Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Goals vs Resolutions

I know many out there would think that halfway through November is far too early to be planning for all the things I am going to do in the new year. While I have not committed to anything just yet I am beginning to think about all of things I have managed to accomplish this year as well as how to build upon that for next year.

A few years ago I switched from making resolutions that I would only keep for a few months to setting goals that may take a little longer but hopefully with dedication I can achieve. I like to aim high by setting goals that will take learning, time and determination to execute but in the end when I cross things off the list it feels incredible.  This year I will be setting financial, health and wellness as well as writing goals.

For the financial goals I look at it from two different sides. I am working to save up a cushion as well as pay off bills in my personal life but I also have a business account for my writing that I need to build up for the sake of purchasing items and taking research trips for my future endeavors. I will hopefully be joining the ranks of freelancers to help build my professional equity while using my day job to accomplish the personal side of my money goals.

Health and wellness are without question one of the biggest struggles for me. I do not eat very healthy most of the time though I do have an appointment with a nutritionist that I am hoping will help me find a balance between the foods I enjoy and ones that will get me to my goals. I also have purchased a planner with a daily to do area and schedule so I can be sure to make time for exercising a minimum of four days per week. When I am healthier it boosts the other areas of my life as well so the time dedication is worth it.

Lastly are the writing goals. I have allowed my fear of rejection and need to have everything perfect from the start hold me back from taking some chances in the past couple of years so I will be amending that. There will be submissions, events and promotions as well as finishing several projects. I will be incorporating time to edit and get feedback from betas while also crossing books off my personal reading list. I want to read a minimum of sixty books next year and be able to intelligently review them. I will also be working to raise the number of my own reviews and learning from those around me how to better present my work.

Like I mentioned before I have nothing set completely yet but I wanted to get started early enough that I can make my goals achievable, challenging and help me find balance to be as productive and happy as possible.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Falling Behind

I have participated in Nanowrimo for several years now. Every year I seem to go through a similar routine which I have credited for the fact that I have crossed the finish line each and every attempt. Sadly a big part of this routine is my tendency to fall behind, sometimes significantly, forcing me to have a few days of dedicated catch up. This year has already proven to be no different.

I can use the excuse of the fact I am working full time hours this year. Having the five days I am locked within the walls of my casino dealing cards definitely takes time away from my writing endeavors. However that reasoning gets crushed when I think about Nano from 2014 when I was working two jobs. I may have been part time at both but that still meant three to four days per week per job and several of those would end up being double shifts. I began work at three in the morning then after eight hours I would head to my next job for another eight hours and finally make it home by nine at night. That year I still managed to finish my novel with a few hours to spare.

I have obligations to my boyfriend. We don't get to spend much time together and I need to make time for him. Especially considering that November has Veteran's Day and the Marine Corp birthday which are important to him since he served in the Marines for eleven years. However I honor my time and these special dates every year and still manage to complete my project on time.

For some reason I seem to thrive under the time pressure of taking part in this challenge but even the crunch of thirty days to complete the fifty thousand words has never been enough. I still manage to find those times when I am coming from behind to complete my work. I would like to get to the point where instead of putting off my writing for a few days, with the exception of special occasions, I would instead finish earlier in the month and have time to work on a different project as well.

I think since this year has already proven to be the same old routine I will be adding to my goals next year the desire to finish Nano in twenty days and get a solid fifteen thousand into another book by the end of the month. I wonder if anyone else goes through this same back and forth every year with Nano or other challenges they take part in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Voting For Positivity

As I read through On Writing by Stephen King I have learned a number of lessons about style, planning (or lack thereof) and the background of a master wordsmith I genuinely admire. One of the things I struggle with most is grammar. I always have. It was the reason why, even though I love to read and write, I always hated English classes in school. He talks a lot about the importance and inclusion of grammar lessons for all writers. While I agree, it is by far the most difficult part of the writing process for me.

The section I just finished was about theme. I had always believed it was important to use theme and any symbolism you wanted in the story from the very beginning. As I read on though I found his insight fascinating. He writes about completing the first draft then looking back through it to see if there is a theme or any symbolism that jumps out at you. That is the system that works for him and while I have modified that slightly for myself I think it is a good idea to not become too obsessed with the idea of theme until you see what naturally appears.

With the election for president happening here yesterday I found myself coming back to the idea of theme. I have removed myself in many ways from social media. I made a public announcement that I would not tolerate hatred or attacks of any kind and have followed that up with blocking people I see engaging in such taunts. I understand the world, and America specifically, is in turmoil right now but that is no reason or excuse to continue to fight one another. It has been terrifying to see people lash out against others that claimed to be friends or family. Fiction is far less horrifying than reality sometimes.

Even the master himself has stepped away from social media until the storm dies down. Personally I understand. We as writers do not simply choose themes for our characters and our books but also in our day to day lives. I began branching out in my genres a few years ago and one of the reasons is that my beta reads mentioned my distinct consistency for writing stories with happy endings. However I think back over my life and that has been something I have strived for, happy results.

I am now focusing on the theme of voting in my personal life. I am choosing positivity even if not always in my books. My fictional worlds will shift with my inspiration but I am making the choice to always vote for positivity in my reality.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week 1 Done

There are those that have taken to social media to either tout or complain about their progress. I could be considered one of these to a point though I am significantly behind and yet still motivated. It is a habit I get into every year it seems that I will start out with some writing but not a full day's word count. Then for one reason or another I begin to fall behind. As of this morning I was over nine thousand words behind.

I have done that every single time I have attempted the Nanowrimo challenge. This is the part for many that the enthusiasm begins to wear off. People get past that first initial burst of inspiration and they lose the determination that got them into Nano in the first place. For me it is the excitement of getting to know my characters that keeps me going. I do get to points eventually where it is slightly more difficult to keep pushing forward but I enjoy finding out the next part of the story just as much as I hope the reader one day will as well.

I get to the part where it becomes work but for me that is one of the parts I love the most. It is the hard part that makes the end result so worth it. When you can buckle down and force yourself to stay the course, sometimes writing thousands of words in a single day but when you get past that day and finish your book it is a magical moment. It is completely worth the blood sweat and tears when you have that ah ha moment and type the last of your book.

I started participating in 2010 for the sake of forcing myself to finally turn my idea for a book into a reality. I still do it because it motivates me to write other projects that I may be struggling with. It is a powerful feeling to complete something and the intoxicating sensation carries forward into other parts of the year helping keep me on track with my ultimate goal. Someday I hope to be able to write full time but until then I will continue to do challenges like Nano because they help fuel my desire as well as force me to broaden my creative outlets. For those that are struggling I encourage you to keep pushing through. For those like me that enjoy the battle I invite you to join me at the end where we can celebrate our accomplishments together.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nano, New Ideas New Life

One of the things I want to focus on this year while doing Nanowrimo is making sure I do not lose myself while finding my writing. In years past I have found it nearly impossible to maintain other aspects of my life while also achieving the word count goals. Nutrition has long been a struggle for me in everyday life. I have battled weight concerns as well as body image issues for years. While I have gotten better I still reach for candy and comfort food anytime I have a spare moment or random emotion.

Eating through my emotions has been a coping mechanism for me since I was a little kid. Back then it wasn't a big deal because I was extremely active. Between dance classes, swim practice, soccer games and just running around the playground with my friends I burned more calories in one day than I could eat in two or three. As I got older I began to slow down on my activity level but the food consumption just increased. It got to the point that anytime I would stress out about anything, celebrate an accomplishment though that one became significantly less common, or even just watching television for an hour I had to have food. It was just how I dealt with things.

A few years ago I turned back to my passion of writing so when I had additional time during the day I would open my computer. Writing replaced food as a time filler but I still find that when I finish the draft of a new book or am dealing with the self doubt that can come with submissions or book shows I will look for something to snack on. Because of this I am doing my best to introduce new aspects to the Nano process this year.

I have my day job which is important of course and my word goals to achieve but this year I am using apps on my phone to track my food and exercise to try and incorporate healthier living in with the rest. I track what I am eating so I can keep myself healthier which makes it easier to write, workout, get through my day job and focus on my writing. In times of stress if I cannot concentrate on writing I am doing my best to go to the gym instead of reaching for the ever present bag of potato chips or ice cream.

They are small things that can have a huge impact. I am hoping that while I am going through Nano it will be difficult to adjust to such a schedule and introduce these new aspects of my life I will ultimately be able to make it a permanent part of my writing life. I am curious if anyone else has ever decided to incorporate new ideas during Nano or other busy times in their lives and had it work out that the changes are positive and permanent.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Day 1

As Nanowrimo gets underway for the year I find myself struggling. There is of course the word count goal which I always find daunting at the beginning. On top of the "What did I get myself into?" feeling that always hits me at the beginning I am battling a book I am not completely firm on as far as concept and storyline. I am not a plotter by any stretch by I felt very confident in book one and I know book four very well. Somehow books two and three are feeling a little beyond my grasp.

I know that there will be a significant amount of rewrites that will come after a research trip that I cannot begin to imagine planning at the moment. I have scenes in both books two and three as well as nearly all of book four set in or around London. I have never been. While yes I could watch movies and television set in Britain to get some idea of speech patterns and I could very easily read about sites of interest there is just no way to understand the atmosphere or capture a particular feeling of a place without being there in person.

Even without the needed trip I can draft the book but the characters are fighting me. I am lost within the first five hundred words and it is making me consider for the first time stepping away from my goal. I honestly love this series. I believe it has strong potential so I want to do it justice which includes writing it in the first place. For some reason though, my characters are being extremely difficult. When I wrote the first book in the series every character was talkative. They were just dying for me to get to November so I could jump into the story.

Today I spent an hour rewriting the first two hundred words over and over. I am still not happy. This is not an internal editor thing as I always tell people the most important part beyond simply putting words on paper is to put the editor in a tiny room in the back of your brain and give them a new red pen to play with once you are ready for their work to begin. Until then they need to stay put. I am sure that once I get into the real meat of the story I will be able to get things flowing more easily but this is the first time I have stared at and been mocked by my blinking cursor on the angry blank page. I shall push forward but it has not been the day one I was prepared for.