Early Morning and a Cup of Tea

I get up early to write. Sometimes, I work on new words, and sometimes my revision. If it’s a weird week, and I’m behind, I wind up working on a blog post for the day. Today, I’m working on a blog post.

So about my revision… I have nearly 60 thousand words in my to be cut file, and another 12 thousand in a file of scenes that involve my main characters falling in love. (Some of it’s repetitive, and some of it’ just that the book isn’t supposed to be a romance.)

I have another 29,000 left to put into the neat, tidy order it wasn’t written in, and all together, that brings me to a lot of words for the final product. I’m well above the generally acceptable word count for traditionally published novels, particularly those by a first time author.

There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t really expect to be one of them.

Which means that for every word I put in, I have to remove at least one word from somewhere else. I’m getting a lot more liberal with that machete. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure there are still prime candidates for slashing. It’s just that now, they’re in chronological order.

Ideally, I’d like to have the whole thing finished by April, so–you guessed it–I can go to writers’ conference in the mountains with a manuscript in hand. (Probably the big part of making up my mind about whether to go is will I or won’t I?)

Revision is still a long process for me. It’s not as smooth as I would like it to be, and there are still some **I’m a Pantser** steps that I always feel like I could get rid of, if I just tried harder, and numbered the scenes a little differently in that outline I don’t write before hand.

So, that’s it. My quest to get my WIP in shape and down to a good fighting weight.

IWSG: So, Do I Still Fit In?

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

The Insecure Writers’ Support Group posts on the first Wednesday of the month. More information and the sign-up can be found here.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG will be Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Buter!

When I was working on my first novel–the one in my bottom desk drawer–I was working at a bookstore. I was in a writers’ group, and even though my novel wasn’t up everybody’s alley, we all got along. We had fun. It was a community, and I felt like I belonged.

Now, I’m drifting. I’m in a more mundane job, and my real-life creative community? Well, it lacks cohesion. Here and there, I run into people who write. We have a coke, we talk… the structure and routine are missing. And progress? I really don’t know. I guess you can talk about writing whether you’re getting words or not.

I’ve started thinking of going to a writers’ conference. I’m finally at a place where I might be able to afford it, and where it might actually be worth the money. And let’s be honest, the idea of going out and spending a weekend with my own kind doesn’t sound bad, either.

Hello, insecurities!

Absolutely everything, from finishing my revision (I’m not counting it out.) to what I’ll wear, and the general–and terrifying–fact that I won’t know anyone, I’ll get lost on the way to class, and I’ll probably forget my locker combination.

It’s been a long time, and I’m jittery abut the whole thought.

Anybody else in the same boat? When you’ve been away from other creatives for a while, how do you get back in?  Just close your eyes and jump, or wade in carefully? Any tips?

Juggling Timelines and Cutting with Vigor

I’m making progress on putting my manuscript into chronological order. Most of the time, it’s my own stubbornness slowing things down. Oh, yes…. I’m aware that I just cut out that whole timeline, but that scene is so good.

I’m moving things from wherever they happened to fall in the old manuscript file to their places in the new one, and labeling as I go.

I  have 169 pages left in my original disorganized chunk.

I started counting somewhere around 497.

I’m also cutting a lot of words (or at least throwing them into the cut this file. I’m not a barbarian.) And that’s a good thing, because the manuscript is over the limit, and besides, every word I cut is another word I don’t have to revise later.

I’ll have to write new chunks later, to fill in a timeline that was diverted to send a major character to prison.

I’m still on a tight word budget. Mostly, every word I write will have to be cut from somewhere else, or I’ll wind up with a series that doesn’t begin with a stand-alone. But… I’m not as hopelessly over as I was before the organization and machete-ing.

I’m getting there. Slowly.

Did You Ever Know That You’re My…Jim Bowie?

Once upon a time, Jim Bowie was a mortal man, or so the story goes. Since then, he’s become a “folk hero” which means that separating out truth and fiction is a little tough, and mot people don’t really want to do it, in the first place. Make no mistake, I’m talking about the legend, here. A little fact, a little fiction, and a whole lot of whisky and temper.

Bowie was one of the defenders at the Alamo. That would be Texas vs. Mexico, for those of you who are just tuning in on our International Channel. Bowie and the Texans were massively outnumbered, and more than that, Bowie was sick as a dog.

He was can’t-stand-up, confined to bed, crawling around the fort on his hands and knees sick. Yellow Fever? Cholera? Late stage cirrhosis of the liver? Whatever it was, Bowie was in bad shape to begin with, and winds up giving up command.

There’s a point in the siege when things go from bad to worse. It becomes very clear that the men who stay to defend the Alamo will die. The commander (whose name was Travis, by the way) calls the guys together, and tells them the situation is bad. He gives them the chance to leave while they can.

He draws a line in the sand, and tells the men to cross it, if they are willing to die with him for their cause.

Bowie demands to be carried over that line on his stretcher.

Legend has it, anyway, and plenty of good, sensible people will defend this truth, as if they were there, themselves.

And legend also says that when they found his body, he was propped up against a wall and out of ammo, with a knife in his hand, and surrounded by the many bodies of the enemy soldiers he had killed.

There are plenty of people out there who will use circumstances to explain why they didn’t fight for their goals. I’ve seen that. Sometimes, I do that.

I have friends who don’t. I have friends who amaze me, and keep me on point, and who inspire me.

New baby in the house? Three kids? Elderly parents? Health problems? Learned English at the age of 83 and wrote a book? Became a marathon runner, despite having only one leg, and retrograde amnesia?

No excuses. They do it, anyway. They play through the pain, they fight through it, and they become that person. The one you look at, and you’re amazed that they can do it, and stunned that they can do it that well.

They look at that line in the sand, and pull themselves over it. They’re in. Even if it looks like impossible odds, even if it is impossible odds. No excuses.

And suddenly, my excuses all look so much smaller. Ridiculously small, in fact. They start to look like the kind of things that someone who didn’t want to write a novel would say, not something that someone who can’t write a novel.

And I want to write a novel.

So, suddenly, I’m over the line, and all-in, too.

Organization for the City Landfill and Tidying for Writers

I went all Moleskine-y at the beginning of the year, partly because 2016 dropped me into a dollar-store calendar with write-in dates morass, and partly because I happened to find an almost-new Moleskine in the basement, so why not? Blank pages, and the elastic’s still good.

I’d never realized how important having a calendar is to me, until I didn’t have one. I need to write down my progress to feel like I’m making progress. I think it helps with other good habits, too. Did I or didn’t I take that vitamin? Did I actually eat breakfast, or did I work straight through? And… just how often and how long am I sleeping in, on weekends?

I feel better, if I know I’m making progress, instead of just thinking, and I work harder, if I know just exactly how many blank pages there are in my calendar.

Right now, it seems like the answer is a lot.

And…yeah, I’m sleeping in on those weekends. Not in the sense of “until noon” but well and truly beyond what I do on a normal day.

I’m writing every day, though, and after a while, it will add up. I like to keep a daily word count, and also a running total. Monthly, yearly… I also keep track of what I’m doing for my revision, but that’s a much fuzzier kind of math.

The other notebook is a little harder to describe.

Right now, my sorta-almost idea of how to use it is… Basically all the organization and editing things that need to stay organized and accessible go in the Moleskine. It doesn’t replace all of the spiral notebooks and computer files, but the things like query letter drafts and wrangling that whole comprehensible order thing–those do go in the Moleskine.

I’m working on putting together a functional outline. When it’s finished, I’ll beat the manuscript into submission, and make it look (at least a little) more like the coherent outline. Before I revise the crap out of it.

Someday, I hope to write in chronological order. Last week would be good. I should have worked on that.

I’m not sure if my brain works that way. But I do think having the One Notebook is likely to help me keep things together until I can get it right the second time around. It’s small enough to be with me most of the time, and it can’t be mistaken for any of the other notebooks in my life. It’s also expensive enough that I don’t wind up ripping pages out left and right when I decide I don’t like something.

So… do you write in chronological order, or are you more non-linear like me? How do you organize for revision? What works for you?

The Christmas Invertebrate and Other Delusions

For my first 52 Week Challenge thing, I started writing a short story. By the time you read this, the short story will be finished, maybe edited and formatted, and I’ll be looking for a good home for it. If you know of anyone who’s looking to make a movie, give them my e-mail. Yup, I know it’s a long shot.

It’s a Christmas story, of all things.

Well, you know… Christmas on a spaceship. With aliens… or at least… Sorta… Christmas as celebrated by sentient invertebrates who learned about the holiday entirely through cheesy romance novels and the occasional television commercial.

No, I don’t know why.

Yes, I’ll seek professional help.

Editors are professionals, right?

I’m having fun with this one.

Getting Back to Work is Hard to Do

Why is it that good habits are so much easier to break than bad ones?

Let me lay it out for you.

My pattern is this:1.) Get into a good writing habit. 2.) Stop to revise. 3.) Really, really stop to revise. Farewell, new words. 4.)  Fail to make revision a measurable part of my routine. 5.) Try to figure out what happened to the good habit just broke into a million pieces.

Get into a good writing habit. I’m actually pretty good at that. When I’m working on those first-draft word counts, I’ll hit a thousand words or more a day. That’s a lot. In the course of a year, it can add up to more than a quarter of a million words.

Stop to revise.  Well… that seems pretty necessary. Especially for someone who’s been known to cram twenty-seven murder scenes or  five versions of the same proposal into one book.

Really, really stop to revise.  This is where things start going wrong. The word count drops off, and I don’t really land in the next project with any kind of wits about me.

And then… well, just exactly how do you measure revision goals? What do you do to make sure you do enough? And how do you keep track?  Pretty soon, I’m not writing new words, and I’m not revising, either. I don’t switch back and forth all that well.

And that’s it. Progress is slow–or maybe just not noticeable enough–and I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.

Right now, I’m in the revision stage. I would like to finish my novel. Finish-finish. High-shine polish finished. Elegance and refinement finished.

I keep looking for that perfect balance.

Maybe the short stories I’ve promised to write are it. Something I can finish in an afternoon when I’m not revising.

Maybe short stories will be just enough to prime the pump.

We’ll see.

Suggestions and advice welcome.

Next Year Will Be Better

I’m thinking of getting myself a “next year will be better” gift. Something splashy that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I’m not all that good at splurging, so it took a little effort to convince myself that new shoes and underwear aren’t it.

I’m not looking for some static, shiny object to set on the table. I’m looking for an honest-to-mackerel things will get better, kick-start the progress, something I’ve never done before thing.

The really big things I’vedone for my writing career, so far, are Holly Lisle’s classes, How to Revise Your Novel, and How to Think Sideways. (Yes, and in that order. Long story.) They come with a built-in writing community, so well worth taking the leap, particularly if you happen to be like me. (Marooned hours from the nearest writing group IRL.)

There are plenty of writing books on my shelves, and while some of them are worth the money… I think I have enough, now.

So, I’m thinking in terms of an online-seminar, or… if I can find one that I want to go to close enough to home… a real-life writers’ conference/convention. (Very possible that I’m on the convention end of things.)

The further I get from home–and from places I can couch surf–the more expensive going to conferences gets. So, I’m looking, but I fully expect to wind up doing something on the internet. Which honestly, isn’t that much of a loss.

I like the internet. I love the idea of a place where ideas can exist independently of bodies, if that makes sense.

I’m finishing up a revision, and getting ready to get out there and start querying again. (Probably a ways off, but that’s more or less where I am.) So, I’m looking for something that fits in with that part of the cycle.

Not that I’m going to make up my mind until after the new year. I don’t want any 2016 touching my Thing.

Any suggestions?

Today Is My Day!!!

For the last couple of years, I’ve participated in the Independent Bookworm Advent Calendar. It’s a literary countdown to Christmas, and every day, there’s a different short-story. I think it leans toward the Sci-Fi Fantasy end of the spectrum, but I’ve never really done the math.

Today is my day.

The door opened, and there I am. Me and my short story about a nose hair trimmer. If you subscribed to the newsletter at the beginning of the month, you also got my fabulous recipe for puppy poop cookies with flies. Yes, I know that’s disgusting. But it keeps the children busy, and it also has butterscotch and chocolate.

I got a real kick out of doing it, and it sounds like people are actually enjoying the story.

If you haven’t already, head over there and check out the calendar, and if nose hair trimmers aren’t to your taste, there are plenty of stories that don’t have them.

Let me know what you think.

And the NaNoWriMo Results…

At the beginning of last month, I set out to write a novel–50,000 words of one,  anyway–in 30 days.

And… I was going to do this one sheet of paper at a time, in hopes of a cleaner draft and ultimately, an easier revision. (I’m always looking for an easier revision.)

I was behind from day one.

Obviously, write longhand and then type is not the best strategy for speedy drafting. And that really wasn’t the point.

At the end of the month, I had roughly 14,000 words. That’s not great, and it’s not even average for me. (I usually wind up closer to thirty or forty thousand words in a month, and I aim a little higher than that in a good year.)

I was also blogging–mostly unrelated–and that would add a few thousand more words. Haven’t counted. And there’s the short story I wrote for the Advent Calendar this year. Oh. And I never really got away from the revision I was working on before I started Nano.

So, I started on November 1st with ONE piece of paper on a clipboard and a pencil.

And I started writing the ONE scene that was lodged in my mind.

And then, what?

Well, I found a few more scenes over the course of a month, but I never really got into the story. It never started to feel like one of my stories, and I never really started having fun with it.

Maybe I was a little afraid of this one. It’s the kind of thing that has to be done really well. Otherwise… it would fall off the edges, and either turn into a sermon or a farce.

So… what I learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

  • writing longhand DOES produce cleaner drafts BUT in my case, at least, the reduction in speed adds up to a reduction in passion. I’m not sure which part of that is going to be useful in the future.
  • I may be better off to write as a NaNo Rebel, and work on whatever I already have in the works.
  • Even if something sounds more efficient, it may not be the best path for me.
  • I still need to get out there and be a part of the community, even when things aren’t going well. I started tanking in word count, and withdrew. I didn’t do a lot of the social things on the Nano Site that I would have liked to.

For next year… I’m not really sure what the goal should be, but I’m probably going to keep working on whatever I’m working on when it gets here. I’ll also focus more on the community building aspect of it.

So, what about you? Lessons learned? Strategies for next year?