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A New Home

I’m finally doing something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, both in this blog, on my Facebook page and maybe even in  my real life (soon, not right now on that score).  I’ve known for a while now that I had no intention of keeping my married name, Tkachyk, once the divorce was finalized.  The thing is, as we all know, I have so little patience that it’s almost not funny.  Add to that my feeling that I need to switch over for writing reasons and I’ve decided to launch my post-marriage name, the one I’ve intended for a while now to publish under. J. Elizabeth Hill.

With that in mind, this blog is moving to a new address: http://jelizabethhill.wordpress.com/

Everything from here has been exported over to that address, all the posts, comments, pages, etc.  WordPress is very handy that way, I must say.  They make it easy.  Those of you who wish to continue following this blog will, of course, need to add/switch to the new one, as I will not be updating this one further after this post.

I’ve simply decided that it’s time to take this final step away from that old life, the old self.  Besides, can you imagine people trying to find my books by this last name?🙂

Going To Need A Second Brain

I’ve been working for the last few days on The Nine, just working out what the major events are, the threads I need to juggled and keep track of, which has resulted in the title of this post.  I’ve got a lot going on here😮

This is not a new thing for me, I should mention, writing down the major events.  I did this when I was figuring out how I needed to rewrite DM, and I did it to some extent with Possession, but I know I have a lot to deal with in wrapping the trilogy, and that’s making me do this part in a more serious fashion. I’ve actually pulled out index cards so I can make notes on each of the threads.  Every thread has it’s own card.  There are several (I’m not going to count, I’m not going to go count them, I’ll only scare myself). I’m slowly figuring out how to tie it all together, the places where the threads meet, knot with each other and then go back on their separate paths, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little uncertain about pulling this off.  It’s going to push me as a writer, but I see that as a good thing.  The only way to grow in skill and maturity is to push yourself further, to make yourself try to stretch for that greater achievement.  Damn, though, it’s scary.

I’m still letting myself have a bunch of downtime, of course, so I can recharge.  Notes and outline stages seem to be like that for me though.  I’ll make a few notes, go do something else, come back to it.  Outline a couple things, then do something else. It’s just writing draft that I pound myself (and keyboard) into the ground on, and even that’s only on first draft.  That’s mostly about that internal editor, the same one who makes me wonder if I can pull this off.  Mine’s semi-trained in a professional sense, since I once wanted to do that for a living, which seems to have sharpened her teeth and claws.  The only way I can get a book done, I’ve found, is to write at warp speed, which is what leads me to do all of this planning, of course.  I can only write that fast if I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about what needs to go where.  It’s when I haven’t done that that I end up slowing down and getting caught by a combination of exhaustion and inner-editor.  It’s really a one-two punch, which is part of what happened at the end of Possession.  I didn’t spend enough time thinking about how I would handle the ending. I knew what the ending was, the things it had to be, but not how I would approach it or pull it off.  With so much at stake in The Nine, I have no intention of doing that again, leaving the state in which I crossed the finish line last time totally aside.

I have no idea when I’ll start writing this one, and I’m not going to speculate, as I don’t want to feel I have to rush to it. It won’t be until I’m ready, until I know where I’m going and how.  I need to check something in both books that I’ve already written before I can get too far into outlining, but I can’t do that right now.  I’m not pulling Possession out of the drawer yet, as it’s not time, not even close, and I know I’ll get caught up in it if I open the file to check for that one thing.  At least I know my own weaknesses, I guess.

What I find most funny, to me anyway, is that in spite of how intimidating I’m finding The Nine at the moment, I’m seriously looking forward to writing it.  Or maybe it’s because of that intimidation.  I love beating down a challenge, standing on it and saying “Yeah, that’s right, I won.”

And now, before I get back to trying to weave threads without tangling them worse than kittens, tonight’s picture, for your enjoyment.

The Delight of Nothing

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is at the start for me to do nothing.  Especially after four straight months of always on, always working.  But I did it.  Other than a couple of notes on stray thoughts, I did NOTHING yesterday that was writing related.  It was fantastic once I got into it.  I feel surprisingly recharged, other than the irritation of having to stop doing nothing and go to work today.  That sucked.

The funny thing about all that nothing is that it seemed to have allowed me to de-stress enough and stop thinking about The Nine enough to let my brain make some progress in the background on it.  I’ve a basic idea of how I want to handle a bunch of things, including one of the knottier issues I was facing, and I don’t feel nearly as pressured about this being the close of the trilogy anymore. Hell, I was joking about it today, and for those of you who don’t know me all that well, that means I’m not worried about it.  It’s when I lose any ability to tell jokes about a subject that you know I’m suffering some serious angst about it.

So yeah, slowly building out the story for The Nine while I let Possession sit in the magical drawer (folder on my computer). I expect to be ready for outlining at least, if not already started that stage, by the time I pull Possession back out and reread it.  I may read back through DM again beforehand, just to regain the perspective of “here’s where people will be when they come into the story.”  We’ll see.

I really do feel better about a lot of things that had begun to irritate me in general, work, writing, self, all of it.  I’m starting to think that maybe working 7 days a week is bad for you or something😮 I know, you’re all as shocked by that as I am.  Or maybe just shocked by my admitting it.  Okay, yes, I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard, and had a wee bit of trouble taking the foot off the gas when I needed to, desperately needed to in fact.  I’m starting to think that, when it comes time to write The Nine, I’m going to need to build a 6-day a week schedule, rather than say that I will write every day for hours.  I won’t necessarily take that day off (hey, I’m being honest here, don’t throw things at me), but I will at least feel like I’m allowed to when I have a day that I can’t seem to dial into the story, or I’m tired, or whatever.  I think giving myself permission to do that might be important to finding that balance I keep going on about.

I’ve also given a fair bit of thought on why I’ve been pushing myself so hard.  I’m not going to blame Tavis (he’s not nearly as pushy as, oh say, Devan), and I’m not even going to let myself off by saying the story was flowing and I just went with it.  That was the case for most of Possession, no doubt about that, but the ending was like pulling teeth and I’m not happy with it, yet I pretty literally forced myself to it anyway, rather than doing the sensible thing and letting myself have that day off that I had definitely earned.  So why did I do that to myself (stupidly) and risk burn out? I think the easiest way to explain it is to admit that I feel guilty some days.  Maybe that seems silly to some, especially in light of what I’ve managed to accomplish in the last four months, but it’s true.

Remember how I said that I discovered writing when I was 16? I’m almost 34 now.  Almost 18 years have passed since I realized that writing is very much part of who I am and what I want to be doing with my life, and what have I been doing? Mostly not writing, that’s what.  I feel like I have severely wasted my time because I was scared, miserable, tired, the list goes on, but they were all excuses, really.  I think I’ve proven that’s all they were.  I could have been writing for the last 18 years, but I didn’t, and I sometimes wonder where I would be, skill-wise, if I had been writing.  Maybe I needed that time to gain a greater perspective on life, people, feelings, the world, all the kinds of things that get woven into stories, even when you write Fantasy like I do (or maybe it’s especially when you write Fantasy and have some seriously bizarre elements in the world). But mostly I feel like I let myself down and now I have to make it up to myself, and make the most of every minute I have for writing.  Man, that sounds stupid to me as I type it, but it’s still my feelings on the matter.  I feel like I have to make up for all that time I wasted when I should have been writing, so I drive myself mercilessly.  I have to get a handle on this, though, or I’ll do myself some serious damage.

I’ve decided that I’m going to dial back the 30-day goal when it comes time to start that process with The Nine.  Yes, I know, I beat pace every day when writing both of the novels I’ve completed, but I’m on to me there too. I’m going to tell myself that pace is okay (rather than a starting point), that 3k is amazing, and to quit for the day while I still have brain cells that function and am somewhat awake. I’m going to keep reminding myself of that as many times as I have to until I have it pounded through my seriously thick skull.  There is no point in making myself brain dead for my writing. I’m not good enough for it to be worth that price, and even if I were that awesome, it still wouldn’t be worth it.

It’s amazing the perspective a day of not immersing yourself in your chosen obsession can give you.  And for anyone who might be wondering why I’m saying all of this here, it’s for the same reason I announce my writing goals here.  I’m trying to keep myself honest, and not let myself sidle away from it.  I’m good at it, trust me, but knowing that I have told people, that I have staked out specifically what I’m going to do keeps me from twisting my own words, or telling myself I didn’t really mean it, or that halfway is enough.  It gives me something to live up to, and I’m noticing time and again that it’s working for me.

In other news, I think Sketh and Devan are going to end up having a duel or something for my time when I finish the trilogy.  Now they BOTH won’t leave me alone.  I’d be irritated, but we all know I am entirely happy to have a million ideas rolling around in my head.  If they’d only stop waking me up in the middle of the night, I’d delightedly tell them to get comfy.  Inconsiderate bastards, these necromancers and mercenaries, keeping a lady up at night.🙂

Yes, I know, I still haven’t done my Tag post or the two awards I’ve received, but I’ll be honest, writing and photography and thoughts about those things are always going to come first on this blog.  It’s just who I am.  I’ll get to those, though, really, I will.

Finally, before my fingers drop off or Tavis gets impatient, tonight’s picture:

My Version of a Vacation

So, after getting up and having coffee, I sat down at my computer and did it again.  Yup, the first draft of Possession is now done, in the books, archived, backed up and set for editing.  Not that I’m going to dive into that today, or even tomorrow.  I’m going to try to leave this for a week, maybe two, depending on what I have to do that might keep me occupied and how long my supply of LifeintheFarceLane’s patience as well as my own self-control hold out.  I don’t think I’ll make it that far, from past experience, but I’m going to try.

The manuscript weighs in at 82,682 words, 338 pages of manuscript format.  It’s close to the size of the first book, but this is only the first draft. If the last one is any indication, I tend to underwrite and add about 10% in editing, so this may end up in the 90k+ range when I’m done tuning it.  I am not entirely happy with the ending (thus the struggles of the last couple days), so I know that will be rewritten eventually, and almost certainly end up longer. That is exactly what happened with the ending of DM in the second draft, so it doesn’t surprise me.  I’m still new at endings, and apparently it takes me a couple tries to get them right.  I wonder how long I can get away with that excuse.  How many does it take to become experienced at them? 5? 6? Gulp, 20? I’ll have to let you know when I get there.😀  I will say that my overall level of satisfaction with this draft is good, at least, and I don’t foresee the need to toss the draft and rewrite it all like I did with DM.  But then, I made an error in something completely fundamental to the world in the first draft of that book, which is why it had to be entirely rewritten, and those kinds of things are supposed to be worked out before you get to book 2 ideally.

I am going to give myself the rest of the day off from writing, except in the case of spontaneous surprise attacks by ideas.  I always brake for those, because they’re worse than hitting full-grown deer.  They always total the writer’s brain when you ignore them.  One way or another, they get their own back on you, even if it’s that perpetual feeling of having had something great only to find it slipped through your fingers. I’m actually going to try to take a few days off, given how hard I’ve been pushing myself for about four months now, but we all know my ability to walk away from writing even temporarily is nearly non-existent.  I think some reading, maybe some gaming (which I haven’t done in a couple of weeks), is in order.  I’d go out and get myself something special for dinner tonight to celebrate, but the wind outside is making an attempt to blow my apartment building over, and the buzzer for my apartment doesn’t work, so delivery is out as an option.  Damn. Maybe tomorrow I’ll treat myself to lunch out at my favourite fancy burger joint.

Devan’s been back around last night and this morning, whispering. A lot.  I swear, he knows when The End is coming on whatever project I’m working on and pounces.  I wonder if that’s a necromancer thing.  But in any case, he’s making noise again, whispering more secrets, surprising me even further, even though I pointed out to him that I still have to write The Nine at least before it’s his turn. He needs his own supply of patience.  That said, I’m looking forward to it being his turn.  I was rereading my notes for Necromantic and I forgot how much I like (love) him, and the story shaping up around him.

I think that’s all there is to report. I hadn’t actually expected to be making this post until tomorrow, but somehow I thought I had more ending to write than it turned out.  Maybe that’s part of why I’m not happy with the ending, the feeling that it’s missing something.  Oh well, that’s something I can mull while I’m NOT editing that beast, and then work out when it’s time to tackle the task.  In the meantime, I’m off to give my brain a much needed, deserved break.  I will say, though, the thrill of writing The End still hasn’t gotten old, even though I’ve done it 3 times now in fairly rapid succession. I doubt it ever will, though.

I’ll probably take the opportunity tomorrow to catch up on a couple of other posts that I need to take care of, but have been too busy writing to get to. I have 2 awards and a tag to deal with.  It all piles up when you’re busy banging away at the keyboard for other things.

Before I forget, let me leave you with another picture. I think I may do up a page for these, collect them into a gallery of past ones, maybe.  It’s getting harder to remember which ones I’ve posted already. I’m going to need to figure out a system of some kind.

Every Direction At Once

I can, with gratitude and delight, report that one of my chief sources of stress and angst this week has been relieved.  This is good because I think it was getting in the way of writing.  Stupid day job. :p That said, good news is a heck of a way to start your weekend.

I should say that, despite all that, I haven’t done too badly, especially as I’m near the end of Possession and trying very hard to sculpt a good ending that sets up the beginning of The Nine. It’s been a wild ride, and I wish I was on vacation to write the end as I was for the end of the first one, but sadly, I don’t have another vacation planned until May.  Oh well. It means I’m having to take this one in manageable chunks, instead of the 6 and 7k days I did to finish DM’s second draft.  I’m still making pace every night, but not much more. That said, I’m fairly happy with the progress, happier with the quality and watching the word count add up. Possession is up to 79,628 words right now, before I start writing for the night.  I think I have 10k or less to go, but we all know I’m a terrible judge of that.  It does mean that, from what I see in my outline and the weather for the weekend (dismal), I may actually finish the first draft of Possession this weekend, way ahead of schedule.

Of course this means that I need to turn to The Nine, which has remained a bit of a mystery.  I know where it begins, I have a vague idea of some of the things that have to happen in it, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to start outlining, and leaning toward I’m not ready for that yet.  I haven’t been thinking about it as much so far, as I’ve been wrapped up in the first two.  I will say that I’m feeling a bit of pressure about it because it’s the close of the trilogy, and I know the kind of expectation that rides on that sort of thing.  But I think I’m up to it, and besides, I’ve already told myself that I’m just going to write the story that comes and worry about the rest later.  I’ll have Possession edited fairly thoroughly I suspect before I set down to write The Nine, perhaps even before I fully outline The Nine.  That was pretty much how the process worked when I was turning to Possession, and it seems to have worked, so I’ll just go with it.

I’m finding that, in thinking about The Nine, I’m experiencing an incredible ambivalence.  On one hand, it’ll be a major accomplishment for me, a person who had never even finished a single draft of a novel until last December, to have written an entire trilogy.  To me, that’s major.  But then I feel like I don’t want to say goodbye to any of the characters. If it was anyone else’s book, I’d say that I’ll come back and read it again, that the end of even the series is never really goodbye, but I have this feeling I’ll be too busy writing another book, reading some of my own favourite authors on the side, to come back and reread my own books.  Also, as I progress as a writer, I suspect I may look back and feel guilty about just how much better I’d be able to write this by then.  So I fear that the end of the trilogy, and certainly after the stand alone, will be a true goodbye for me with these characters, and it makes me a little sad.  I’m going to miss them so much.

On a less sappy and melodramatic note, I do find it funny that, just when I was getting ready to tap on the idea fountain and see if it still functioned (it had been few days), out pops a couple more ideas, plus some detritus that goes with stuff I already had notes on.  I’m still a little up in the air about what I want to work on when I finish the trilogy.  Part of me says that I should do the stand alone that goes with the short story, but that’s not remotely ready (and not likely to become so until I at least have the outline of The Nine done, since it’s chronologically after that book), and the rest of me looks at Devan, Helix and Sketh, all looking like they want to pounce on me given half a chance.  It’s still too early to decide though.  I imagine it will become clear before I reach that point. It often seems to work that way for me.

Oh, I should add that the test readers have now finished with DM and the initial feedback has been quite encouraging.  I’m waiting for full feedback (rather than initial reactions) though before I start breathing again.  Wow, I think I’m starting to see spots… Is that a bad sign? In any case, depending on what that feedback comes in as, I know that I’m getting close to that point at which I have to decide, epub it myself or go with traditional publishing.  And I’m still not sure. It’s like trying to think inside of a windstorm, really.  Every time I think I have it sorted out and decided, I read something else that makes me start thinking about it again and it all gusts up on me.  I swear, whatever I decide, it will likely be more thoroughly thought out than the book itself!

And for today’s picture, here we are.  I had actually pulled two out last time and this is the other one I grabbed.

On The Wall Instead Of Up It

Wow, I log on to write this post and find I’ve surpassed 3000 hits.  When did that happen?  And how? Um, thank you for tuning in?

And now we’ll go back to my original purpose for typing on this keyboard (as opposed to my netbook). I thought I might provide a bit of an update as to how I’m doing. The short version is that things are better, but we all know I’m not going to stick with the short version. I’m a writer and therefor fairly addicted to using words.  A lot of words. A maelstrom of words across the screen! *evil laugh*

Uh, sorry, apparently I had to get that out of my system. But many words have been used, and I have another lesson going up on the wall.  It’s kind of an extension of the things I talked about in the last post, but I think the last couple of days have clarified things further for me.

Looking back at my last post, I realize that I know myself too well, enough that I was entirely right. The last two days have been 4k days. I wasn’t trying to get there, really. In fact, after hitting 2.5, I told myself I could quit any time I wanted to. But then I didn’t want to. I just kept telling the story. And that’s the thing, it was about the story, entirely about that and word count just got left behind as unimportant. Then I quit for the night, entered the total on my tracking spreadsheet and stared in amazement as numbers a little in excess of 4k came out both days. Seriously, I was kind of impressed with myself, a highly unusual state of affairs, trust me.

So the lesson going on the wall? Direct quote from what’s on the paper being taped up: Lose yourself in telling the story and words (word count and all) will flow along with that story. It means a lot of things, including using how the story flows as a tool for me to diagnose when something is wrong with the story, or worse, when I’m driving myself too hard.  It also helps me to know when I’m putting together a good story, because I think those are the ones that a writer tends to lose themselves in. I may be wrong on that part, as it’s purely my experience, and I welcome comments on it, either agreement or otherwise.

All that writing landed me at another milestone for the draft last night, 70k was reached and breached. I’m still not willing to pin down how far I have to go, but I think it’s in the 15k range. Nobody quote me on that later though, please. There are parts I think I will have to work with to smooth out and others that I’ve skimmed through and been surprisingly pleased with. But that’s all a worry for another time, not until at least a week or two after I finish this draft, depending on what I might have to keep myself occupied when I’m done this.  One day, if I ever have a lot of money, I’m going to go out and try to buy some patience.  Nothing else has worked, maybe that will, if I can find the right shop.

I have done one big scary thing, this past weekend, and I hadn’t mentioned it because, well, I’m a little nervous.  My recently written short story, Cost of Duty, is entered now in the Writer’s of the Future contest. It’s done on a quarterly basis, science fiction and fantasy only if memory serves, and there’s real money in it (if you win at least), plus there’s a bigger prize if you win the year. They produce an anthology every year as well. It’s been going on for 29 years and it’s kind of a big deal, thus the nerves.  It only took me about 15 minutes to get through the whole electronic submission process, and apparently my nerves don’t respond to big scary things that fast, because I didn’t get nervous until after I hit send.  This morning I got my confirmation that it’s officially entered.  Eeep.  Wish me luck. Apparently I get to wait until June to find out about winners.  I need to find that store and buy patience right away. :p

And finally, today’s picture, before I go off and make dinner, then (shockingly) write. I have a few like this one, and I tried to pick the best of them. I love the layering in this shot.

Well, I’ve definitely learned something. I was doing exactly what I thought I was doing. It’s annoying to have to tell myself I was right and that I was wrong and that I was being stupid. Yes, that probably sounds crazy, but keep in mind that it’s a conversation with myself, and I’ve told you before, writers are crazy. It’s what we do.

You might recall I said in my last awards post that I was never satisfied with my word count, that if I did 3k last draft, I would be pushing myself for 4k on the next? That’s literally true.  It’s what I’ve been doing, and I think that’s been part of the problem. 4k every day is a lot (especially after an 8 hour work day), and some days it isn’t there, but do you think I let myself understand that? Heck no. Yes, this means I’ve berated myself on the days it isn’t there, tried to wheedle and coax myself into getting there anyway, and I keep giving in to myself on it instead of saying “Look self, I’m over 3k, pace was 2.5k, enough. We’re good for the day.” And that only gets worse on the weekends, where the line is “If I can do 4k on a weekday, I should be able to do a lot more than that when I have all day. 6k minimum, and I should keep pushing even after that.” It’s never enough for me, it seems.

That is not to say I was wrong in my last post about the wall being related to a story problem. That was the wall, but when I got that problem sorted, I still had some trouble getting the engine to turn over and realized that it’s because I hadn’t even started it and already had the pedal matted.  Not good, only floods the engine. I was sitting there and seriously telling myself that I had to make sure I hit at least 4k every day now, and that this weekend I should use the time to make up for the lack of writing after I hit the wall.  After a moment, I realized exactly how stupid that sounded and went off to read for a while.  It was a delicious thing to turn away for an hour and do something else.  I won’t say it’s easy to resist the pressure I put on myself, but I think it’s worth doing sometimes, if only to me back on an even keel.

It’s great to drive myself to finish the book, but if I drive myself to the point of wanting to walk away, that’s just counterproductive (and the above mentioned stupid). Then I end up quitting over not meeting some artificial, self-imposed quota or deadline that wasn’t reasonable to begin with.  In a way, I’m laughing at myself right now.  I’ve told a number of people to take the pressure off of themselves, to be reasonable in their goals, to dial it back to where it’s still about loving writing. Do you think I take my own advice? Yeah, right, that would be sensible, which I rarely manage. So I am going to do that, I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to dial it back, tell myself that 3k, which only a couple of months ago would have thrilled me as a regular achievement, is perfectly acceptable. I’m still over 20k ahead of pace and even that isn’t the point.  I need to let myself be a little sane (don’t laugh too hard, we’re talking my version here), do some things that aren’t writing the book or I’m going to do myself some harm here.  I don’t think I could quite make myself hate writing, but if I keep this up, it may become a job in the less pleasant sense, rather than the job that doesn’t feel like work as it has been for the past few months.

I’m the one who keeps talking about maintaining balance, so it’s time to bring this back into balance. What’s funny about that is I have this feeling that if I can rebalance this, the numbers will probably jump again on their own, if I’m not trying to force it anymore.  That’s just the way things usually work in my life.

I haven’t reported numbers on Possession for a while now, so I am going to do that now, so that maybe I (and the rest of you) can really see that it’s not like I’m in danger of not hitting my goal or not finishing the draft.  I know where I am with the outline, and the chances are excellent that, like the second draft of DM, I will finish the book at or before the end of my February NaNo, even with me dialling it back.  As of the end of the day yesterday, the manuscript stood at 62,151 words. I’m about to start chapter 16. Even with the problems this week, not including today because I haven’t gotten started yet, I’ve put in a total of 13,396 words. That’s fantastic, and I really should be happy with that.  I’m trying to be, trying to ignore the totals from Thursday and Friday (though Friday at least wasn’t bad, especially if you realize that I was rewriting a not so small section that wasn’t right when I forced myself to write it in pursuit of the artificially inflated finish line).  I really need to maintain some perspective here, something I’m spectacularly bad at doing myself most of the time, for all that I can help other people do it.

I do want to say a very, very big thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read, like and comment on the posts in the last few days. Your words of encouragement, support, and advice have helped more than I can tell you.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the supportive community is what makes WordPress a wonderful place to blog.

In closing, today’s picture. I thought we could all use some sun and colour on this February morning.

Measurements, Goals and Progress

It’s almost kind of funny that I ended up posting this after the incident of Wall vs Writer. I had planned this post even before I did the one for the VIB award.  I ‘m not sure whether this is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy or the kind of coincidence that you never find in fiction.  But I promise you that this post is not actually a result of yesterday, really.

You see, I was thinking the other day about how we set and measure both our goals and our progress toward them.  More specifically, I was thinking about how I do these things, because by now you all know I never claim to be the wise old expert on anything.  There are definitely different ways one can measure progress on almost anything, but I find that there are two major ways with writing in my experience.

The first, the one that so many of us use, is word count.  Word count is nice because it’s one of the few quantifiable things in a field that is generally highly subjective. Word count is relatively absolute, especially when writing a first draft NaNo-style because you’re supposed to just keep blazing forward, and then the counter coughs up a number.  If you’re keeping track on a daily basis, then it’s a simple calculation to know how much you have accomplished.  Then you have something to measure against that quantified goal for that period of time, so you can tell readily if you are on track for your goal.  Of course, I never know for sure how long the story will be on first draft, because I always think you let that draft be as long as it needs, regardless of any other considerations, so it would be hard to give a percent to completion expression of this progress. But I definitely know how far I’ve come in a day.

While this is a great way to feel accomplished (I won’t lie, I love seeing the giant numbers), it does ignore the fact that writing is about far more than just writing X number of words, so very much more.  As I said, it’s a subjective field, where “good” and “right” and “correct” get tossed around a lot but mean different things to everyone.  For a while during university, I worked in a book store (lit major working in the fiction section, there’s a no brainer).  When customers would express that they felt like they should be reading certain types of fiction, usually literary, because they were under the impression that those types were automatically “better,” I would point out that we have so many different types of books and authors because there is such a variety of taste in books, that no type is better than the others. I might be a little biased because I’m a committed reader of fantasy, mystery and to a lesser extent, science fiction, but I do stand by the statement to this day.

So, if this is a subject field, is there a way of making goals and tracking them that acknowledges that and works with it? This is what I was thinking about the other day that made me want to post about the subject as soon as I had my thoughts on it straight.  Despite my saying that this post wasn’t caused by my afore-mentioned little difficulty, I do think that the wall and the fallout from it has helped to clarify my thinking on the subject, making it easier to write this post than I had expected. You see, I didn’t feel bad so much about hitting a difficulty, because those happen, but I felt (and still feel) a little bad about not making my word count goal yesterday. The only thing that stopped me from trying despite the way I felt was the realization that anything I tried to write at that point would be a pure waste, that I’d just be deleting it as soon as I had the problem sorted in order to move forward in the story. That leads me to think that purely number-based goals put undue pressure on us to perform even if we know we’re writing drivel.  The number of times I’ve seen in the NaNo forums that someone just had to go through their whole book from November and put in all the contractions that they deliberately left out during NaNo purely for higher word count, or something similar in the name of word count, well, it drives me a little nuts.  I mean, it’s good to hit the goal, don’t get me wrong, but what’s the point when you’re only writing it to add words you know, for sure, you’ll be taking out later?  You’re  making more pointless work for yourself, really.  This is not the same as editing, where you might be tweaking to better express something. I’m talking words put in the manuscript purely for the count’s sake. There has to be another way, I thought to myself, something that lets me feel accomplished without driving myself batty on a rough day, or just a day that didn’t have a high number, but got me through something important. This thought led me to where I’m leading all of you.

You see, I do think there is definitely a more fluid, qualitative way to judge progress, though it’s far harder to set concrete, achievable, measurable goals. This would be measuring it by general progress through the story itself. Note to all the pantsers out there, this probably won’t work for you because you’re still discovering where your story is going, so it would be impossible to judge progress toward the end.  But for those of us who plan and outline our way through the story, and then draft it, this is perfectly possible, if somewhat unpredictable.

I’ve done this method before. Because of the way I outline things, I tend to be able to say that I’m doing events A, B and C today. Those would be then 3 of a set number of events as laid out in my outline.  Some of you who were reading this blog as I did the second draft of DM might remember me referring to entries in my outline, how many I had and how many I had completed.  That’s basically what I was doing, trying to judge my progress by the amount of the story I had written, but in a fairly qualitative sense. The reason I find this subjective is that there are a number of factors at play in the length of draft an entry or event will turn into, including importance, intricacy, how much I need actually describe, things like that. Some of you might recall me first worrying that the second draft of DM would be too long, then that it would be just right, and in the end, it was about 30k shorter than I had anticipated. This is what I meant about it being unpredictable. But it feels like a way of measuring that is more fair to myself and the story. Why? Well, as a reader, I rarely care how long a story is, unless it’s either fabulous or crap.  If it’s crap, well, I probably put it down before the end anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter then either.  When it’s fabulous, I don’t notice word count, but I do notice that I don’t want it to ever stop.  :)  In other words, what I really care about is the story, so shouldn’t I, as a writer, be judging my work based on that same yardstick? I mean, I can’t be the only reader who views books this way.

I’m still not sure, given the unpredictability this method, how I would set about creating, maintaining and judging progress on goals in this fashion. All I’m certain of is that I have had days where I’ve struggled to put as many words on the screen as I feel I should, but when I look back at the section I did write, I felt accomplished anyway because it was either important or intricate to the point of requiring careful work on what words I used.  That should count for something. Maybe there’s some hybrid of the two methods possible, if I can ever learn to maintain a sense of perspective and not drive myself into the ground wanting to eternally go faster and do more.  Hmm, it’s a thought.  I’ll probably be mulling this over still when I get to the point of setting the goals for The Nine.  Maybe I’ll even post further thoughts on the subject if I have them.

Before you ask, I did get some writing done tonight. I have the problem licked, I think (edit stage will have the final say on that), and even managed to hit pace tonight. It’s not nearly as much as I had been doing, but it was important to me to climb back on that horse, and to feel out the solution. Green lights all the way. Now to rebuild the momentum, as I told someone else once.🙂

Also, feedback on DM continues to be good. I’m thinking that the pace it’s being read through is probably a good sign.

And, before I go, I did promise a picture, so here it is. My mother loves growing these things, has had one at every house they’ve owned. I love the way the light plays across the leaves in this one.

Of Roadblocks, Walls and Realizations

It’s never a fun feeling as writer when you run head first, at full sprint, into a wall.  Okay, I did start to notice the wall yesterday, but today was the impact.  Ow, I think I need a chiropractor now.  It sapped me more than a little bit of energy tonight (especially when coupled with several non-writing things, which are probably more a cause of this than the wall), but I think I have the problem figured out.

You see, I’m at a point in my outline where I had a bit of difficulty figuring out how I was going to handle a particular event and the lead up to the next one. And now that I’m trying to write that section, I’m feeling a tremendous amount of resistance in my own brain to writing what I had planned. This is a sign of a familiar problem. Without getting into specifics, the wall I just hit confirmed what I vaguely remember thinking when I wrote this part of the outline, that I had made the wrong choice for the story, that I was trying to force it in a direction that it shouldn’t be going in.  As I said, it’s not the first time this has happened in my writing history, but that means I know what I need to do to get back on track with Possession. In fact, I’ve already done it. I’ve gone back, evaluated what wasn’t working and why, both in the outline and in what I wrote in the draft, which led me directly to what I think will work.  It’s late and I’m too tired to actually sit down and start writing it, but I’ll get to that tomorrow.  I’m currently over 20k ahead of my pace. I think I can afford to give myself the rest of the night off after I’ve made a few more notes on the solution to my problem. It isn’t as if I haven’t been working on it tonight, just not in the manner planned.

No, this is not the post I had planned to write today.  That will probably come tomorrow after work, maybe first thing Saturday if I get totally wrapped back up in writing tomorrow (and I won’t complain about that one bit).

In the good news column, initial test reader feedback on DM is encouraging.

And no, no picture tonight. See above comment on being tired.  I don’t care if it’s only 9:15, my brain thinks it’s midnight.  I think I’ll call it a night early now.

My friend Amber, at Conversing with Novels was so thoughtful as to pass me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

The funny thing is that I am the last person I would ever point others to when looking for inspiration, but I think that has to do with a rampant case of it’s-not-impressive-if-I’m-the-one-doing-it. I’m in treatment, the doctors say it’s not life-threatening and that I can safely live the rest of my life with it if treatment doesn’t work.  They have, however, informed me that it’s not covered by any Healthcare system, and so they have been forced to mail me my invoice for services rendered.  Wait, what’s this slip of paper in the envelope with it? It looks a bit like a prescription.

  1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
  2. Write 7 things about yourself
  3. Nominate 7 blogs

Oh, wait, those are the instructions. Apparently they found them when they were researching my case. Curiouser and curiouser…

So, many more thanks to Amber for thinking of me. Now, for the (not very) juicy tidbits of information about the (very) crazy writer-lady.

  1. The first SLR camera I got to use was my Aunt Sandy’s, a Minolta X-700 that’s more or less been on perma-loan to me since she found out I wanted to get into photography. I’d still be using that if Agfa hadn’t stopped making my favourite type of film, more or less turfing me into the digital photography age.
  2. I talk to the characters in my books.  A lot. Especially when I hit a road block in either the notes or outline stages. Sometimes they tell me surprising secret things, sometimes they just tell me off.  They’re a loudmouthed, mutinous bunch, but I love them, and talking to them has so far gotten me out of every jam since I started writing all the time last fall. Thank god I live alone, though sometimes I get funny looks from the cats.
  3. Many of the writing inspirations I’ve shared on here were so shared for two reasons. First, I wanted to make sure I recorded them somewhere other than just my wall of lessons learned, and second, I’m not so much trying to inspire people as save them from bashing their heads into some of the walls I’ve bashed mine into. I know it hurts, and I’d like to try to save someone else that pain if I can.
  4. I’m never happy with my progress. In anything, really.  It’s never enough. If I write 2k per day for an entire draft, I feel the need to top it, even if that’s not reflected in my goal. The actual stated goal this time, as I write Possession, is the same as when I wrote the second draft of DM (which is ambitious to begin with since I wrote most of that draft of DM while on vacation from the day job) but I’m not satisfied with just writing 3k per night (my average at least during the portion of last time that included going to the day job). No, this time, I’m not entirely happy with myself unless I’ve written 4k, despite the fact that pace is only 2.5k.  That’s just a little sick and I’m wondering when it will be forced to end by a serious case of I-don’t-have-any-more-hours-in-the-day-for-this. I’m pretty sure you can’t get treatment for that.
  5. I rarely plan posts out ahead of time. I mean almost never. Okay, I think it happened once (not including the one I have planned for after this award post). I find it odd that they don’t ramble more because of this. I mean, I edit them. Trust me, I even tend to edit my comments on other blogs.  But strangely, all of these unplanned posts seem to stay more or less on subject, and even usually have a nice flow to them. I’m a bit amazed at that.
  6. Though I have trouble being inspired by anything I do, even when I know intellectually that it should be viewed as inspiring, I often find others very inspiring and love to tell them so, to encourage them to keep doing whatever they’re doing that I find so awesome.  In that spirit, I’m looking forward to the nomination section.
  7. If I were successful enough to do so, I probably would quit my day job and just write. It’s not because I don’t like my day job. I do like it most days. But I think that by the time I became that successful, I would need to quit the day job just so I could feel like I had time for things other than work.  Currently I work 37.5-40 hours a week on the day job and somewhere in the 55-60 hours a week range on writing. I really do dream of having just one full time job again one day, and I know I can’t give up writing. The implications are obvious.

And so, now we move on to the main event, the Inspiring Bloggers I wish to bring to people’s attention:

  1. Though I don’t wear jewellery myself, I love her work as being beautiful in their own right and, as I know her in real life, I know exactly how inspiring she is, which is to say tremendously.
  2. This gentleman often says the things I think out loud (out word?) for me or prods me into thinking about something differently.  I think that’s good for my brain, which I need for all this writing.
  3. This lady lives her life with such honesty and a beautiful mix of self-confidence and self-examination that I find it inspires me to do the same.
  4. This fabulous photographer also writes wonderful accompanying pieces that never fail to touch me.
  5. This lady makes me look back at myself at that age and realize how little I had my stuff together. But that inspires me to keep it together now, so it’s all good to me.

Yes, I know that’s only 5.  I’m cheating. Again. I’ve just done enough of these things to realize that the number they ask for is arbitrary.  I would rather people just nominated those they feel it’s appropriate for, rather than adding to the list just because it isn’t long enough. That and several of the people I would love to give this to already have it, which just means other people have good taste too.🙂

In closing, I want to leave you with this link, which made me laugh and think at the same time, my favourite kind of inspiration. I couldn’t not share it.

Daniel Abraham’s Private Letter From Genre To Mainstream

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