Tag Archive: Insights


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:

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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

The Biggest and the Smallest

I’m sitting here after a long day that followed too little sleep and trying to think of something entertaining to say.  I think we’re all out of luck there.  I’m never at my best when I’m this tired, but I wanted to post something today, since I didn’t yesterday.  It’s not just the fact that I haven’t been sleeping much either.  If only it was so simple. No, some of it is me adjusting to begin back at work, some of it is that there seems to be nothing new to say right now.  Some of it, I suspect, is that I haven’t been eating enough lately.  No, it’s nothing stupid like me refusing to eat.  I just get wrapped up in things and forget to eat until about 10 or 11 and then it’s too late for food.  Sadly, this is a regular occurrence when I’m writing.

I already miss having all day to just write, and think about writing, to be immersed in it.  I think I need to win the lottery so I can go back to that.  I’ve been keeping at it though, now up to 5 chapters of Dark Mirror  done in both passes of editing.  I’m reasonably happy with what I’ve written too.  Oh, I have some things I need to work back into it, and other things that will need some filling in to complete them, but I think I’m striking at least some of the right notes.  And it may be better than I either know or would ever be willing to say.  My friends know that I’m my harshest critic, never giving myself enough credit and always willing to pick at any flaw without acknowledging the things I’ve done right.  The upside of all that is that I don’t really fear or worry about the criticism of others, at least not in my writing, because the chances are slim that they’ll say anything worse than what I’ve already told myself.  I sometimes worry that I’ll have that problem even if I were to become a best-selling or award-winning author.

But the work is progressing, and I managed to untangle a knot in my outline for Possession a couple of days ago, so that’s moving forward again at last, though slowly as I’m making the edit of DM my priority right now.  If I could just get some sleep, I’ll probably be able to get more done, if only because my brain will then be firing on all cylinders and it definitely isn’t now (adding to my lack of faith in my own perception of DM).  I’m hoping that I can get a jump on some of this over the weekend, though, when I can sleep in and stay up late if I want, when I have all day for writing and don’t have to think about work.

Speaking of work, I did have an interesting discussion a couple of days ago with one of the Project Managers on my team that touched on the philosophical, and it made me think about story and character construction a bit.  He was telling me about an old Chinese philosopher who talked about the smallest thing being something with no inside, and the largest having no outside.  It’s an interesting idea, one I rather like for it’s elegant simplicity of expression.  As it would apply to character and story construction, though, it seemed to me that we need to know both ends of that spectrum, the largest and smallest things, even if they don’t make it into the book, partly because those are the things that can lead us into the most interesting places in our tales.  I’ve done a little of this, taking elements of several of my characters and opening them up to see what’s inside, then opening that inside up, to see what lives within that, until I can’t drill down into that character any further.  I learned some things about almost every major character I have in my Mirrors trilogy that way, things that shocked me, that electrified my brain and turned my previously very linear thoughts on the story for the whole trilogy into total pretzels.  In fact, I think a yoga master would be impressed with the twists my brain tied itself into with some of this stuff.  Wow.  But it’s all a result of looking inside things to see what lurked there.

For going the other way, to the biggest that has no outside, I think that it’s a matter of finding out what the big picture of the story is at any given point, so that you know what goes on in places that the narrative isn’t happening at, with characters that aren’t seen at that moment.  And you have to know some of those things, because they will very likely affect the narrative focus at some point down the road.  The more I have thought about this idea of the biggest and smallest things and it’s relationship to my writing, the more I realize what an essential tool it is for creating depth, in both the world and characters that I’m building, and in the story I’m telling.  I’m enjoying the places it’s taking me, and, if I can get any of this finished enough that I’m ready to put it out there, I hope some of you will too.

Now to go read for a bit and see if I can get some decent sleep tonight.  Otherwise, I’ll have to fall back on my mother’s old threat when I wouldn’t sleep as a child:  The Rubber Mallet.  I think I may have one somewhere in the apartment (don’t ask).  If not, I’ll find an alternative, don’t you worry.  🙂

And no, I haven’t forgotten it.  Today’s picture, taken in Northern Ontario where my family gathers every year in the Fall:

2011 is dead, long live 2012

As I prepare to put 2011 into the book of Years I’m Done With, I really do want to pause to reflect. This one goes in as the year when I started doing things, instead of just dreaming and talking about doing them. It hasn’t been an easy year. On the contrary, it’s been a year of big, scary changes, but I am ending it in a much happier place. Not everything is quite where I want it, but many of the things I do want are in motion. I feel like a better version of myself than I started the year with, and that would be the most important part. The progress upward in life is really all you can ask, I think.

I’ll start on the downside of things, just because I find it’s better to get these things over with so I can end on a good note. The only really bad thing is, well, getting divorced. After trying to make the relationship work for 6 years and the marriage work for 4 of those years, my now-ex and I have called it quits. I am happy to note that we are doing it before we start hating each other and, after some initial pain, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may be the best thing for me. I will fully admit at this point that I married the wrong person. So did he. Now we can both go off and find the Right Person with each other’s blessings. It won’t be official until later in 2012, but it’s close enough for me.

Now, that said, the divorce and attendant reconsidering of everything in my life has led to pretty much every good thing I want to talk about, so I’m not too sad about even that bad thing. Yes, this means that the latter half of 2011 was better than the first half, but I can live with that. Go out with a bang, right?

For one thing, the biggest thing, this is going down as the year I committed to myself as a writer, to the writing itself really.  A lot of my accomplishments this year are, in fact, writing related.  I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time and won (winning is writing at least 50,000 words within the 30 days).  Winning NaNoWriMo comes with no prizes, really, except self-esteem, lessons learned and a major jump in my writing output.  Wait, those are all very real prizes, and ones I needed.  It also seems to have set me on a path where writing is not something I wait for.  I don’t wait for inspiration, or the right words, or the feeling that I can do this.  I go out and do it regardless, I sit down and write, I work on something writing related every day.  I no longer let my brain off with the excuse that it doesn’t feel like writing.  I sit in front of my netbook and start.  And keep going, usually carrying myself unintentionally well beyond any point I had hoped to get to.

I’ve learned so much this year as a writer that it would be hard to encapsulate them all in this post without it becoming excessively long.  Suffice it to say that I feel like I grew a lot and am on my way to at least becoming a publishable author.  Published is a question for another day.

I have, this year, completed now two drafts, beginning to end, for Dark Mirror.  This is a phenomenal achievement for me, as I had never managed to get beyond about 30,000 words on a novel draft before this year without losing the story or my drive or something else vital to getting through it all.  I will be editing the recent version in early January (maybe sooner) then printing it up and sending it out to my two test readers (you know who you are) for comments and then turning my brain over to one of the many other projects that have been trying to distract me from finishing Dark Mirror.  This will serve two purposes.  A) to keep me writing and B) so that I don’t pester my test readers.  They have lives of their own, I’m fully aware of that, but I’m not long on patience when I have enthusiasm instead, they know it and I know it.

There are also signs that this is the year I finally found the process that works for me as a writer (see last paragraph if you really need me to spell out what those signs are), and that is even better than the finished drafts, if you can believe it.  That’s something I have struggled with for years, so it’s welcome.  I’m sure that, in the next few years there will be tweaks, largely for changing technology, but having a functioning core in place is an awesome feeling.

Finally, this is the year that I have let go of my need to be perfect on first draft, to reread and edit as I write the story.  This is the year I gave myself permission to be a human being and understand that writing is very much an iterative process, but that I have to get to the end of a story in order to fix it.  Letting go of the need to be perfect and the fear of not being good enough that went hand in hand with it has done something amazing, it made the ideas and words flow in brain in a way I never expected.  I really do have more ideas simmering right now than I could possibly have time to write, and more show up every day.

I also found out this year that I did actually miss some elements of being single, and am adjusting to my new life better, faster than I expected.  That might be because my head is always stuck in a book lately, either one of mine or something by someone else.  I love living a life of words.

2012 will be the year of more writing.  It will be the year of querying, one way or another.  It may be the year of self-publishing, in electronic form at least, depending on how I feel when I come down off the high of finishing the new draft.  I will be doing NaNoWriMo again, and, if I have something ready at the time, I will probably also do one of the two summer WriMo camps.  I doubt I’ll have stuff ready enough to do both, but I won’t rule it out entirely.

I will, of course, continue posting here about how it goes through the year.  I find amazing the supportive community that exists here on WordPress.  Every comment, every like, every follower is a delight for me.  Thank you all for caring, sharing and for the laughs.  I will see you here in the new year.

Advice to (a younger) me

Advice to (a younger) me.

 

Beautiful words of wisdom to keep front of mind always.

Lessons Learned: Letting the Brain Ease

I’m sure many of you are impatiently waiting for me to post something.  I did mean to yesterday, but after wrestling all evening with the book, I was worn out.  I’m worn out tonight too, for some of the same reasons, but not as badly, so here I am, typing away at something other than the book.

Don’t get me wrong, things are going well on draft 2 of Dark Mirror.  Monday was fantastic, despite being ill most of the day, got 5,424 words in.  But I might have overdone it a little with that much on a weekday.  Yesterday, I had a lot of trouble concentrating and it really was a struggle to get anything done.  The numbers don’t really reflect that, with me adding 3,317 words to the draft, but believe me, it was somewhat painful and I was exhausted and drained when I finally called it a night.  Tonight, the same, tired and feeling like I wanted to take a break from the moment I sat down with the netbook.  After an hour and a half and only getting about 400 words down, I decided to do something I’ve done for a long time, I listened to my body and brain.  I usually do that when it’s sending a clear, strong signal, which it has been doing since yesterday.

You see, the problem is that I had finished the whole God of War series (the three main games at least) and I had previously been using that as a way to give my brain a break between writing spurts through most of NaNo and all of the current writing binge (until a few days ago).  But when I finished it, I didn’t grab any of my other games to take it’s place.  Between that lack of non-writing and non-thinking-about-writing time and the higher bar I set for myself as pace this time, I was focusing entirely on writing, feeling I had to Always Be Writing if I was at home with my netbook.  Too much for my brain, which was on the verge of shorting out I think.  So I popped one of the GoW series back in and let myself go back to alternately bashing the keyboard and bashing pixels.  And it worked.  At this point, I’ve written 2,729 words, and I’ll probably go back and get myself to 3k, if I can keep my brain going that long.  Even if I don’t, that’s not bad for spending almost the first third of my evening struggling and getting nowhere.  So I’m going to let that be a lesson to me.  Take breaks, stop writing for a bit, let the brain think about something else or not think at all, or I’m going to run into problems.

All this writing brings me to a current total of 28,548 words, which actually puts me about 4.5 days ahead of schedule, and I haven’t even gotten to my vacation yet.  I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson before the vacation though, or I might have either driven myself nuts or derailed myself entirely, either being a bad thing.

I’ve also had a few nice little insights in the last few days, one of which made it onto the wall with the other two that were already there.  Again, it’s one that seems basic, until you add the little asterisk, that is.  Every character in the story needs a motive*, whether you talk about it or not and as the writer you need to be aware of what it is and how it shapes their reactions.  What, you ask, does that asterisk mean?  Simple, that “just because it’s convenient for the writer that things happen this way” doesn’t count as a motive.  It’s easy to sit there and let that be enough.  “Yes, the supporting character tells them to go seek so-and-so because that’s where I need them to go.”  Doesn’t it sound crappy as a motive when you put it that bluntly?  I think so.  It’s making me examine why my characters are doing things as I do this rewrite, and it’s shaping some of the things that happen a little differently than I planned.  But again, it’s in the service of a better story, so I’m fine with that.  The others are story-specific, so I won’t be getting into them, but they were things I needed to figure out.

At this point, I am starting to worry about the final length of the draft.  I’m almost to 30k words and while having my two main protagonists together much earlier this time is good, there’s more story to tell in many ways, and if I’m not careful, this might end up being too long for traditional publication, which would be my preferred path.  I’m still planning on letting it be as long as it needs to in this draft, since it’s essentially take 2 of the first draft, despite the numbering, don’t worry.  But when you’re on entry 9 of 37 in your outline at almost 30k, you start to wonder how long this is going to be.  That said, some entries are longer than others, some more detailed than others.  My outlines seem to become more detailed with every entry I add, so maybe it won’t be so bad.  I’m about to introduce the remaining two major support characters, so things are getting ready to jump off in a big way I think, which is a good place to be so close to a 10-day period with no work.  As it is, I suspect that Friday will be a half-day at work.  It was last year, and I see no reason they won’t do it again this year.  I will be posting in my usual semi-regular pattern during that period, in case you were wondering.

Okay, enough for now on the blog.  I need some sleep at some point, or I really will be totally dysfunctional.  As it is, you have no idea how many starts it took me to remember how to spell dysfunctional.  :p

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