’ wasn’t just something that was tedious or time consuming, but something that I’d built up in my head as being difficult, when had I just sat down to do it, it would have been handled.

This evolved into a skill that I didn’t realize I needed: The ability to get hard things done in a short amount of time because I had no other option.

I mean, sure, I could have just NOT done the thing at all…but multiple punishments and consequences of not doing ‘The Thing’ made that option not just unpleasant but in some cases, unbearable.

Procrastination stems, I have come to figure out, from a deep seated need to be perfect in what we do. I tell myself all the time, “I can’t write that next scene because I haven’t figured out what happens next!” or “Well, Work In Progress number 3 needs to be done…but I’ve got a month before I have to submit anything to that place, so I’ve got time to do it.”

The answer to my bad habit? Self-inflicted deadlines with dire and horrendous consequences.

Don’t want to finish your rough draft for the Writers of the Future contest? Hmm. You’ve got until Sunday or no Walking Dead for you.

Won’t put your words in on this project this week? If you can’t get them done by Friday, I don’t really think you NEED those ice cream cones this time around.

Oh! Did a new Asimov Magazine come out? Oh…but you didn’t finish your second round of edits on the work in progress? Shame. You’d better get that story combed or your husband is locking away your eReader.

When I was in college, my projects were finished at a much higher percentage than when I graduated. I had DEADLINES. And knowing that something only had x amount of days to be completed gave me motivation and drive. When I work on a story for a contest, I do use all the days I have available, and maybe my submission slide in underneath the lowering door of that time limit, but it doesn’t matter. As long as they are SUBMITTED, I’m not going to worry that I only had 1 hour to get them done. They are finished and that’s the victory.

Now, as I mentioned, the procrastination hasn’t gone away. I still put things off. But giving myself a deadline for each step along the path gives me time to still get something done without giving up all together.