Pencil, paper, and a few questions answered

I’m trying to get back into a writing groove but nothing has been working to reignite my interest in this story. I make plans every day (and sometimes the day before) and I keep not following through.

So I sat down today with a pencil and cheap spiral tablet and asked myself some questions about my current book and realized—

Maybe the real problem is that I took a wrong turn in the story and my subconscious mind doesn’t want me to continue.

If that’s possible, where might I have made the wrong turn?

The answer to that was me writing down a few options, working my way backward. I wrote down three possible turning points worth taking a look at.

A little while later, I turned to my manuscript to see if I could pinpoint a good spot to shift directions, and found—

[START HERE – not sure I even like this. Why does xxxxxxx jump to this conclusion? Or mention it, at any rate?]

This note to myself was buried about 1,500 words from where I left off.

So now I think my subconscious has probably been trying to tell me something for a while.

I haven’t deleted anything yet, but I’m ready to go back to the book and see what needs to be done.

I guess I’ll figure that out when I start.

But it feels like progress, so I’ll take it and run.

That didn’t last

I made plans before I finished my last book not to start the next in that series until I’d written the book that I already have in progress. I’m attempting to keep my enthusiasm for my projects high by managing them better. It’s easy to lose enthusiasm when I write a few thousand words and then move to something else for months at a time before I get back to it.

The last book I finished? I wrote about that delay. I also wrote about how much more of a chore writing is when I have delays like that because I get bored and lose interest in what I started and have difficulties getting that interest back.

To be technical about it, writing that last book took me from March 2017 to November 2018. That’s more than a year, and that’s a long time to try to keep up interest in writing one story.

That said, my plans to avoid doing that again aren’t working out—which is a total bummer. :-|

I got an awesome idea this morning for the direction I want to go in the series I finished that last book for. At the same time, I’ve had no ideas for the series and book I’m currently supposed to be writing. I haven’t had much interest at all in finishing this book—the same one I was flying through just months ago while still trying to finish the other book.

I wrote down the idea for the series and my thoughts about it, or some of them anyway, and I went ahead and started the document for the next book in that series. I haven’t gone so far as to write words for that book yet, but it is calling to me something fierce. The idea for the opening scene is right there in my brain and it wouldn’t take any effort at all to just let myself explore it a little.

It doesn’t pay to ignore the muse, but I’m trying.

It’s a conundrum. Miss out on harnessing the enthusiasm I have for the one series to struggle with the other book instead? Or write what I want while the little bit of enthusiasm I still have for the other book continues to wane?

The only right choice seems to be to let go and allow myself to work on two books at a time again. Or to make myself. Call it what you will.

But hey, it worked for the last book.

Sort of.

I finally finished it, at any rate, and I enjoyed doing it, and I broke through to a 6,000 word day. I didn’t push myself to do it, either. It just happened.

I was all set to be a rebel and then I realized I don’t have time

I wrote a long post about how I was abandoning WordPress a few days ago, and then I started the process by creating some HTML5 templates for one of my websites (the easiest to convert), but after two days of fiddling, it hit me hard that I don’t really have time for this. I am as much a perfectionist with the websites as I am with the writing and what should take one hour takes ten. Not my favorite confession. But—

1. I plan to finish a book this month. And by gosh I’m doing it.
2. The classic editor plugin isn’t going anywhere for a while, so for me nothing’s changed. If it changes suddenly, well, then, I can start moving on this project again (make no mistake, it’s a project for the future, because I am going to do it eventually)
3. The time will come, but maybe jumping right into it right now when I’m actively looking for things to tear me away from writing (but shouldn’t be!) isn’t what I need to do.
4. It feels like an obsession in the making. It took all day yesterday of doing other things and distracting myself to not think obsessively about it. I feel like I’m borderline this morning. A stray thought here or there could pull me right back in. So I’m going to have to do something this morning that is distracting in itself. Writing fits that bill. And since I need to write to finish that book this month, yep, that’s the one I’m going to aim for, right after I do a little morning reading (there’s a fan fiction story for Psych calling my name).

December 1–12 progress

I sat down tonight to write something after another day of not writing anything. I haven’t so far. Instead, here I am writing this, after spending about forty minutes looking at reports, messing with Gmail (I had forgotten you can still access Gmail through the basic HTML link for slow connections, so that was entertaining) and my calendar, and a few other trivialities. Not my best decision, by far. That forty minutes was supposed to be spent writing something for my book.

As a reminder, I pulled up my June 1–15 progress post.

The fact is, I need to start finishing books again. I’ve had way too much time off on the whole over the last couple of years and it’s time for me to start pushing myself again to do more.

I’m worried that I’m falling into the same patterns I seem to fall into after every book I finish lately, where I don’t write, and I start feeling more and more disconnected from the desire to write.

That June progress post is relevant in other ways too, because just this week one of my kids returned from college for the winter break and my routines have been completely upended. The quiet, distraction free environment I seem to need to be able to write is gone. It’ll be three more weeks of in-house disarray before things go back to what passes for normal for me these days.

I’ve written only 1,009 words from December 1 to December 12.

I’d like to take that time off and just say forget it until after the new year but I can’t. I know what will happen, because I saw it happen last year after I released a book. I didn’t write more than a few hundred words for five months. I know it might not happen again, but I don’t want to risk that, and besides, I want new routines. I want to spend my time writing another book. I want to go from one book to the next and not get caught up in this morass of feelings I’m feeling about the struggle to write.

No more struggle.

It’s not real. It’s not worthy of the angst it causes me.

But right now, unfortunately, I’m tired after a couple of really bad nights of sleep, this morning’s interrupted by an earthquake of all things and I’m going to bed instead of write something for my book. That 1,009 words won’t change because of anything I did tonight.

(Yes, a real earthquake. Doors jiggled and stuff rattled downstairs but I didn’t hear much up in my room, just a kind of whoosh after a hard shake. I pulled up the USGS Earthquakes website and just as I did, the earthquake showed up on the list of latest earthquakes.)

I’m falling asleep here, so goodnight.

 

Revisiting a post: The “no timers” thing

I am finally settling into a nice work flow that does not rely on timers to keep me writing. I’m occasionally dipping into more than one story at a time, but I’m surprised at how often I’m staying focused on one book.

It’s obvious to me now that something was wrong then, but isn’t that how it always is?

I can’t remember at this point exactly when I decided I was going to seriously focus on not using timers, because I’d posted about abandoning them, then went back to using them, before deciding to give them up one final time.

On 8/10, I got rid of my time logs and sessions.

In September, I began using timers again.

Sometime in October, I ditched the timers one final time.

On 10/21, I gave up on daily writing.

On 11/14, I had my best one-day word count to date. I broke through the 6,000 words in a day barrier.

My word counts have steadily increased month over month despite (or because of) the changes in my routines.

8/31/18 7,840
9/30/18 13,358
10/31/18 20,602
11/30/18 31,928

I’m writing and I’m enjoying it, and I’m not driven by a timer! It feels wonderful.

November 2018 progress

Despite my apparent failure when it came to NANO this year, November was actually a really solid month of writing. I did better than October. To find a better month when it comes to sheer word count, I have to go all the way back to October 2016.

So yeah, I’m pretty happy with November.

Words written in November: 31,928.

Most of those words were written the first half of the month. It was a strange month, for sure. But I finished a book in November too, so that’s good. It was my first of the year, so I’m especially happy about that.

And another bright note is that even as I finished that first book of 2018, I was getting deep into a second. That second book reached 21,886 words in November.

And! This was the month I finally broke through to a 6,000 word day. I’ve been after that goal for a while and it was nice to finally reach it.

I’m not going to link to the other November progress posts since they’re the NANO posts, but here’s a link to that tag: NANO 2018. (Tags get reordered here a little too often so it’s possible this link will be defunct at some future date, so I’m saying sorry in advance. I love the idea of linking to tags but practically speaking, the links all break the moment I start futzing around with the tags.)

Days 28–30 of NANO 2018

Days 28–30: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book.

I finished out NANO with 20,368 words. I really meant to do better but I got wrapped up in finishing the project I set aside to work on the NANO book and in the end I can’t regret that. Finishing is important.

In fact, finishing is the most important part of being a writer. :)

So… onward to December.

Days 24–27 of NANO 2018

Days 24–27: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book.

I have 20,368 words for NANO this year so far. I do think I’ll get a few more because I’m absolutely planning to write today, tomorrow, and Friday. But I ended up finishing up my finished book instead of focusing on the NANO book and I’m glad I did, really.

I think I’m just going to call this done, but I’m still going to post here with my results. I might not bother posting on the NANO website.

Days 20–23 of NANO 2018

I wish it weren’t so, but I have fallen terribly far behind on my NANO goals. All it took was a week and a half of less than good writing days and suddenly I need 29,620 words to finish and I need them in eight days (seven if you don’t count today, and I can’t really, because today I am finally working on proofreading the book I finished last week and don’t expect to have time to write anything, much less the 3,703 words I should be aiming for today on the NANO book).

Days 20–22: I wrote -12 words for the NANO book (yep, I deleted more than I wrote, and I didn’t do much of that to be honest).

This was the week I followed up with my GP doctor and there has been the Thanksgiving holiday, but mostly, my downfall began on the 10th when I started to refocus on finishing the book I set aside to start November strong. Until then, I was still doing okay and staying on top of my word counts.

Day 23: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (50 words total for all my fiction).

I’ll have to update this one at the end of the day but as of now, I’m pretty sure the NANO count is going to be 0, and the all fiction count is going to be some small number that results from copy edits to my finished book. I’m proofreading today and it’s taking such a long time that it is very unlikely I’ll get anything more than that done. (If even all of that!)

As of right now, I am not on track for a NANO win. But there is such a thing as a miracle, so I’m not calling it a loss until next week.

Day 19 of NANO 2018

Day 19: I wrote 1,109 words for the NANO book (1,299 words total for all my fiction).

I’d talk about the day but really there’s nothing to say. It was a day. I wrote some. I wish I’d been more focused and written more. I also wish I wasn’t dealing with being sick. And that the holidays weren’t already almost upon me. And that my finished book was already proofread.

Day 17 of NANO 2018

Not only did I not have time to write until nearly 4 pm, after that I was sick. Well, I was sick before that, too, but I was also not here and had no opportunity to write before then.

The vertigo returned, probably because of continued sinus and ear problems. All I’m going to say about that is that doctors do not listen. I remember now why it had been since 2010 since I’d gone to my GP.

So I didn’t write even one word of fiction on day 17 of NANO, although I thought about it. Thinking isn’t doing, though, so no prize for that!

Day 17: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (0 words total for all my fiction).

Day 16 of NANO 2018

I woke up this morning with a big chunk of backstory for the nano book in my head. I also had some bits of scenes that I might want to use for the current part of the story, but we’ll see.

As for now, I’m going to spend the afternoon sitting in front of my sunny window and see how far I can get in making up some of the words I need for the nano book. It’s 11:59 and the days are short so this sun isn’t going to last.

Hm. I didn’t make it nearly as far as I wanted, but I also didn’t do as badly as I could have. Tomorrow I won’t have much time to devote to writing at all.

Day 16: I wrote 1,906 words for the NANO book.

Day 15 of NANO 2018

Day 15: I wrote 496 words for the NANO book (1,569 words total for all my fiction).

I really did plan to write more for the NANO book today after I finished my other book (which I did, so YAY!), but in the end I think I was just too tired after all the writing yesterday and the mad dash this morning to finish.

Unfortunately, this means I’m still behind, and falling further.

I am hoping for a better tomorrow.

Currently, my words per day average for November is 1,861. Let’s see if I can get it up to 2,000 and get this newly finished book ready to publish before the end of the month.

ETA: added a few more words after the fact, so I’ve updated the totals. :)

Day 14 of NANO 2018

Day 14: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (6,241 words total for all my fiction).

YES! You got that right. I finally broke through that 6,000 words barrier today. For the first time since I started tracking my daily word counts, I have written more than 6,000 words in a day. :-)

But as you can see in the screenshot below, my NANO word counts have suffered quite dramatically because of this focus on ending my other book. However, I do believe I can catch up. The book is still moving along swiftly when I work on it, and I don’t feel any particular anxiety about how things are going. Fingers crossed.

Day 13 of NANO 2018

Day 13: I wrote 123 words for the NANO book (623 words total for all my fiction).

I revisited the ending of the one book I’m trying to finish, and I revisited the book I’m working on in a series that I want to write, but that in all honesty, I have no need to write at any particular speed. The books in that series hardly sell, so I’ll just keep puttering along with it until I feel compelled to do more. It’ll happen, eventually. I spent too much time reading part of the first book in the series in a hunt for information, and I should regret it, but I really don’t. I love that story. :-)

I’m behind in NANO quite a bit now, but I keep thinking I’m going to get this ending of this other book finished so I allowed myself to focus on that today. I wish my word count proved that to be a good decision, but as you can see, it does not.

Day 12 of NANO 2018

Well, it’s official. I’m behind. Today is rainy and cold and I’m dressed warmly and it feels like a good day to catch up so that’s what I’m going to try to do.

Day 12: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (1,353 words total for all my fiction).

I went back to the book I’ve been trying to finish and spent some time on the ending. I had hoped to finish it, but I didn’t. Definitely still have a chapter or two to write for it.

I’m just going to have to try to catch up with the NANO book once it’s done.

Look, unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams

Here’s the thing. When I set out to make writing my source of income, I knew what I was getting into. I’d been married to someone who did contract work for a while cutting lumber and I have a dad who did that for a while, too, and who worked as a mason for some-odd years. I also had an uncle who had spent years working in construction, with all its seasonal variations and ups and downs.

Writing is like that.

Cash flow is a thing.

Income variability is a thing. A big thing. I mean, it’s real and it’s ugly sometimes. It means that the good years have to be averaged with the bad years and you have to live on the average income or less, not the income of the good years.

If you don’t, when the bad years come, you’ll go broke and you’ll have to go get a job doing something that will put money in the bank. When that happens, whether or not you can continue to produce good fiction at a pace that will get you writing full-time again becomes a thing. Maybe you won’t be able to juggle the new job and the writing. It was hard the first time, remember?

That’s what it’s like to be a writer. The income is all over the place. The few (and they are few!) who can turn writing into a regular, reliable source of income are miracle workers. You can’t let yourself be fooled by them into thinking that cash flow is going to be steady and that you’re trading the paycheck of a regular employee-type job for a regular paycheck from self-publishing fiction.

Unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams.

I know there are some productive people out there saying that you can make steady money with writing, but I’m just going to say this: they’re not the norm and they’re probably talking about a shorter time frame than most other writers are imagining. And they’re probably in a position that is going to change, but just hasn’t, yet. How long have they been at it? A one or two or even three year history isn’t enough time to know these things.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2012. I have seven years of history behind me as a self-published author earning a living with fiction, and I can tell you that the things I talk about above are true. I’ve had some bad years, all related to my own production issues, but someday I’m sure I’ll have bad years related to market changes too. All of those kinds of bad years come around eventually. I’ve also seen a lot of authors over the last couple of years, who seemed bulletproof, start to recognize that even they are going to have these bad years too. That’s how I know these things are true for writers other than me.

Sometimes it’s not the book. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. So many authors want to say that luck has nothing to do with success or failure, but it’s just not true. I’m not even sorry to say it. There is so much out of a person’s control in the world that it is absolutely foolish not to prepare for the effects of luck, good and bad. If you’re doing everything you can to make it, it’s okay to hope for luck to come along and help you out. It’s also okay to blame luck for the fact that you can’t seem to get anywhere, as long as you’re being honest with yourself about your skills and effort. (If you can’t be honest with yourself, then blaming luck is a crutch and it’s only going to hurt you, so try not to do that, okay?)

Then there’s the topic of what you write. You can write what you want and hope it works or you can write what other people tell you to write or you can study what readers seem to want and write that. If you choose anything other than writing what you want, you really have to decide if you’re actually fulfilling your dream or just making work for yourself on your way to fulfilling your dream.

I chose to write for myself. I don’t want to be a writer if I can’t write what I want. If you can’t make it full-time writing what you want, then you need a job. But you get to choose what the job is a lot of the time. I choose not to have it be writing. If I can’t make it full-time writing what I want at some point in the future, writing what I don’t want to write sure isn’t going to be the job I turn to to pay my bills.

At the end of that road is the death of a dream and I’m not taking it.

If you like writing so much that you want to write and you don’t care what you write, then you’re one of the lucky ones. :)

If it turns out not to be true, that’s when you’re going to be in trouble. Because you’re probably going to be stuck writing those things you don’t want to be writing, over and over and over again.

It’s a pretty simple choice, and a lot of authors really fuck it up: Do you want to write because you have stories to tell or do you want to write because you want to be self-employed and you happen to really like writing?

I’m the former, no doubt about it. I have stories to tell and which ones I tell matters to me. I have a little of the latter in me, in that I am happy to be self-employed, but honestly, if I’m not writing the stories I want to be writing, I do not like writing. Not even a little.

:)

Day 10 of NANO 2018

Very slow start today. I’m actually sitting here at 6:52 pm knowing that I haven’t started yet and that I need to write the full daily goal of 1,667 words just to stay caught up. I can do it, but I’m going to have to get in a hurry. I have a few things to finish first and time just keeps slipping away…

Will update this after I write.

Oh dear.

Day 10: I wrote 97 words for the NANO book.

I didn’t work on other books. Just those few words. Really, I’m not even sure I remember when I did those. It was not a productive night. I guess my brain just needed a day to contemplate the book or something. :)