I’m So Healthy I Can Hardly Stand It

I am in the midst of a give-up soda and (some) other sugars and cling to a set schedule lifestyle shift for health. It’s actually working incredibly well for me. I feel great, I’m being productive. I’ve nearly reached the point that I’m saying “iced tea” when I order in restaurants, as opposed to “Coke” and then correcting myself. Nearly.

I’m not exactly used to all my new sugar alcohol friends. I’m not used to having a limit on sweets that is so ruthlessly enforced. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m eating, well… that laxative effect catches up with me. And that happens well before I get to the point that I would like to stop eating those sugar-free goodies.

Well, it will take time.

I do actually feel better, and I’m fairly sure that paying attention to what I’m eating probably means I’m actually healthier. Ordering a little thing instead of a big thing, too. I have a way of letting things pile up on me.

More nifty vitamins. Maybe a little more exercise.

Maybe not. After all, baby steps.

I’m getting there.

My writing teacher–Holly Lisle–actually suggests a revision diet. It’s something somewhat similar to what I’m doing, and is supposed to result in the mental clarity and stamina required to actually revise a novel.

As far as losing weight… well, I don’t really know yet. Maybe my pants are a little looser. I don’t do scales. I don’t believe in them, and haven’t since I stopped dancing and lost weight (muscle mass), But I feel better, and that’s more or less the point, isn’t it?

That Morning Non-Routine

I am awake and staring at a blinking cursor. I’ve had breakfast, and I’ve remembered to put my laundry in the clothes dryer so it will be dry in time for me to go to work. I have checked in on the giraffe that is supposed to be having a baby, live-streamed from the whichever zoo it is. (No baby.)

This is what happens, by the way, when people inform the older generation about live streaming video… hundreds of hours of giraffe. Now live in a computer near me.

I have checked in on the forum where I’m a moderator, and answered a couple of questions. This is one of my bigger morning activities. Something I really do need to do on a regular basis. It’s a good forum. One of the best I’ve seen for writers.

And I have checked the news, the email, and a couple of ads, featuring things I didn’t know existed, but now desperately want. Especially at the fabulous prices listed. Closing and deleting.

Part of this is, of course, that I get up early. It was before 3 this morning, when I finally decided it was time to give up on that last chunk of sleep. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that, or to the idea that sleeping til 5 is “sleeping in.” I’m sitting under an electric light, pretending that it is not completely dark outside, and more or less bracing for the day.

If I had my creative, write when I feel like it choice, I’d probably be writing all night, and then going to bed… well, right about now. Last night, I wrote until that MUST be in bed moment, and then finally did go to sleep.

Choosing A Book

I spent most of the night up reading a couple of nights ago. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. You know how it is. Grown-up responsibilities, and the need for a job mean that most of the time, I have to actually wake up. At a predictable hour. And function.

Being quite honest, I’m not sure I’m on my “ideal” creative schedule, either. Given a choice, I’d probably be up all night reading or writing or something on a regular basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into the Zone as easily in say the mid-afternoon or evening. Even when I was a kid, it’s into bed… one more chapter… and then, seven or eight hours later… I’m blinking at the sunlight.

Writing can work the same way, too… maybe it’s supposed to, and maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my excuse for lack of discipline. Maybe I really do focus better at some times of the day or night than at others.

Let me start by confessing… the book I was reading wasn’t on the list of Hugo/Nebula winning books that I intend to be reading. I got caught up in a sample of an e-book, and then, I bought the e-book, and after that, I read the e-book.

All of it.

In one sitting.

And now, I’ve purchased the next part of the series, and I’m probably going to wind up reading that, too.

I was up all night reading, and by the end of it, I was crying my eyes out. It’s been a while since the last time, there, too. Partly the book, and partly my own losses… I have no idea the size of the parts.

So, now… I am reading All of the Books That Have Won Both The Hugo and the Nebula And also Sandman. The weird part of it is that I don’t really feel as though the list has grown… not that much, anyway.

If I’m very, very good, and if I don’t wander off into the omni-present internet bookstore too many more times, I might be able to get through the list in a year. The list is growing. I’m assured, for instance, that Blackout and All Clear will only make sense as a pair, and only if read in that order. So one more book to the list. And there are a couple of others that are not the first ones in their series.

I’ll make it through, eventually. After all, what are the odds that they’ll hand those awards out to the same book again, this year?

The Short Stories I Didn’t Intend to Write

I’m working on a short story. It’s the kind of thing that’s only very, very vaguely science-fiction, and it’s longer than most of the things I’ve done for the blog. It also has a very different tone.

It’s the kind of year when everything connects to everything else, whether you want it to, or not. Whether you expected it to, or not. I started out with a nice story about llamas eating ice cream, and I wound up with a story about immigrants. What I’m working on now started as a not-so-nice alternate future history… alternate future? Whatever you call it, when it’s a future talking about a history that is past in the future, but still future in the present? And that’s probably about the environment and pipelines.

Maybe if I wrote something unpleasant about politics, I’d wind up with something fanciful and delightful, involving talking frogs, and possibly a dancing unicorn. I don’t know.

Having just updated my progress report for the 52 week challenge, I realize that I am, in fact, only one short-story behind. (plus or minus some editing.) I feel much more behind than that. It is still very possible that I will manage to catch up.

So, I have short stories, and I’m beginning to think about looking for a home for them. I would like to pull in some writing credits–they’re always so shiny–and frankly, I’d like to get paid. So, I’m looking at things that look good on a resume (or query letter) and things that would let me into the professional associations of my dreams. (well, my ego. My dreams are much more interesting than that.)

I’ll post something, when I sell one. You don’t have to read that post; you’ll probably have heard me jumping up and down screaming, anyway. No matter where you live.

 

Celebrating the Little Things

I made it to the end of my pre-revision revision today, and now I have a fairly chronological version of my story with something resembling plot and a hundred thousand (ish) fewer words than the previous version. Yes, I still have word count issues, but they are so much smaller than the ones I was expecting.

Some of those words are things that will go into the next book (if there is one) and some of them are just plain cuts. Some of them are strange new versions of things I already wrote, and some of them don’t fit in with the timeline I finally decided on.

One of my main characters gets arrested–surprise–and that more or less wipes out a whole series of scenes that would happen… if she weren’t in prison. And I cut out a whole lot of love scenes that are… well, mostly just mushy. That’s the biggest area where I’m overwriting. They tend to be a strange combination of “let’s cuddle” and “so, tell me about yourself.” That would be basically me talking to myself, and working out different chunks of story.

I also removed a fairly sizable chunk where I’m working on a different story. Like, contemporary murder mystery popping up right in the middle of my scifi manuscript. Don’t know how that got there.

So, now I’m debating what the next step is. I think it probably involves going over each of my main characters’ timelines, and making sure that everything is there. I have plot-grid dreams. Something to keep everything together and on track.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just celebrate being done with this part.

 

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.

Neighbors, Editing, and Freezing Rain

The neighbor is outside in the freezing rain, huddled in the corner, trying to suck in her nicotine fix before the real storm gets here.

Not to sound like an ABC special, or anything, but… well, I am rather enjoying being inside in the warm, instead. My fingers and toes especially like this.

So, here in the warm, I’m trying to organize the pants-er special that I’m revising. All I want is for it to be basically chronological before I keep moving on the revision.

I exported it from my writing software into Libre Office, and now, I’m cutting and pasting it back into my writing software. (This time in order, with the tangents removed.) I think I have more tangent than novel, right now. But I’m recording the pages disappearing from my Libre Office copy, so I have some small way of recording progress. I think I’m right around twenty or thirty pages down this evening.

I’ve found pieces that are so old, the main character’s appearance has completely changed.

And way, way too much on the romantic subplot. Well, I have to do something, when I can’t think of anything to write. We’ll pare it down. Add more explosions, and maybe an extra knife fight.

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.

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.