Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Writing Gets In The Way Of Being A Writer

Following the post from a few days about getting organized I sat down today and wrote out a long list most people would probably find ridiculous. I took out the file folders for each of the books I have already written, or at least began, and made a plan for moving forward on all of them. I have editing, rewrites, sending out to betas, submitting to agents or formatting for self-publishing, cover design as well as cover reveals and book releases on the list for more than half a dozen projects.

One of the things that has been bugging me recently is that I love to write. I don't mean that there is anything wrong with writing. It is, in fact, the best part of being a "writer". The problem arises when I enjoy the creating aspect of the job so much that instead of taking the time to finish a book through the first draft and then settle into the process of editing (Something I am terrible at) sending off to my betas (another part that scares me) and then formatting and submitting to publish or sending off query letters to agents for a traditional publisher (Yikes!) I will simply set that finished draft aside and being writing an entirely new book.

It is difficult to make a name for yourself as an author if you release a book every two to three years, especially if you are doing so in the Indie publishing world. I fail to make my presence felt on social media as strongly as need be but part of that is because I have such little in the way of offerings. I am proud of both my books and I have more ideas swirling in my head than I could probably complete in a lifetime but I struggle with the following through part of the process. I just love to write.

The large dry-erase board in my office is currently filled with the to do lists for eight books. There are two books I didn't include at the moment though they have at least been started. Chocolate Covered Cherries in a romance I have battled with for a few years now and Voices 2 is almost complete for a first draft. Neither of them made the board though two books Crash and Combat are both on there. With the completion of Fish, Crash, and Combat along with the editing / rewriting of Sharing Strength I will be able to release an entire series. Sharing Strength is a full length novel with the rest being background story type novellas.

Voices is a four book series. It is technically a trilogy with a fourth book linked to the series by association as opposed to direct narrative. I am planning to use Nanowrimo this year to draft the third installment of the Voices series. One I am done drafting Voices 3 and putting the finishing touches on Voices 2 I will be working hard to finish the first drafts of the novellas in the Sharing Strength series. After those are all done I will start to hate life as I put my creative side on a shelf for awhile and work only on  editing and moving the completed books toward publication.

It will be a long road but I will be much happier when I am able to look at the books I have to offer my readers and know I have done my best to reach my potential more fully. When I am caught back up I will be able to reclaim my happy spot in the writing chair and then hopefully I can take a book from concept to publish much more smoothly so I do not get this traffic jam of manuscripts in the future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Following The Plan

I went through my office today and realized the level of disorganized mess I have been trying to work in. I do my best to have files for each of my books but I found a pile of notepad pages full of notes that all belongs in different files. I also make to do lists from time to time in an effort to keep me focused but I noticed I have lists on half a dozen notepads between my office and the computer bag I carry with me. I have so much information but my failure comes in the execution stage.

I keep the files in my office but I rarely work out of the office therefore I end up carrying things with me and the files never become whole. I have calendars, lists and lists of lists around me all the time but there is no cohesive system for using the information. I am getting ready to begin a series that will require a good amount of research, interviewing people and figuring out a long term plan for some of the recurring characters. I need to develop a better system for working so I can stay on top of things and make sure the characters develop correctly and I can keep all of the information straight.

My biggest concern is my easily distracted mind tends to lead to a fully distracted lifestyle that can become increasingly erratic until I become overwhelmed. It is one of the reasons I have six complete books written but they have never been edited, submitted or prepared for publishing. I intend to finish them but I get distracted working on a different story. The next thing I know I am printing out the first drafts of half a dozen stories for the sake of editing but I see the amount of work and my mind finds something shiny and new to play with instead.

I am hoping putting myself back to work on this blog and keeping an now repetitious list with me in every conceivable working location will do some good in making me move forward. There is a great amount of potential if I could just manage to stay on track for a week or so at a time with each project. Right now I have created a plan broken down into individual steps for nine books that are somewhere between conceptualizing and editing so I can take it one baby step at a time and feel like I am accomplishing something.

In many ways I view my writing journey the way I did my weight loss. I struggled when I couldn't see any visible results. I gave up, got overwhelmed and found reasons to make it more difficult on myself than it needed to be. If I can just focus, use the tools I am developing and slowly but sure cross those things off the list I know I can accomplish my plans. I can have my books published and when I attend the next few books shows I can have more to offer my readers in order to grow my brand and reader base. Now if I can just remember where I set the pen down at, I can cross writing another blog post off the to do list.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Staying On Track

Over the past nearly two months things have been crazy. From making sure my house didn't flood from my exploded hot water heater to losing my sweet cat and finding a way to make ends meet when the hours at my part time job were cut simultaneously with one of the worst sick episodes of my life and a sprinkle of being in a friend's wedding I have neglected my blog, I'm sorry. I have decided to start earlier this year in my preparations for next year's goals but all it has shown me is how far from organized I really am.

I have managed to get myself in an odd predicament where I have several first drafts waiting to be worked on and several ideas wanting to be written but I am so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of potential I have ended up at a standstill. As of right now I have six books written that are waiting to be edited, formatted and released or at least submitted for consideration. I have another two dozen story ideas either as part of different series or stand alone books that are clamoring to be written and a few sort stories I would love to submit to different magazines, collections and competitions.

In order to move forward as an author I need to develop a newsletter and keep up here far more often than I have been doing but I am also about to take on a second job for the foreseeable future making my time extremely limited. It does not help that my understanding of the marketing subjects is just as limited if not more so, than my time. Plus I have the multi-author books signing for charity I help plan coming up in February.

I have always been scattered and do not stay organized well so I need to find a way to spend more time in my office and working on a scheduled list of items so I can continue to accomplish things and start getting books released. I have so much potential work I think I could do well if I am just able to take those precious next steps. It is my intention to spend more time here with you and share the triumphs, trials and setbacks as they happen. I would invite anyone that wishes to share their own experiences with my by replying here or joining me over at my website writingforces.com.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Potential

A few days ago I wrote about having a very productive day followed by a day where I did almost nothing at all. The difference for the most part was my to do list. When I got up on Friday I have well over a dozen things to accomplish but on Saturday it was down to only two. For some reason having that larger list of things to complete made the sense of urgency rise and I was able to get myself up and start crossing things off.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the all powerful To Do list would have that effect one me. I changed a few years ago from making New Year's resolutions to setting goals for the upcoming year and started getting a lot more done. Even this morning I saw a friend posted on Facebook about a few things she had gotten checked off her list and was moving on to the next item before settling down to finish the last task. It immediately made me want to check things off a To Do List of my own.

I have attempted schedules in the past, hoping they would get me on track. However, because I work part time and therefore have varying times I have to be at my day job, that set schedule does not work well. Instead I think I am going to try something different. I will be on vacation for the week starting tomorrow because I have family visiting but during that time I am going to make a list of goals to achieve for the following week and then I will be breaking dow the list to daily check lists according to the days I work and the days I am off. I am also setting deadlines for myself to see how much I can truly accomplish and if my will power is strong enough to get things done.

I have always been a person of ambition that fails on the follow through. It has only been in the last few years that I have found ways past that to complete a portion of the goals I set out to achieve. I battle the insecurities, the lack of knowledge, and the fear of asking for help for fear of looking incompetent. I am saying now that I am sick of it. I love the feeling of crossing things off my to do list and knowing I accomplished something. Whether it is something as simple as vacuuming my house or as big as publishing my next book, it doesn't matter. I have the power to be more successful and productive. Now is the time to see if I have the will power to live up to my potential.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Characters Human

Yesterday I saw an author asking for help with their novel. The main character experienced a painful divorce but it was never stated why the divorce happened. The author was looking for something other than infidelity that the female reporter would have gone through the divorce and everyone that commented suggested things the husband could have done to cause a lack of trust. Ideas such as him being upset because she was having money trouble and not getting work or him keeping secrets from her. I was the only one to suggest that perhaps something she did caused him to not trust her and even if it wasn't true the riff between them was too difficult to over come.

The pain in the divorce, in my eyes, was that it was a misunderstanding but even though she tried to explain and he still loved her it was something they never were able to get past. I was the only one to make it not one hundred percent on the husband. The author messaged me personally to ask later where I had come up with my idea. I said after I read through all of the others targeting the husband and making everything his fault I felt compelled to come to his defense. I knew it wasn't my story and that I didn't know back story but it struck me how one sided everyone else's ideas seemed to be. A lot of divorces are caused by issues on both sides.

We have a tendency to see our characters as perfect and therefore when it comes to there being problems in the story we want to protect them and make it someone else's fault. The problem is that by making them a victim and completely perfect it makes them less than believable. It feels hard to relate to someone without flaws so it can hold back your book from reaching the readers the way you had intended. We chatted for awhile, the other author and I, about my gut reaction to defend someone I knew nothing about. While I have no idea if my reason for the divorce is something that will be used I know they are going to incorporate flaws into the main character to make her more human.

It was an eye opener to me even to have such a reaction. That humanity element is something that seems so simple yet gets overlooked in a number of books I have read. I am adding it to my ever growing list of things to look for when I write and edit so I can make sure my characters aren't too one dimensional. Perfection is good in many things in life but when it comes to writing characters I think it is more important to be relatable than perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Motivating Factors

One of the writing groups I a member of had a question posted to it today about making the most out of available time. It is a recurring topic not only on social media groups but also in my everyday life in general. For me, even though I could definitely improve in this category, it isn;t the main focus. Yes, it would be incredible to get up everyday with my to do list and go to sleep every night knowing I crossed off all of the tasks. Of course, I would love to say I am a living model of efficiency and management. Neither of those things is close to happening at the moment.

Last Thursday as I sat at work on one of my breaks making a To Do list that was quickly mounting to the unachievable level. At the end of the day I had managed to remember seventeen tasks that needed to be completed. Granted, five of them were things to do around the house and two of them were writing in each of my current projects, but there were still a number of things I had to get done. They included having work done on my car, closing an account at the bank, running a few errands, grocery shopping, working out and that was just the top of the list.

I got up at six Friday morning and headed to get my car worked on. I even took my computer with me to start working on the writing aspect of my day. I ended up only getting a blog post published before they were done with my service appointment but that meant I could go to Zumba in the morning instead of Yoga in the afternoon. I ran home to get my gym clothes and went to workout. Next came all the errands including the bank and grocery shopping. When I got home I made lunch and set to work on the cleaning. Then I sat down. My biggest mistake was thinking I could rest for just a few minutes while watching some tv.

I never wrote another word that day. I got up Saturday morning feeling every second of my Zumba class. I planned to go to the gym that afternoon but first I wanted to watch something I had recorded and have some breakfast. What ended up starting with good intentions resulted in lying on the love seat watching eleven hours of shows on my DVR plus a nap. I never touched my computer or wrote at all. I went from the most productive day in months to the laziest one all year.

For me it isn't about managing my time; it is about keeping my motivation. I get distracted to a level most would find frightening. I have a tremendous amount of ambition but I veer off course like it is my job. I keep hoping if I set a schedule it will help but so far that hasn't been the case. Instead I think I am going to try making a weekly list of goals so I can cross things off. I love that feeling so maybe it will help motivate me to keep on track better. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Thank You

Almost two weeks ago I lost my sweet kitty Puppy. She was my PTSD therapy animal as well as my fur baby and best animal friend. I have been struggling severely to feel anything other than her loss since that day. I had one day, this past Monday, the I felt somewhat productive as I added just under 4700 words to my two current books. That feeling of accomplishment was short lived but it was an amazing refresher from the incredible sadness that has dominated me for over ten days.

I have a number of bad habits that without constant watching I fall into. Most of them are emotionally driven so dealing with this pain has caused them to surface with force. The two most easily recognized is my lack of activity and my emotional eating. I don't have great eating habits to begin with and when I am feeling anything (I mean anything from intense joy to devastating sorrow) I tend to eat. This usually results in large amounts of chips, cookies, ice cream, cake and a personal favorite, cheese. There is no such thing as moderation for me when I am consuming for the sake of drowning feelings. Food is my version of alcohol abuse.

Just as that brief moment of productivity fueled a desire to do more leading to me cleaning my house and making a delicious and healthy dinner, my frustrations have a tendency to compound dragging me further down day after day. If I spend a day getting nothing finished I will feel more overwhelmed the next day causing me to have less energy and motivation. Things truly can spiral out of control so quickly that I feel like I am drowning without realizing I was even getting wet. 

Life in general I believe is a mind over matter situation. The problem is I am so rarely in control of my mind. I fight with my depression and stress. I get bogged down trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel and feel like I will never escape the darkness. I am fortunate that I do not make the journey alone anymore. I opened up about my problems a few years ago and have found a support system that has been invaluable. Without them I would have fallen long ago and never recovered. Through my friends and family I have learned to celebrate any victory and use that to push me forward for more. I have also learned to make small changes slowly instead of trying to tackle every issue at once.

Something as simple as eating better for one week and only focusing on that can make a dramatic difference. When I see those couple pounds come off and feel the energy that comes from eating fruit instead of candy it makes me want to be more active. I take that small win and add a class or two at the gym that I enjoy such as Zumba, yoga or water aerobics. The sense of accomplishment there gives me the boost to go home and quickly do some chores around the house and then I sit down to write just 500 or 1000 words. I reward myself with being able to sit and play games on my phone or watch some episodes of a show on my DVR guilt free because of everything I was able to do. 

The next day when I get up I remind myself of everything I was able to complete the day before. This is used to help me push forward and have another good day. When the good things become habit and replace the bad ones things are much easier but it can take weeks or months to truly program yourself to reach that point. With my health issues and dealing with emotional setbacks I find I fall down way before I get to the habit stage. It can seem impossible to fight back from that and it is so easy to just give up.

That is the other part I have worked to handle better on this path, setbacks. My insecurities and a large part of the conditioning I went through in my previous relationship make me feel that any small slip is a total failure. That stops all of my productivity immediately. It has taken over a decade of my life to acknowledge and accept that it is ok to fall. It is important to get back up and not let a bend become a break. Life is hard but if you can embrace the good times and use them to support you when the hard times bear down you can find that mind over matter I struggle so much with. 

Writing has been a huge joy in my life and having that outlet has saved me one numerous occasions. I cannot begin to explain just how much I appreciate the support of everyone around me. When I opened up with Survivor I received more understanding and help than I ever expected. It is still hard for me to admit when I am struggling but I am reminded day in and day out that there are others out there just like me. Together we are stronger than we are alone and we can accomplish anything.