Sunday, August 4, 2013

July 2013 Wrap-Up

August is here! That means summer is on the wane, the nights are again growing longer, and we are all a little frantic in enjoying the few weeks of it left. Of course, I am lucky enough to live somewhere that winter is barely distinguishable from summer, but still, those short days and cooler temps get to me!

But I'm excited about August. Not only is it going to bring me and boyfriend to the same city (and the same apartment!) after 14 long, long months, but I am also taking 15 days of vacation! I am going to see my hometown and my family for the first time in a couple years. Should be a good time. And, of course, August is going to bring the curtain down on the first draft of novel 6.

Yeah, I know. That was my goal for July. There is really no excuse for me not getting it done, except for the fact that I struggle a lot with endings. I've only got the last chapter left, though, so August for sure! I am really excited.

Although I didn't hit my goal for July, I still put down 8,129 words. It wasn't a bad month as a whole, since I also find a new apartment, made some huge strides towards a work qualification, and enjoyed summer while it is here.

August is going to be a busy non-writing month for me. The big move and the vacation aren't going to leave a lot of writing time! So my goal is pretty simple: finish this damn draft! Specifically, I hope to finish the draft during the first week of August. Then I can put it aside for a while before going back to edit with a vengeance. I've had a lot of ideas for novel 7 percolating, so I am going to start outlining and brainstorming for that as soon as I finish up this draft. Also going to keep my other blog going after I resurrected it from a long dormancy. So I'm not giving myself any specific wordcount or writing days goals.

Now I'm off to power through these last three scenes!

Percentage of goal met: 62.5%

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ego Depletion and The Act of Writing

Yesterday, I got off work at 7:30 AM. I rode my bike straight home, changed into workout clothes (I just got these new capris from Old Navy tall and I was so excited to try them out!), and busted out a grueling hourlong workout. Then I had to immediately shower and hop into my car to make it to brunch on time with my Geek Girls. The menu looked so freaking delicious, and I was starving, so I ended up ordering two different dishes. I was also the first one done eating, eek!

Strawberry rhubarb compote on pancakes, and shrimp cake eggs benedict! Yummmm.

Later, I boogied over to Starbucks to get some writing done. I am really serious about finishing my draft of novel 6 this month, so I needed to get a lot done. I ended up ordering one of my usual drinks (venti skinny caramel macchiato), but this time I got some whipped cream on top. As I slurped down the deliciousness, I was able to bang out over 1000 words and finish a scene that had been fighting me for days. I got a text message that some girls from work were going out for Thai, so I headed out with them. After I got home from that, I made a detour over to Moo Time Creamery, where I ordered a brownie doused in ice cream.

Soooo delicious, although I couldn't finish and this morning I have a tummy ache.

What was going on with me?? Why all the over-indulging?

Ego depletion, that's what. This is a pretty widely-accepted theory (although not unanimous) about how self control is somewhat like a muscle. Using it a lot fatigues it, making it harder to continue to use it! (Although frequent use of it also strengthens it.) So making good choices about doing my workout even though I was exhausted and it was early, and actually getting done a good chunk of writing that was giving me trouble ended up making it that much easier to make bad choices like whipped cream, extra pancakes, and a mouth-watering brownie!

Which isn't an excuse, of course, but no one is perfect all the time. I don't regret a thing! I'll just be a little more mindful today that finishing the scene I'm working on should be celebrated with a long walk on the beach and a mug of tea. =)

Five days left in July, five scenes left in novel 6...I've got some work to do!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Struggle

I have written before about the somewhat odd relationship I have with both working out and writing. They are two things that I love, that I constantly strive to make part of my life, that help calm my mind and order my thoughts...and that I absolutely hate doing.

I was thinking about this today, as I sat on my comfortable couch, scrolling through random internet pages (damn you, StumbleUpon!), and trying to convince my lazy ass to get up and move. I did, eventually, and although my workout was long, sweaty, and painful, I was so glad I did it. Hm, what else does that sound like?

Not every writing session is painful, of course. If it was, I'm not sure that I could ever do it, no matter how great the end result. But just as there are some workouts where it feels like I've got 100 extra pounds strapped on my back, there are many times when every word feels tortured out of me. Yet even at those times, it is important to keep going. That is what I tell myself when I'm struggling up that hill, for one more rep, or just a little bit of extra speed. It's also what I tell myself when a blank page is staring me down, when my characters just won't do what I want, when my dialogue is unconvincing,  and when my plot seems dumb and an ending hopeless.

There are two main ways I motivate myself when I am working out (or, more likely, when I am trying to convince myself to start a workout, because isn't that always the hardest part?). One is the immediate reward. If I do the workout I planned, then I get that swell of endorphins and that I can-do-anything feeling of accomplishment. Is there a moment quite like standing there, chest heaving, sweat dripping down your nose, knowing that it's over and you kicked ass? And that's just the immediate reward. The other motivator is the long-term goal. If I workout today, and tomorrow, and every day (with proper rest and recovery, of course), I'll get that body I want.

Not me. Yet.

So it also is with writing. When I get writing done, I feel like I've done something. I'm a real writer, and even if what I wrote is crap, it's still an entirely new creation that has never before existed. And when that happens today, and tomorrow, and every day (except, you know, I'm human, so maybe not), I'll make those novels that I will be proud of. Every writing session, I climb a little bit higher on the mountain. Does it have a summit? I don't know. But I'll never stop trying to find it.

Coincidentally, I started writing this post earlier today, and saved it. A little later, I was looking through my feedly when I came across this post on Storyfix. This video is exactly what I'm talking about! The same thing that drives elite athletes (and not elite athletes!) is the same thing that drives writers. We have that deep need that will never be sated unless we do our very best or die trying. How does this not make you want to knuckle down and pound out that last paragraph or just one more push-up? Welcome to the grind!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Novel Format

I have a proposal for a new form of book. I think it's going to be a hit!

These new books would start out just like current novels. At first, you wouldn't even know that anything was different. You would be drawn into a carefully developed world, with realistic characters playing out their lives' drama against a sweeping, deep history. This would pull you along, page after page, until about three-quarters of the way through what a "normal" novel would be.

Then the real twist would come. Instead of all the bother of reading through an ending, with boring conflict resolution and denouement, there would be a short synopsis of how everything wraps up. In a paragraph or two, the author would give you a quick sketch of who lives, who dies, and how the protagonist succeeds (or fails, depending on the flavor of the story).

It's a perfect solution!

And there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 2013 Wrap-Up

Another month has come and gone! I don't know how it happens so fast. They seem so long when they are happening and then BAM. Gone.

Between the training team and ORSE, June was just as bad for writing as I was afraid. With my little retreat, however, I was able to make up some ground and finish the month a bit ahead of schedule. While it was spread over fewer days than I planned (I had 22 non-writing days in June), I did come up with 9,684 new words for my novel.

That means that going in July, I have a new goal. Not a wordcount (although I'll use wordcount to track it, since it is easiest), not a writing days goal (although again, I'll track that just to see). No, my goal for July is as straightforward as it will be difficult: to finish this draft of novel 6.

That's right. It has been over a year in the making now, and it is time to tie it up! According to my outline, I have 2.5 chapters to go. That will probably end up being about 10k words, which is totally doable in a month. Especially a month that I will be in-port with a relatively light workload at my actual job.

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 129.1%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 81.8%

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Retreat!

(Sorry this post was delayed while I was out at sea again!)

The retreat was amazing. I only wish I had the means to do it more often! Unfortunately, at that rate, I'd just be paying for this book to be written, which is not exactly a long-term strategy. So I'll just have to splurge every once in a while when I really am feeling that I need it.

I had to run some errands so ended up getting to the B&B about 20 minutes late (precious writing time gone!), and then of course they had lost my reservation. I was almost done filling out the paperwork again when they found the original one, so that was a lot of fun. But still, it was before 4 PM by the time I got my laptop set up, put on my pajama pants, and started cranking.

At first, it was just like any other writing time. Then I got to the point that I would usually stop, and instead I had to just push through. And do that again. And again. Finally, my stomach would not be ignored any longer, and I headed out to grab a salad from a nearby fast food place. Of course, that ended up taking a while since my quick Googling had neglected to inform me that this fast food place was in a busy mall food court.

Back to my writing hole, I devoured the salad and kept churning through the scenes. I had just returned from an at-sea period in which I had gotten a little sleep-deprived, so I had to call it quits from exhaustion before 10 PM. Still, in less than 5 hours of writing I had put down over 4k words. I set my alarm for 7 AM so that I could get a few more hours in before check out at 11. It was hard to get into the writing before breakfast--I am not much of a morning person--but I managed, which made the breakfast taste that much better. I returned to the room and powered through the last two hours. That morning I put in about 3 hours for about 3k words.

El Primero Boutique Bed & Breakfast

So in only about 7.5 hours of writing time spread over two days, I managed to write 7,097 words! That may not sound like much, but that is more than I wrote the entire month of May. It also propelled me into the last section of my book, and restored some of my passion for the story. I even started playing around with new plot bunnies in my head while I was falling asleep!

All in all, the mini-retreat was a huge success for me. I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel on this draft, now!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Retreating into Writing

I have what most would probably consider an ideal writing set-up. I have a dedicated desk in my apartment, beneath a calming picture I love. There is no television in the room, and there is no one but me in my apartment. True, this desk is located about 1 foot from my bed, and I have to squeeze by my printer to use my bathroom. But all in all, it is an environment conducive to writing.

The only problem is getting myself there. It's a huge mindset shift to move from my couch to my desk. Being at my desk sends the "work time" signal to my brain. I can't always pull off a lot, but once I sit down, I can get something. And yet so many times I never make it to that desk. I sit on my couch and look at it (I can see it from my living room--yes, my apartment is pretty tiny!) and think "Gee, Nora, you should go do some writing."

And instead I Stumble around looking at dessert recipes and funny pictures until it is time for bed.

It's so frustrating! I kick myself in the ass about it all the time, but it doesn't always help. So I decided that what I really needed was a bigger change in environment than merely stepping from one room to another. I logged on to my laptop (from my couch, of course) and booked myself a room at a local bed and breakfast. A mini writing retreat. No distractions, just me and my manuscript. It is a period of less than 24 hours--surely, even my own scattered brain can handle that!

I don't know if it will help. It's possible that I'll spend the entire time tucked up in a foreign bed watching reruns on Animal Planet and eating cookies. But I think that by forcing myself out of my comfort zone and into a writing zone, I'll be able to get some good work done. And once I get some good work done, I will be past this block in the novel and be on to the races for the finish!

Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013 Wrap-Up

The good thing about setting low goals is you can meet them!

Actually, sarcasm aside, that is an important part of goal-setting. According to the (admittedly rather annoying) SMART acronym, goals should be Attainable. Which was what I tried to do for May, since I knew it was going to be a busy month.

And it was! I spent about half the month out to sea, and the other half I had the normal multitude of demands on my time. So I am not too disappointed in myself for what I got done this month. I more than met my goals, and since the majority of it was accomplished in the last week of the month, I feel like I have a good momentum going into June.

For May, I ended up putting down 6930 new words (almost 2 whole chapters!) with 19 non-writing days.

June is also a busy month for me. I will be underway for 2 weeks, and those weeks include a training team visit and our annual ORSE inspection. But since I was able to get stuff done despite scheduling issues in May, I want to up the ante a little for June. I think 250 words a day and no more than 18 non-writing days is a SMART goal!

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 111.8%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 105.3%

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boring to Write Means Boring to Read

I've been mired in the depths of a bad bout of writer's block for the past few weeks.

I've talked about the dreaded writer's block before, and whether it's real or an excuse or just another word for depression isn't what I want to discuss today.

Before, I have always viewed writer's block from the perspective of what is going on with me. Lately, though, I have been grappling with the idea of what writer's block says about what I am writing. "If you're having so much trouble writing this scene, self," I told myself, "maybe it is because it's a crappy, pointless scene. Maybe something that is a struggle to write will also be a struggle to read." I've even included a few lines in my editing notes for the next draft about where I had the hardest time writing.

This was a worrying thought. It leads to a plunging downward spiral. "Okay, self, just skip to the interesting part!" I say, but I don't like to write like that. Skipping parts just makes me anxious about going back and filling them in, and I think it damages the flow of the story. (Although since I am a meticulous outliner, you'd think it would be easy to write out of order!) Besides, the few times I have tried the skipping technique, it wasn't any easier when I re-visited. It's just postponing the pain.

But as I struggled to get some words down tonight, I put that thought to rest. Sometimes it's just hard to write. Sometimes the stuff I write isn't riveting. But those don't always have to go hand in hand. Even if they did--that's what second drafts are for! So down with the self-doubt. Writer's block doesn't make me a bad writer, it just makes me a slow one!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April 2013 Wrap-Up

I was so full of excuses about how busy March was (and they were real!), but I have nothing to explain April. Okay, work was a little crazy. But mostly I was just "not in the mood," which makes me so mad at myself. If I ever want to be a "real writer," I can't let it depend on something as capricious as my moods. Twelve years since I wrote my first manuscript and have I learned anything?


April started out promising. I wrote 6 of the first 7 days, hitting way above my goal for wordcount, and then it all fell away. Seriously. After that first week, I only wrote one other day. Which means I had 23 non-writing days and only a total of 3921 words. Still, that was another chapter. Getting closer!

May is going to be crazy with underway and everything, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself. I've revised my daily wordcount goal down to 200 and my writing days up to 20 non-writing days. And anything more than that will just be a happy bonus!

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 42.2%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 60.9%

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A REAL Writer

The past week or so I have been able to get what feels like an astounding amount done. I have written, I have outlined, I have plotted, and I have written some more. The ending, while still a ways off, is suddenly in sight.

I am prone to bursts of productivity like this, but usually they happen due to a nebulous fount of inspiration. This time, however, it's due to me digging down deep and pushing through a lack of inspiration. Getting through the rough patches is the real meat of writing, and it is something I have always struggled with.

The reason that I've been logging the time lately is because I keep asking myself, "Do I want to be a real writer?" Now, normally I dislike differentiating between "real" writers and the rest of us. My writing may be unpublished,  but it's just as real as anyone else's. So I tweaked the question and made it, "What would I do if I were a professional writer?" And the answer is that I would write. Even when I didn't feel like it.

Reading about the writing routines of famous authors makes one thing abundantly clear: you must write. These people are logging hours at a time, multiple sessions a day. Obviously, that isn't normally a viable option for me or anyone with another job. But on weekends, what is stopping me? Only myself. And this goes triple for those days when I end up getting time off that I wasn't expecting. Because it's only healthy to want a day off on the weekends, free of stress, even the lovable stress of writing. But if I get to leave work early on a Wednesday? Those hours need to count.

They say you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. And I say that I should write like I'm a real, professional writer, even if that's not currently the case.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 2013 Wrap-Up

Phew! What a long and crazy month. Seriously, it felt like at least two months. I honestly kept thinking that I had forgotten to pay my rent because I was so sure that it was April.

It was a pretty busy month, too. This month I ran my half marathon, took a few days to visit my boyfriend (♥), took my P/1 exam for SOA/CAS, and that's all on top of my normal routine! With all that going on, there were quite a few days when I just didn't have a chance to write. Which is why I am so proud of myself for the fact that I met my March goal!

Cruising by the water!

Well, not completely. My goal was no more than 14 non-writing days, and I had 18. But I think that, given what I had going on, that was pretty reasonable. And I did (barely) hit my word count goal! The goal was 9300, and today I edged over to 9302. I put up almost 4k words this weekend, and I am feeling pretty good about it.

April should be a little quieter. No boyfriend time (sadface!), no races, and no exams. And some underway time. So I should have no problem hitting my April goals. I'm giving myself an extra 10 words a day (which puts me at 9300 again, since April is a day shorter) and trying for no more than 14 non-writing days again. Good luck to me!

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 100.0%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 77.8%

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shooting for the Moon

Maybe I've set my sights too high. Maybe, instead of getting published, my goal should just be to get a personalized rejection. At least that would represent progress over the past 10 years.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

February 2013 Wrap-Up

February is over already? Yikes!

But although the month was a bit of a crazy one for me, I managed to make it a pretty good writing one as well. My goal was both a word count (5900) and a number of non-writing days (not more than 14). I met both of those goals!!


Okay, so maybe I didn't have an epic breakthrough or anything. My final total for the month was 6655 words and 13 non-writing days.

But I set my goals for a reason, and meeting them makes it a successful month. No point in worrying about whether I could have met them more--I can always up the ante for next month!

Which is what I'm doing. February was 210 words a day, March will be 300. It doesn't sound like  a big difference, but it brings my goal for March up to 9300, which is not an insignificant amount (about 2 chapters). I'm also angling for not more than 14 non-writing days again, but where that was 50% for February, it's only 45% of March. So slightly increasing the pressure on myself. I'm currently sitting at almost 50k for Novel 6, which means about halfway. I will finish it this year!

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 112.8%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 107.7%
Submissions: 1 (Short Story 2), resulted in form rejection

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Drop in the Ocean

I usually like to write at the library. It is quiet and relaxing, and it reminds me of a childhood spent falling in love with books. There is internet in case I need to do a quick bit of research, but it does not tempt me to lose myself in surfing the web. Plenty of table space and outlets, and no one to bother me while I work. And no food to distract me!

On top of all that, I find it inspiring to sit in the midst of the stacks, surrounded by books. To imagine myself joining the ranks of published authors and to picture my book sitting in its place on a shelf.


Today something feels different. Maybe it is because I am quite tired, but today all these books just make me feel insignificant. How many of these books will I never read? How many will my eyes just pass right over on the shelf without a second thought? And if I were to ever clear the massive hurdle that is being published, what would make my book any different to everyone else? If I ever finish my debut novel, and if it gets accepted and published, what then? It will just be one more book on the shelf. A drop in the ocean, a grain of sand on the beach.

Still, I'm not going to give up. I just finished another chapter in novel 6, and I do in general feel good about it. And even a drop in a nameless stream can someday hope to be a drop in the ocean.

(On a mostly unrelated note, the above image is from, which is a pretty freaking awesome collection.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Digging Through the Past

The other day I was having a little trouble coming up with the
inspiration to work on my WIP, and so I indulged in a time-honored
writing tradition: procrastination.

I wanted to be able to pretend I was going something useful, so I
decided to stick with something relating to my writing. I began to dig
through the "Archived Projects" folder. I ended up spending several
hours throughout that day reading up on several manuscripts at varying
stages of completion. Some were years old, some as recent as last year.
And I discovered the strangest thing--I like my writing!

This might sound ridiculous. Because why would I write if I didn't think
I was any good? But it's hard to see that when you're lost in the thick
of the weeds that consist of the middle of a first draft. To be able to
back and read something I wrote years ago and be drawn in and want to
read more is something different. I was actually mad at myself for not
continuing on with those projects because I wanted to finish reading

But then, I began to think, maybe this isn't such a good thing after
all. Where is my critical eye? How can I ever hope to improve if I can't
tell myself where I suck? I'm not saying they were perfect, because of
course they weren't, but I didn't get the editing bug that sometimes
strikes me when I am reading less-than-satisfactory books by others. And
shouldn't I be growing as a writer? Why isn't my writing now leaps and
bounds above where it was two years ago? And if my writing is as good as
all that, why does it get form rejected time and time again?

I don't think there is a perfect answer to this conundrum. I eventually
closed out of the old files and put some work into my new one, and I
told myself not to worry about it. Do my best, keep writing, and keep
submitting. Hopefully someone else will someday be as enthralled with my
writing as I am, and then I can pass a little bit of pleasure along to
the lives of readers everywhere. And that is a dream that hasn't changed
for decades!

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 Wrap-Up

Not a bad start to the year. I ended up at 7128, or 109.0% of my goal, which makes me pretty happy. I had 21 days of no writing, which makes me less happy, but taking into account my vacation at the beginning of the month, it’s not bad.

My goal for February, short month that it is, is a fairly modest 5908. I think perhaps I need to start evaluating my writing goals in terms of days actually spent written. So in terms of that, my goal is to have only 14 non-writing days. One of those things that sounds easier than it is? Possibly. But it’s also possible that I could smash my goals! I like to think on the bright side at least some of the time!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Give Me a Break!

Here I am, back with my nose to the grindstone, missing the lovely shores of Costa Rica and the amazing luxury of getting to see my boyfriend every day for 9 whole days!

I have to say, vacation is a wonderful thing. Not just for the beaches and the cuddling and the great food, but for writing! I told myself that I was off the hook for writing over my vacation. I wasn't going to worry a bit about not getting any words down. And that was just what I needed.

Having a planned vacation is so much different than those drawn out, accidental departures from productivity. The kind where you say that for sure you are going to write today, but then you're crawling into bed with nothing done. First one day, then two, and before you know it, it's been almost 2 weeks since you've written. (I can't be the only one this happens to...right?) That kind of vacation is terrible for writing. It destroys any momentum or rhythm you've established for yourself. The guilt eats away at you until you start wondering why you ever wanted or thought you could this in the first place. When you finally do get words down, they're stiff and horrible.

A real vacation is not at all the same! By taking a dedicated, guilt-free break, I was actually excited about coming back to my project. I was champing at the bit, wanting to get going again! My mind was refreshed, my characters more vivid, and I was ready to start up again firing on all cylinders.

Sadly, my vacation—and all the wonderful things it entailed—is over, but it is some consolation that novel 6 is going strong! Escaping to another planet of my own making is like a mini-vacation every day.