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.

That Edge-of-Your-Seat 2016 Recap and Statistics

2016 was the year I started posting regularly on ReprobateTypewriter.com.

Posting regularly was a new thing for me, and I didn’t really start until April, when I did the A-t0-Z Challenge. I’m going to be up front about it, and say that part of my discipline for finally putting my butt in my chair and doing it was that after my sister died, getting up and doing a blog post every day was more or less the only solid thing I could think of. I didn’t do it because I believed it would actually result in anything.

So, here are my results. The interesting ones, anyway. I had 758 views in 2015. In 2016, I had 5,683. In July and December of 2016, I had more views than I did in the entire year of 2015. If I follow this rate of growth out through 2017, I wind up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 43,000 views. I’m not sure if that’s a practical goal, or not. Still distancing myself from that, a little bit.

I did the StoryTime Blog Hop Four times, the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and NaNoWriMo in November. (And theoretically camp nano, but it got swallowed. Life.) Then, I did the Nano Blog Hop. I’ve also become a regular at the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. So, much more social than I have been in the past.

Oh, and look at me. I have followers. I’m not filling sold-out arenas, just yet, but there are more people following this blog than in my first school. Including the teachers.

My top pages for 2016 (not including my home page or stuff like “about me”) included a few of my short stories:

And the Storytime Blog Hop Page.

Over all, I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten. Among other things, I’ve started to see growth as something that can be measured in years, instead of centuries, and progress as being a realistic, and possible goal.

So, how has your path been?

And we made it. Happy New Year, Everybody.

Time to get back to work.

Onward, toward those goals.

I did some math, and came up with a number. Figured out what happens to the page views on this blog, if I carry last year’s growth rate through 2017. I’m too far away from that number, right now to consider it a realistic goal.

Then, again… a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed how much I’ve done since then.

I’ll keep my number to myself, but I’ll write it down, and maybe, if I remember, I’ll compare at the end of the year.

I’m heading back to my revision, and to the first of my stories for the 52 Week Writing Challenge.

You go back to your art, and your goals.

We’ll put in the work. We’ll put in more work. We’ll make the world a better place, not just for other people, but for ourselves, too.

It’ll be a good year.

Read More… BUT…

2016 was a year.

It hit me pretty hard, personally, and I think that shows in every corner of every month. I’ve taken on more than I can chew, not just because I wanted to escape, but because I wanted to say yes. I wanted to say yes to every awesome thing that came up.

So, I said yes. Actually, kind of a lot. And to more things than I probably actually had (compressed, bad year, emotion-ridden) time for. In a normal year, sure. Why not? This year… Well, it was a year.

I need to catch up. I still have a review to write, and some beta-ing to finish. Both for really brilliant, talented writers.

And then, I’m going to say no, for a while. I think. If I can remember how.

I’ll get my own writing back on track. Which it hasn’t been. Since it was more or less steam-rolled a few months ago.

And then, I’ll read more.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Get Involved

Resolution #3 is to take the time and energy to be actively involved with my creative communities. I’m a little hit-and-miss on that one. It’s hard to find my local creative community, and being quite honest, a little harder to find common ground with them. Well, I’m taking the effort. Will track them down. Will take brownies and chips. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a little better with online communities, at least in part because I can cherry pick the parts I like. No one on the internet has ever asked me to help them move, for instance. And finding people who are working on the same challenges I am is sooo much easier.

So, I’m working with some groups to get to where I want to be.

I’m taking on the 52 Week Writing Challenge (Found it on Medium.)in 2017. The challenge is to write one something every week for a year. There’s no specific something it has to be, but something. A poem or a book chapter every week. I’ve already talked about my desire to write and publish more short stories, so **surprise** I’m going to commit to writing one short story every week in 2017.

Fifty-two short stories. That means four for the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and four for the StoryTime Blog Hop. Probably one or two for my blog during the Holidays. That leaves forty-two that I can submit to magazines or contests. Which, all said and done, would probably do wonders for my career.

I’m going to hold off on committing to NaNoWriMo until closer to the date. I might be ready for a new project on November 1st and I might not.

As always, I’ll be jabbering away at the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums… Which are really one of the most supportive and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. And keeping up with this blog (which may or may not be less solipsistic in the future. Prob’ly not.)

And I will be jumping back into my revision with both feet in the new year. Hoping to start annoying agents–and eventually, the unsuspecting public–with my work as soon as possible.

So, what challenges are you taking on for 2017? What are the best communities to push you forward? What’s made you a better writer?

New Year’s Resolution #2: Experiment More

This year, as another broad resolution, I’m giving myself permission to try things I haven’t done before… and to fail, if necessary.

I’m not good at everything. Some of the things I want to do are things I’ve never done before. Some of them are straight from the list of Things Karen Sucks At. Well, let’s be honest… it’s a long list, and some of them are pretty fun, anyway. Some of them are nice breaks from Things Karen Works Her Ass Off to Be Good At or Things Karen Does to Pay For Celery and Raisins.

Let go. Do it, anyway.

I don’t have to be good at everything I do in order to benefit from doing it.

So, that deer skull I have? The one I’ve been planning to incise or explode, or just paint? I can do that, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the faintest idea what kind of paint works well on bone, or that I’m probably clumsy enough to shatter the whole damn thing when I start cutting.

Bring on the deer skull.

And that clock I’ve been thinking of building? It’s not like I don’t have most of the pieces. Yes, I’ll probably burn myself with the solder, and the damn thing will probably run backwards and three minutes fast, but why not?

And why not do whatever else comes along?

It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be interesting. And it doesn’t even have to be interesting for all that long.

I’m giving myself permission to try it, anyway.

Try, fail… add another experience to the collection, another paradigm to draw from.

I’ll probably drag you along for the ride, when I can. After all, what’s the point of having a blog, if I can’t make you cringe along with me, as I cut up a deer skull, or miss my target with the atlatl darts, or incinerate the shed, trying to put together a clock I could’ve bought for five bucks at the dollar store?

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?

IWSG: My Five-Year Plan

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

I just fell off a miserable word-count failure of a NaNoWriMo. I hit 14,000. The end. I don’t always do well with Nano. Most of the time, it hits while I’m in the middle of other projects, and dragging myself away doesn’t do much for me. But, every now and then, I get a real, live draft out of the deal.

So, my insecurity right now, is finding myself in the sea of all the things I want to be able to do with my life, and getting as many of them done as I can.

Finishing things, boys and girls. Finishing things is the goal. It’s the insecurity, too. I never, ever feel like something is finished. And then, there are the things I know aren’t finished.

I have a desperate need to work faster. Get more done. Revise faster.

The Question of the Month is Where do I see myself  career-wise in 5 years, and what do I plan to do to get myself there?

This is a tough one for me. I would like to be agented, and published, or at least moving in that direction. I’m finishing up a novel that I think might get me there. I also want to work on publishing short stories. In actual magazines. Somehow, those always seem to wind up here on the blog, and I’m not sure that’s the best use for them.

I’m hoping to get back into the routine of writing after a bad year, and also to keep up the blog, which is finally gaining a little momentum.

So, what about you? Plans and strategies for your careers? New Goals and Resolutions?

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?

Cramming Novels into Nutshells

I’ve been trying to hammer out the details of my query letter.

Which is a fairly diplomatic way of saying I’m trying to cram a hundred thousand years of intergalactic history and culture, a fairly complicated plot, and half a dozen characters–all of whom are more exciting than anyone I know in real life into about two-hundred-and-fifty words. And P.S.: Some of them are blue.

And yes, blue was probably relevant a hundred thousand words ago, back when it was still porn.

Okay. Yeah. I’ll probably leave that part out.

A friend of mine (she doesn’t write, but her minor does) does a pretty good impression of the querying writer. Do you want to represent me? No? How ’bout now? Okay… but what if I add dragon/chipmunk hybrids? No? What about–

I’ve been knocking my head against a wall trying to find just the right words to describe that one necessary piece of intergalactic culture for… well, almost as long as I’ve been writing the book to go with it.

And today–maybe it was that extra cup of coffee–I think I finally got it. I’m closer than before, anyway. I have something that kinda makes sense, and kinda fits.

It took a lot of time to coax that minimalist approach out of my verbose little brain.

So, obviously, the most difficult, most irreplaceable bit of writing I’ve done recently is scribbled across a crumpled scrap of paper in the bottom of my purse. **sigh** Time to dig it out and polish it.