Category Archives: Goals

The “more” to life part

Writing, it sometimes seems to non-writers, should happen no matter what else is going on in a writer’s life. If times are good, if times are bad, whatever the case may be, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for someone NOT to be writing, they often think. But, of course, writing is not like that, not at all.

I know many writers who approach writing as “just a day job” and produce work every day, keeping regular work hours of the 9-5 variety, and pumping out book after book, article after article, much of it readable and enjoyable and quite good. And I know a few writers who only write when inspired, who only create when the muse is in residence and the iron is hot.

I used to be one of those “inspiration” writers, myself. It’s part and parcel of being a bipolar person– when you’re up, the writing flows out of you uncontrollably. When you’re down, you’re as dead inside as a stone and you’d get words out of one of those rocks just as easily as your depressed mind.

When I was working on my first novel, however, I discovered that it is possible to write in a businesslike way, day after day, whether you feel inspired or not, and even if you’re feeling depressed. I set myself a daily limit and, rain or shine, I wrote those words each day. It helped keep me stable, really, having that requirement waiting for me. It’s too easy to let depression win and stay inert. Having something you MUST do– taking a walk, writing a book, caring for a child, watering your plants– well, it helps to get you out of bed at least.

The only problem comes in when it’s outlining and creating time– you really HAVE to be inspired to sit down and come up with the bones of the story itself. Otherwise, you’re just staring at a blank page and cursing.

And all my inspiration this month has been spent on the surprise I was planning for my 25th anniversary. You see, my husband was suddenly sent to El Paso for a two week work trip, leaving me home alone with the kids. And, haha, alone with the bank account. I told him that I needed to spend some money, and he agreed. And I poured everything I had into a home redecoration project that ate up every second of those two weeks.

It was an ambitious project– I painted the walls and ceilings of the nursery bedroom and the gameroom area, stripped and painted two dressers, a bookshelf, and a coffee table, and gave the coffee table a tiled top with painted Mexican tiles. Then I had to polyurethane it all. My son welded, painted, and repaired our large birdcage so we could move the parakeet to larger digs. We bought new bedroom furniture for two bedrooms and assembled it (damn you, ikea directions), hung all this new art we bought, painted and painted and painted some more, cleaned, organized, and spent way more money than anticipated. (Photos of it are on my Facebook page, if you’re interested.)

And, frankly, it was exhausting. Each of the rooms had to be entirely emptied of the accumulated toys and junk that was shoved into closets and piled up in corners, the furniture had to be carried downstairs so it could be repaired and repainted, the walls had to be cleaned and patched before they could be painted, and since we don’t have a paint sprayer, it all had to be rolled or brushed by hand. All of the junk had to be gone through, item by item, and either put away or thrown away. I made multiple trips to hardware stores, tried all kinds of new home improvement techniques that I had never tried before (texturing and patching drywall is hell, FYI), and still had to care for children and feed them and all that jazz as well.

It left nothing for writing.

And, now that I am finally done with it all . ..  boom, another arthritis flare. Grrrr. Not what I had intended. Just typing this is making my finger joints ache miserably.

But, in the quiet moments, my characters are talking again. That sounds insane to non-writers, probably, but they do exist, living their separate little lives deep in the subconscious, making biting comments about each other and speculating about the plot-to-be. The plot is building, little pieces coming together to form the first outline, the structural “how-to” that will undoubtedly be unrecognizable by the time the novel is finally complete, but which is vital to actually getting the action moving. The first scene is burned into my mind, and the words keep coming to the surface, just waiting for me to write them down.

But I haven’t opened that Word file and named it yet. Because once I do, there’s no turning back. There won’t be time for decorating the house or making macrame plant hangers or finishing my daughter’s Halloween costume. Or even for finishing the memoir that I’m editing or the YA novel that I have in progress. Once the next novel begins, it’s a freight train that will run, day and night, for at least two or three months, a minimum of 2000 words per day, whether I feel the love or not.

And I’m not quite there yet, because I want to clear the decks. I honestly don’t know how some writers can do more than just work on their One Big Project. For me, it’s like a Big Novel that I’m in the process of reading. Sure, if I’m reading a few things that aren’t too compelling, I can read a few pages here, a chapter there, of half a dozen books at a time. But if I’m reading, say, War and Peace, there’s no room left in my mind for anything else. The big idea takes over and all I can do is live inside that space.

I also need to finish up these last few books in the Best 100 novels list before I begin, because I can’t read anything that anyone else has written when I’m working, or it starts to bleed into my style. I couldn’t even read anything over the past two weeks, I was just too exhausted by the entire project. Now I have a couple weeks where I can hurriedly finish up these last 6 titles I’m reading, finish this memoir and get it published, get the kids going on their homeschool curriculum, finish all the Halloween sewing, and try to grind through this YA novel really quick.

But Valerius is lounging on a chaise, his booted feet crossed, a glass of wine in his hand, and his eyebrow quirked at my tardiness. I know, I know, you want your screen time. And, I promise, it’s coming. I have October and November entirely blocked out for just writing “The Blood of the Queen.” That won’t be enough time, so it will have to start in September, probably mid-month, so I need to get going on this stuff fast.

But, anyway, that’s the “more to life than writing” part. I could just write, but it wouldn’t be much of a life, now would it? I don’t blame authors who complain that their readers are too demanding, because life happens and things don’t go according to plan. As a reader, though, I know how frustrating it is to start a trilogy and not have a second or third book to read for, oh, DECADES after the first book or two are done. And I don’t plan on that happening here. I really want to move on to Book 3 as soon as Christmas is over, but we will see what happens. As dicey as my health has been lately, it’s hard to promise anything to anyone. I have small children who’ve been desperately wanting to go to the lake, but that’s pretty much impossible for me when my arthritis is so bad that I can’t even get around the house.

If I have a wish for Christmas, I want to be healthy! I have so many things I want to do.


Editing, the non-thrilling part of writing

So, I am about a third of the way through the final edit on the manuscript for my dragon novel, Dragon Venom. Oi, it’s a tedious process– going back and fixing all those little typos and dropped commas and whatnot. Also changing some of the names of places, as I wasn’t satisfied with the names as they were. I tried a naming scheme for the places that just didn’t quite work out, so all of those need to be fixed, doublechecked, and then the map needs to be re-drawn. My artist and my Photoshop consultant both need to be consulted regarding the changes, and the changes applied to those things.

But, it’s looking good. If I can keep things on track and get over this nasty cold that the kids brought home, I am looking at a June release date. Which, yeah, is ambitious, considering how crazy things are this month, but I am really looking forwards to getting this novel published and out there where people can read it. You can get all the feedback possible from your first readers, but there’s nothing quite like having actual readers reading your work.

I’m also working as an editor on another project, not for money, just for the love. It’s not a very big project, just a short story collection, but I hope to get it done very quickly. Then, I’m going to be working on the next novel in the dragon series, plus I am outlining a suspense novel. Whew. Lots to be done!


Progress and The Idiot

The thing about chronic illness is that it plays merry hell with your writing production.

I was reminded of this powerfully this month, not only because I have spent the past six weeks suffering through this stupid cancer treatment and a very bad arthritis flare simultaneously, but also because I finally finished reading Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Idiot.”

In my own life, my arthritis flares start with fatigue so all-encompassing that I could easily sleep 20 hours a day if I wasn’t forced out of bed to deal with reality. And when I am out dealing with life, I am functioning about as well as a zombie might. Once the fatigue passes, the pain begins, and typing is just one of the many things that becomes nearly impossible.

Dostoyevsky wrote “The Idiot” during a turbulent period in his life, and it’s possible to watch his own illness come and go in the quality of the plotting and writing. Some sections of the novel crackle with energy and the plot hums along without any hesitation. And then there are the sections where there’s hesitancy, redundancy, and a slight bewilderment in the plotting. Those periods are followed by chapters that suddenly introduce a narrator, who digresses about authorial intent and writing techniques. All in all, “The Idiot” is an at-times bizarre mess of a novel.

But it’s a grand mess, a touching long rumination about the nature of goodness, the difficulties of living in the real world with real sinful humanity all around you, and it also functions as a venue to explore the worries and fears of a man who was afflicted with epilepsy (as was the titular character.) It took me months to read through it, mostly because it required concentration and a lot of patience. The more confused chapters are difficult to get through, and whether or not Dostoyevsky purposefully wrote them that was as a reflection of his character’s mood or if it was an unconscious reflection of his own mental state, they’re very hard to get through. Once the characters leave Petersburg for Pavlovsk, the narrative meanders and doubles back according to whimsy.

I have started working again, although of course I am more than a month behind on my goals and stated ambitions. And I can only say that sometimes Reality steps in and makes its own goals the primary ones. Getting through each day, trying to get the very basic things of life done, it leaves no time for art or craft. If you can’t even remotely figure out how you’re going to cook dinner or make it to the dentist without falling apart, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re not going to be working at any sort of artistic high point.

So, I will continue to work. And I will update when I am done. It shouldn’t be too long, however. My birthday is soon and I want to be out with the old and in with the new, so to speak. Getting these old projects off my to-do list would clear the decks for more new things.


New Year, same old resolution

It’s funny how the end of the year makes you really stop and re-assess your progress. On paper, my year doesn’t look so awful.

1 novel written, 3 picture books written, novel submitted to a contest, one of the picture books submitted to several agents.

Looks fairly productive, doesn’t it?

Only I know that I could have done much better if I had really stuck to my writing goals. I pretty much stopped my daily writing as soon as the novel was finished and I didn’t pick it back up again, no matter how much I told myself that I intended to.

So, my new year’s resolution is pretty stale and old: Write more!

It’s not exciting, it’s not thrilling, and all it promises me is at least an hour a day of generally frustrating time spent working. I have a lot of other things that I need to do this year, but getting back to work as a writer is something that I do mainly for myself. It’s certainly not a Get Rich Quick scheme. It’s not going to make me healthier or make my family happier. It’s something I do just to please myself, something that only really rewards me. And the rewards only come with that sense of accomplishment when something is finished or sold. Sooooo . . . some more goals:

I want to finish one more novel in 2013.

I want to write and publish one nonfiction e-book in 2013.

I want to sell at least 3 short stories in 2013.

I want to edit and polish my first novel again and find an agent for it.

I want to polish and edit my 3 picture books again and find an agent for them, too.

I want to write 3 more picture books.

Pretty ambitious, but not out of reach. I think that I can accomplish all of the writing goals. The goals of selling and getting an agent are less under my control, but definitely possible. I just have to keep working at it.

So, 2013 is going to be a busy year!

 


The Cliffs Notes Version

I’ve decided that I will never finish the Modern Library’s Top 100 novels list unless I read a book a week from now until my 40th birthday. Even then, it’s going to be close, squeaking in under the wire.

To start my journey into classic fiction, I started reading “The Sound and the Fury” yesterday.

Yikes.

Talk about a novel for which you NEED the Cliffs notes. I’m using some online web resource instead, but I have to have someone point me in the right direction while I’m reading. As in “What the heck is happening here?” and “When is this happening? He has like sixteen different time periods in ONE STINKING CHAPTER” and a lot of other things which I can’t publish because they’re profane.

I have a love/hate relationship with Faulkner. There is no one finer at baffling you, that’s for sure.

I feel generally good about this challenge. I can read about a page per minute, so a typical novel takes me about 6 hours to read. Stretched over the course of a week, it’s eminently do-able. I just have to have the sand, the steel,  the sheer gumption to stick with it. I can’t hit 40 and have failed this quest. For it is a quest . . . reading each novel is a journey with a dragon to slay. And you never know who you’ll be when you come out at the other end.

Ambiguity intended: sometimes, the dragon eats YOU.

So, this is my sole New Year resolution, my only hope and dream for the year. Of course there’s lots of stuff about the kids and weight loss and fitness and such– those are all long term goals that won’t simply be resolved in a year. These books WILL be finished, by hook or by crook. I want to be able to say that I read them, not because it will impress anyone but because it will make me happy. I will feel a sense of accomplishment that I currently lack. I will feel “freed” of the burden of being an uneducated woman. Sure, I haven’t read everything, I can say, but I HAVE read the Modern Library’s list of the Top 100 novels. Not bad for a trailer trash girl from Arizona.

😉

(Disclaimer: I only lived in a trailer park for a month as a child. It just SOUNDS so good, you know? lol)