chipping away: writing and small assignments

Met my first draft milestone! Only one week behind (but not bad, especially since I flaked out during the first week in February and did NOTHING). Just completed Ch. 8, which was my February goal for the first third of the draft rewrite. Chapters 9 through 11 are going to be a doozy, but here’s hoping that I meet my next small assignment goal by the end of March (rework 9 through 11 and get through 15, if all goes well). My large goal is to have a complete draft by the end of April, though I gave myself some room to revisit chapters and revise details. My self-imposed deadline is June 20th (my birthday, when I will take a well-deserved break from life in general).

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round pegs and square holes, or not fitting the mold

So I’ve been wrestling with the idea of editing in passes. I finished reading the draft and reviewing beta feedback last month. I compiled a whole notebook full of notes and an ibook draft full of highlights. I identified the areas that need revising, editing, rewriting, and just plain cutting. I created timelines and established deadlines for the 6 major passes I outlined based on those notes. And then I stopped. Because the thought of working on individual aspects of the draft rather than entire chapters made me freeze. And then it hit me: I can’t edit in passes. I have an editing style. It’s long established and works for me. I edit in chapters and chunks. I edit scenes. I proofread for line edits. But I definitely can’t edit by rounds. At least, not in the way that I was planning… which is a relief, because suddenly I find that I can start working. One chapter at a time. One small assignment at a time.

off with a bang

My wi-fi is dead and my credit card was taken for a joyride in California. All in all, an interesting start to the year. The charges are being taken care of, and I should be receiving a call from tech support to try to troubleshoot my issues, but it’s the little things that shake you up… like, how I couldn’t check my account because my DSL refused to work for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Little quakes all around.

Also, I’ve missed two days of yoga camp, which ruins the whole zen of daily yoga practice. Sigh.

On the bright side (because we need a bright side), I’ve started reading and preparing for Draft 4 of Anúna. I have to admit, reading it and taking notes on the ipad is totally working for this stage of the process (and Aeon Timeline is a godsend. Finally, I can see how time runs in this story).

So it goes, and such is life on this fine day.

tools of the trade

When I first started on this writing adventure, I was a strict MS Word sort of girl. Then Google Drive (nee Docs) appeared on the scene. Of course, there was also paper and pen—mostly Moleskine pocket and large ruled notebooks, generally in the color that I most associated with a particular story. I still rely on these tools, but I’ve definitely upped my writing game as my process has evolved.

The new essentials:

  1. Evernote: I love using the Evernote webclipper to save bookmarks and research. I set up folders for Characters, Settings, Research, and more, and clip my findings. I also use it as a handy place to store “scanned” book pages and images. However, for my latest novel, I decided to draft only in Evernote, transferring finished chapters to Scrivener as I went along. This really worked out; it made it possible for me to draft from anywhere, at any time, without having to worry about backups and file conflicts. There is a bit of a learning curve to start… and you have to get creative with your use of folders, file names, and tags, but once you have a scheme, it’s as effective as Scrivener. (caveat, make sure files are fully synced before closing the program to avoid sync issues between machines)
  2. Scrivener: Writing on Word will never work after using Scrivener (at least, not for me). Scrivener houses all your files in a central location, making it incredibly easy to switch between chapters, notes, drafts, etc. Like Evernote, there is a learning curve, and lots of features to get used to, but the trial is worth it.
  3. myWriteClub: I need to track my progress. I use a calendar and stickers to good effect, but I also like the visual appeal of a progress bar. Scrivener has a built-in system to track progress as well, but I generally use an excel spreadsheet to track words written/rewritten or steps taken towards completion. MyWriteClub adds a little extra.
  4. Aeon Timeline: I literally just started using this and I love it already. Keeping track of time is one of my greatest challenges when working on a multiverse type novel (hello, Anúna), Aeon Timeline looks extremely promising as an outlining tool to take care of just that. I started playing with it yesterday (thanks to the NaNoWriMo winner discount) and look forward to using it during my next read-through.

What are your essential writing tools? Have any experiences to share?

i did the thing

I finished Draft 3 on Saturday… and though I know there are more edits to come (including some changes to the opening chapters), it’s such a huge relief to know that I managed to get this done despite all the complications, drama, life fiascoes, and sleepless nights. It’s done. For now. But it’s done.

I’m going to enjoy this short reprieve and look forward to getting to know some new characters in November.

welcome fall… though the heat is still on

on writing

It’s September! And with it comes the pressing need to get things done before the dark days arrive. Making slow and steady progress with my new writing schedule. I started tracking my word counts sometime in mid-July and have found myself looking forward to writing on the weekends, rather than rushing home to squeeze in a few mediocre pages between dinner, washing up, and bedtime. Since I started tracking, I’ve (re)written a total of 17427 words (the draft now stands at a little over 70k words). There are two and a half more chapters to get through, though I’ve worked past the toughest sections, so the rest should be more manageable. This is the third draft (second major rewrite); I’m going to let it rest a bit and work on some scenes that I need to refine before I try to recruit CPs.

I’ve learned a lot about how I write while working on this draft. Despite all the advice out there, I do believe that we each come to writing in our own way. For me, this means finding what works best for my health and well-being. I’m a fast writer, but if my mind’s not in it, there’s no amount of self-flagellation that will get me to write something worth reading. While there’s something to be said for writing everyday to establish a flow, that method hasn’t worked for me in the last year and a half. I need blocks of time in which to write. I can do that well enough on weekends, but my schedule just doesn’t allow for it on most weekdays anymore (part of the trade-off I made when taking a job with a longer commute but more opportunities for professional growth). Come November, I’ll fast draft (I will NaNo this year); for now, I take the long road.

on reading

A lot of books were read in July. I swept through my bookshelf and got rid of about two bag’s worth of books that I will never read, am just not interested in anymore, or tried a few chapters and didn’t like the style. Among these, were three Georgette Heyers that failed to capture my interest. Given my genre preferences, I really wanted to like Heyer, but after two attempts, I just had to give up. Can’t like them all. I did, however, fall for the new Poldark series, which led me right to the books. So there we are.

on life

New semester, new students, new job roles, lots of stuff to oversee and get done.

I’m on day 20 of a 30 yoga challenge (missed a few days, but I’m back on track now), and trying to get back into my old walking/running habit. My energy has improved somewhat, but there are days when everything just aches and I just want to sleep all day; doing yoga really helps, particularly after sitting at my desk for hours. I haven’t seen any major changes since I started the FitGirls challenge back in April, but I’m definitely more toned and flexible now that I’m concentrating on yoga rather than circuit training.

My hair has also reached a new milestone and is now just grazing the base of my neck… still dull and awful though. I’m seriously considering giving up on this experiment and trimming it back to my usual bob in lieu of a pixie. Ugh, I’m in a style rut and I hate it. I’m going to try a henna dye this weekend to darken it up.

the view from sunday: back to basics

One of my friends gave me a William Blake tarot deck for my birthday. It’s a tarot for self-deprecating creative types (e.g. me). It’s more of a tool for self-reflection than divination (and I’m still learning how to interpret the spreads), but it’s pretty spot on.

My dilemmas are definitely in the cards… and some possible solutions as well. I read today’s spread as a need to celebrate what I’ve accomplished and get back to what I do best by relying on methods tried-and-true. The biggest hurdle is letting go of the fear that it’s all meaningless drivel and just enjoy the writing, even when working to craft a strong scene.

Part of getting back to basics is getting back to those old habits I wrote about earlier, so I’ve started counting days and words. Even if it’s a small dent in the overall project, keeping score of my daily word count helps me see the work I’ve accomplished in a way that is more significant than just using the calendar method. Both methods help, but I really need to see those numbers adding up to spur me on. I also tallied up the total number of days I’ve spent writing; as of today, that total is 95 days and counting. My original goal was to finish the draft within three months, but I did not anticipate the mass revision I was about to engage in, nor did I expect the various derailments along the way. So I’m going to celebrate what I’ve accomplished and look forward to a finished draft.

I’m also going to celebrate my professional writing, which is a huge part of what I do on the job. I will celebrate the reviews I’ve written, the article that was just accepted, and the book that is about to go to print.

finding my process… editing draft 2.5

It’s month two of my draft 2.5 plan and I’m actually pleased with my progress. That’s a first; I’m usually woefully despondent about my writing process, but this plan is actually working for me and I think I’ve found a system that finally works for me. How does it work? Well, during the last read-through, I made copious notes and relied on notecards to outline major plot points and things that need fixing. I then read through those notes and drafted a detailed outline based on the novel as a whole–what needs to be moved/cut/rewritten, what needs rethinking, etc. It took a good two days to develop this outline, but it helped me get a feel for the edits to come.

Next, I wrote up a schedule, allotting myself 1-2 hours of writing time on Mondays-Thursdays (because that’s really all the time I can squeeze in on a regular weeknight). Fridays are free days to refresh and reenergize after the weekday grind. I block off a minimum of 3 hours on Saturday and Sunday–this means telling my loved ones that I’m off-limits between the hours of 10am-2pm (give or take). Weekends tend to be good days. I start my morning with a walk or yoga and then have a filling breakfast to keep me going until the afternoon.

During the week, I work on 2 chapters. I start by doing a quick read-through, reviewing the main outline and drawing up a list of what needs fixing in those two chapters. This helps me stay on task as I’m writing and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by the drama of making so many changes.

Using this method, I’ve edited the first third of the novel with surprising ease. Even the rough patches have been easier to smooth over than when I try to edit as I read. It’s a new method for me, but one that I can see myself using in future. Later this month, I will be away for a week; my goal is to have the next 5 chapters done before then (cutting them down to 3), so I can read through the first part before starting in on next month’s round. It sounds slow, but it’s actually going a lot faster than I anticipated.

in which I flirt with total madness – a (re)writing update

It’s almost October, which means… dun dun dun… NaNoWriMo is right around the corner! Which REALLY means, I’ve been working on Anúna for a year (I also may have hit on a potential title, but that’s a story for another day).

A YEAR.

Just let that sink in.

Though, in all honesty, I shelved it for well over 6 months while working on Cassiel, but a year is a year. That’s a lot of time spent in front of a screen/in my head developing this project. And it’s still in a fairly rough, messy, first draft state. There are days when opening my printed copy just makes my chest hurt… there’s a little twinge every time I think about having to rewrite/rethink/redraft another chapter. Writing is hard, lonely work, but re-writing just feels ten times more soul-crushing. This is when I see what I’ve written and think Gah! What was I thinking? (Though there are some moments when I’m skipping along going Tra-la-la, I’m a literary genius. Admittedly, these are few and far between–there is a lot more anguish than happy skipping.)

I love writing. There are stories inside me that need telling. But there are some days when I really question my sanity. Days when I come home from work and the last thing I want to do is open my laptop and stare at a screen for another 2-3 hours before going to bed.

It’s hard.

It’s hard to write and even harder when I don’t.

I really am my own worst enemy in this. No one can make me feel as guilty as I can when I don’t write because, when all is said and done, I’m the only person who really cares whether or not I meet my goal. I’m the only one who can own this thing.

What I’m really having a hard time with is balancing writing and everything else. I can’t write for hours at a time. I physically can’t do it. There are only so many hours I can take in front of a screen, cramped up into whatever position I curl myself into, trying to make my fingers go as fast as my thoughts, before I feel mentally and physically exhausted. It just doesn’t work for me. There are too many demands on me–from work, family, Didymus (the cat rules all)–and no matter how well I manage my time, there just isn’t enough. I would love to be able to shell out more than a couple thousand words a day (and those are the good days), but I’m more of a write-in-bursts sort of person. I guess it works for me right now, but there I still have this uncomfortable feeling that I should be doing more… it’s a terribly cycle of trying too hard and tearing myself apart because I didn’t try as hard as I should.

So what I’m saying is… I have no answers… but I don’t think anyone really has it all figured out. It’s a messy business. I’ll just keep shuffling along.

For now, I’m off to do some more research on Celtic mythology. Research counts as writing, right?

A writing milestone

On the eve before NaNo, I finished Secret Project #1.

It’s called Cassiel, though that’s just the working title I gave it when I started in 2006. Yes, 6 years of on again, off again writing. I started right before I entered grad school (the first time), and worked on it steadily for that first year, then I just stopped. I had too much to do between school, thesis drafting, and work, and it seemed like something that could easily wait. And it did.

A couple of years after I started the project, I had about 10 chapters sitting in a folder, so I edited and charted out all the details so I could start writing again. Then I stopped again. It was time for grad school, part 2.

Last July, school was finally over. I would have professional and academic drains on my time. I would have to juggle a full time job and a relationship, but writing was suddenly something that I wanted to spend time on—even on days when it seemed like my time was compartmentalized into a crazy schedule of workout, go to work, go home, eat, write, sleep. I wrote. I took breaks and told myself I needed time off, but I kept coming back to it and plowing away.

Then I told myself I would take part in NaNo this year, and start working on one of those other secret projects I had stashed away in my writing folder. I gave myself until November to finish what I had started. I would not be working on two projects simultaneously, ain’t no way, ain’t no how. So I finished. Draft 1.5 at least.

It’s long, to start. Too long, so I will have to do some major revisions. And I know my voice changed halfway through the writing process. The writer who started this novel is not the writer who finished. My voice changed, how I write changed, and this work will change again before it is really worth shopping. But, for now, I will let out a long, contented sigh, and wait to tally up my word count (well over the 100,000 mark, so far as I can estimate) and make editing decisions. Maybe I’ll even start looking for a reader (a daunting thought for someone who refused to let anyone even see her work when she was writing).

This is one resolution I can scratch off my list 🙂

Now, for Project #2.