Summer Break 2017 is officially over in my house. The kids are in a new school district, with a new schedule, and finger’s crossed, this is going to be a good thing for us all. Other than the extra driving and time spent packing nutritionally sufficient school lunches that aren’t full of bribery items like Oreo cookies, my days are lighter.
This means, in theory, that more work time will be available. Of course, I didn’t sit down at the computer until 11am – 2.5 hours after dropping the last kid at school. Why? Because the house is empty, so I attacked the clutter before it could attack me first (can’t tell y’all how many times a day I trip over a random shoe, slip on someone’s discarded sock, or jump at the sight of a dog fur created dust bunny, thinking it’s an alien creature out for my toes), and then I started laundry (a chore that only seems to grow, not shrink in size), and eventually, food will be involved. Yeah, I’m kinda already tired, and it’s only noon now. Shiz.
I know I need to make a valid, organized, bomb-ass To-Do list to get my work stuff back on track, but not knowing exactly where to start, I went to my calendar first to see what’s up. Thankfully, this reminded me that a big promotion is going on tomorrow for one of my free books (Please grab Dying to Forget – it’s totally free – if you like YA that isn’t full of kissy-kissy stuff. I mean, there’s some of that in the series, but this book dives deep into the dark interwebs of the suicidal mind. Not for the faint of heart, but meant to give the reader hope. Did I say it’s totally free?? Okay, enough plugging, let’s move on…). I was also reminded of all the other stuff I’ve been ignoring, like emails, and the not-so-fun computer work of finding old files, updating them, uploading them, etc…
You get it – there’s always something to do. But today? The list must start. So, to keep myself accountable, I’m writing this blog post as a public way of telling myself that this To-Do list thing needs to become an actual thing. And now, I can scratch off the top item on the list – dusting the webs off the blog. You were a part of my first thing TO DO. Yay!
For me, my To-Do list, let’s just call it the TDL for short, will have to start as a daily thing, built up to a long-term goal type of thing. Creating lists aren’t on my list of strengths. Does anyone else organize their life in a productive way? I’d love to hear your tips for doing this in a timely manner, on something more than scratch paper or sticky notes. Though I’ll never stop using my stickies, sorry, not sorry. Also, I’m not a huge TDL planner book type of person, though I find them gorgeous. In fact, the first thing that would happen, is I’d probably lose the planner. But I haven’t lost my phone yet. Or my computer. I’m open for app recommendations, and the like. Whatever keeps this boat floating for the rest of the year, so that readers get more words. Thanks for the help. 😉
Now, I’ll go back to wandering around my semi-empty, quasi-quiet home (we have three dogs, two cats and a fish…it’s never really boring and silent here), looking for something to do.
HALO Warzone, anyone? 😛
So, I did it, I survived November. I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Wow, what a month it was. For those who don’t know much, if anything about NaNo, it’s a fun way to challenge yourself with other authors to write a book (the default amount is 50,000 words) in a month. It’s National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo. I had no idea what to expect, just that for the last few years, I have thought everyone was out of their damn minds when November came around.
“Write a NOVEL in one MONTH? Pfft, y’all crazy.” – Pre-NaNo Me
But then October came around and I had such a small amount of words on the fourth title in my Find Me series, that I knew for a fact it wasn’t going to get done by the end of the year if I didn’t up my writing game. So, I enlisted in NaNo two days before the month started. I took it seriously, mentally dabbing on my warrior face paint every morning, happily ignoring laundry piles for days at a time, forgetting almost completely that I had friends and that Vit D from the sun is a pretty amazing thing. I could rock out 1,667 words every day to hit my goal of 50,000 words in a month. That sounds completely attainable, doesn’t it? Well, you won’t believe what happened, and honestly, I kind of don’t really believe it yet either.
This isn’t anything you haven’t heard a million times in your life since the first time you crash-studied the day before an exam in primary school. Writers know this intimately. We even use our writing as a form of procrastination by excusing our behavior as part of the process. I mean, it is, I’m not knocking research time (a necessity), copious amounts of chocolate (also a necessity), or alcohol consumption (borderline addiction for most). But, for some of us, putting off the inevitable is completely standard, and acceptable. Unless you really want to release your book. When you set a goal, have a deadline in sight, and a way to stay accountable, then it’s much easier to turn your process into productive time, and not self-wallowing or Netflix-binging. NaNo did this for me. I took it seriously and did my 1,667 words a day, plus some.
Every writer goes through similar, if not the same struggles during the creative process of researching, writing, editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, etc… This is not a job for the lazy (even though I sit on my ass most the day, sometimes not writing anything for my WIP), nor is writing a job for those looking to make a quick dollar. Writing is very intimate, very personal and soul-fleshing. We authors put our minds on the page and invite strangers to devour them. This is scary shit for some of us, I won’t lie. Since I’m being honest, 2016 was a tough year – financially, and in general. Selling books didn’t come easy this year, nor did setting aside time for writing. I became to loath my job, and doubt myself as a writer. It got so dark in my head for a bit, that I considered throwing in the towel. But, then I realized a lot of my author friends were experiencing similar drops with some of their titles. It wasn’t them, it was the industry, the economy, the competition for sales. It’s just life. It goes up and down and we have to hold on so we don’t fall off. NaNo taught me this month, that if I get out of my own head long enough, I can also let the voices out onto the page. Rather than being hard on myself, I was hard on my computer. It worked.
Organization is not my thing. If your socks are all matching and neatly tucked into each other, next to your tri-folded color-coordinated underwear, then this point is simply about stuff you already know. Plus, I may envy you a tad, but let’s forget that for a sec and focus on the positive: This month I learned that my way of doing things, which is often by the seat of my pants on a schedule I create, doesn’t work to produce the amount of material I would like to see come out in a year. The simple yet helpful tools on the NaNo site MADE me accountable for daily check-ins and word count updates. I wanted to earn my badges and be a winner, whatever that meant. Checking in online once a week with my writer friends was not giving me an immediate sense of accomplishment, because like I said, I was entering a Dark Zone not long ago. NaNo helped pull me out of that and show me how easy it is to hit my goals with the right tools, including some I already have on hand. I did not become a planner overnight, but I did learn that adjusting my preferences might help me in the long run.
NaNo was not about rushing to the finish line before my other writer friends, it was about racing against myself. Can I do this? Should I do this? Will I do this? Every time I saw a status update from a fellow NaNo participant, I cheered them on – because that’s what we should be doing. I did not return to my computer and curse myself for only getting in 500 words for my first sprint of the day. No one wins anything by comparing themselves to others. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope that us authors tend to fall on our asses while climbing, because guess what, we are all different and unique. Some of us have experienced luck, some have not. Some of us have tremendous talent, some are still learning. NaNo is not about beating everyone else. If you win, it’s because YOU made it to the 50,000 mark and YOU deserve a pat on the back for your hard work. When I hit the mark on my 17th day, I hadn’t thought it would be possible. And yes, I printed out the Winner certificate because I’m a nerd and for me, it was kind of a big deal.
So. I won NaNoWriMo 2016. Thousands of other people did as well. Thousands more may not have hit the 50,000 mark, but life happens, and their goals may have been different, and they are just as amazing at the NaNo ‘winners’. In my mind, all those who participated and put in an effort are winners. Y’all rock. What I learned last night at 11:54 when I was rushing to get my final sprint of November in so I could tally up the 99,600+ words I’d written in 30 days, is that the word count itself was not the prize – the way I feel is. I have an almost complete book, IN ONE MONTH. I did it. Despite being married to a busy retail manager who just opened up a new store in town, two children who need to be ferried about throughout the week for school and SPED appts, three dogs and a cat who was an asshole two nights ago because he wanted to go outside in the middle of the night in the blustery air to stare at the stars, I was able to forgo some of my Netflix binge-watching and video game playing and chores, to reach my daily goal, which quadrupled on my good days. That’s how it happened, folks, there was no secret. I did what ‘they’ say, and I wrote. Editing through the first round might suck big time, but the first draft is only mere hours away from completion – thanks to NaNoWriMo. If I can do this, with my crazy and funky schedule and part sloth-like lifestyle, I know that so many others who doubt themselves can do it too. Bonus: I didn’t OD on chocolate or wine. The kids are both alive, as are all the animals. My laundry looks about the same today as it did one month ago, and six months before that. Writing is not about the numbers, but a number can be the goal. So, set your long term goal and your daily goal, set your mind right, and just do it. Nike has created an entire brand off this logo, and guess what, it gets shit done. 😉
I cannot wait to finish this book and share it with my readers. It was a fun ride, and working on it in such a quick amount of time made me closer to my characters, if that’s even possible. If you want to know more about the world I’ve been lost in over the last month, check out my FIND ME SERIES – hey, the first book is free, so you lose nothing but the time it takes to read it. I hope you find it more entertaining than the back of a toilet paper package. 😀
Adulting. The struggle is real with me this week. So instead of fantasizing about why I’d rather stay in bed all day, I decided to make a little list of the things that require my grown up attention before lunch hits in order to motivate my myself a bit. (go ahead and laugh, I did while writing that last sentence)
#1 I had to pee.
#2 Even though it’s cold in the house, staying under the covers was making me sweat. I don’t usually like sweating in bed. Keep your mind out of the gutter, that’s not what I’m referring to.
#3 The cat would not stop yeowing at the hallway door. Seriously, it was like he was in the throes of death and a human had to open the door to let him cross the threshold into the next room or he would continue to sing the song of his people till the entire household went deaf.
#4 The boy was too quiet. The kind of quiet that makes you wonder if he snuck into the kitchen to eat the cocoa powder directly from the tin, or that he was possibly trying to plug his finger into an electric outlet to see if his hand would glow.
#5 Someone had to properly measure the homemade dog food and feed the animals before they began to eat things like shoes and dirty socks.
#6 The house was so cold that someone had to get up and turn on the heater. It wasn’t me, the husband did it, but at least I had the thought.
#7 I forgot to get yesterday’s sheets out of the washer and hang them to dry. Damn.
#8 My mouth began to salivate the longer I thought about coffee.
#9 Yesterday’s Cardio Burn Yoga made every muscle feel as if it had been punched into submission, therefor, a mellow round of yoga stretching was required today just in order to warm my body up enough to walk properly.
#10 The next book will not write itself. So I’ll check my email, FB and Pinterest pages about 100 times. Writing will happen. I promise. Otherwise I won’t be able to pop online and use the hashtag: #amwriting with a straight face.
With the latest book finally released last week (Finding Hope, book 3 of the Find Me series)…it’s now time to set my writer sights on the next project. I honestly didn’t know till this weekend which book I’d work on after FM3. There’s just so many stories to choose from. SO many, y’all, it’s not even funny. To be clear, I have three current series and I don’t know, maybe a gazillion and seven NEW ideas festering to be born. I’m not sure I’m even exaggerating that number. I could be. But I’ve never counted the endless messages of notes I’ve jotted down about a new book idea over the last two years, so it could be WAY more than a gazillion and seven. But it would mean leaving my series’ readers in the lurch. My point? I’m not going to write an entirely new idea right now. So sorry.
The Find Me books have three titles now (averaging about 85k words each). The Station books have three as well (averaging about 45k words each), plus three novelettes, and the Hutch and A’ris series has one book (100k+ words). I asked readers which series they most want to see another book from sooner and they were no help. Because it seems that readers want everything next! So then I had to look at a few mitigating factors: recent releases, book length and interest. That last one is for me, not the readers. lol But that’s also not helpful because I could work on all three of these series! I love my babies equally. (Disclaimer – Yes, that’s true, but I have to say that often, otherwise the Muse will freak the freak out.)
Why bother explaining all this? Because no matter which series I choose to continue with right now, I know some readers might be bummed and will be impatiently waiting for me to finish another book so they can get the NEXT part of their favorite series. And there’s only one me. And so little time in a day.
Which is why I’m choosing to write a fourth Station book. I needed to take a break after the third, and I did that. I let readers into the minds of Niles, Mallory and Kerry-Anne, but Piper Willow needs more time. And the readers have been waiting. The Station books are generally shorter. This means that if I write 2k words a day, 5 days a week, I’d be putting out 10k words a week, or an entire book in one month. Small beans for some of my author friends, but a decent challenge for me. These are low writing goals because my schedule is tight with two young children at home with me (mostly) all the time. It also means I’ll have to actually WRITE those 10k words a week rather than spend time talking about writing online. Sorry, social media, but the plan is for you to see less of me. *double wink*
What’s totally awesome about making a decision is I get to do the fun planning stuff now. The title (already have one in mind – but can’t announce that just yet – SPOILERS), the outlining, the characters…honestly, I’m excited to get back into the Station with Piper! How about you – are you happy for this news? If so, then enough talk and let’s do the happy dance together!
Happy Monday, Everyone!