Creative Pursuits

I listened to a short course about getting your ‘crojo’ back. (crochet mojo) About two minutes into the first episode, it felt very much like every creative pursuit could use that, including writing. The last episode was devoted entirely to self-care, and she divided the thing into categories: mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. I’m not sure I’d heard it divided up like that before, and I’m glad I tuned in.

My kids have been struggling with a couple things, and so I’ve been working to keep them in good places. Invisible illnesses are plaguing them, but I’m glad Wisconsin treats them as if they’re real. Iowa always felt like I had to fight whomever I was speaking with to be believed that this was a problem that I couldn’t handle alone – often even in my own struggle for mental health. I find myself calmer here, knowing that when I call and explain a problem I get someone who works to help me, rather than just making us wait for months (we’ve waited up to 5 before) to talk to someone.

Today I wrote a little bit. It wasn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing. My 750words project didn’t count – that was me worrying about what’s to come from my children’s current struggles. It was letting out my fears and letting them go.

Then I just had to remind myself that I am a creative. While I am crocheting a project (or five, depending on how you look at it), I’m also writing. It doesn’t need to be all of the time, but I do need to focus occasionally to keep my goals in check. I have a lot of goals, and I’m slowly getting them organized for how I work.

On the Right Foot?

That saying may or may not go all the way back to when people thought the right side was luckier than the left.

I feel like I didn’t start off correctly this year. My family was sick last week (each of them had something different, and somehow I escaped without catching anything). Then I lost my story binder, found my story binder, and my son’s birthday is Friday. (He was also born on Friday the 13th, so this is a huge to-do in my home. We find these days quite lucky.)

Yesterday I finally put my fingers to the keyboard to start Book 2. I’m excited, but also keeping my sights on the coherent draft, rather than a completely perfect one. Coherent for me is the characters, settings, plots are in order, and not with all the extraneous things. Description is often an issue that I have to get later, but as much as I can I’m working to weave them together. It’s hard looking at these character names that I’ve already done an entire book with and remembering to describe them as if they haven’t met the reader, just in case they jump into the wrong book first. (Something my dad usually does. I am a completionist for book series, but he recently borrowed just Bk 2 of a trilogy from my bookshelf without ever having read the rest. That author has 4 series within that world, too. So I don’t know why just that one book seemed readable to him.)

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get very far. I’m excited to start. I’m keen to make all the happenings and characters fit in with Book 1 and be sure that it makes sense. I know that like Book 1, Book 2 will have several places where it is more polished and less polished, depending on whether I had to draft it from scratch. I’m starting the very first page from scratch, since the draft I’m following had the plots of books 1 and 2 mixed together so completely it tried to masquerade as just one novel. Silly books. I will finish you properly.

Oddly, something told me I needed a quick project to finish, too, so I have a silk ribbon scarf crochet project I also started yesterday. I’m hoping it’ll get me through the cool 9th grade orientation we have tonight at the high school.

Unintended Consequences

In my house, we clear things up for the holidays. Have to make room for decorations (and gifts) and guests. Somehow, I hid my story binder – the one with books 1 and 2 of my space western. I also started a really fun (not) boxing day (weeks) challenge of my wardrobe.

The result is that my bedroom has clothing everywhere in different piles- give away, modify, and keep. Then I also decided to rearrange where everything goes, because 1. my life has changed a lot since I decided those were the best places for things and 2. my style is still trending to something different than it was when I set it all up. Yes, those are two different things.

I did stop myself from removing everything from the third huge drawer in favor of making decisions on what was already out. I used to do yoga, martial arts, and other fitness classes six days a week. I knew which classes I would sweat through and I had everything at hand to come home, shower, change, and repeat. It was harder to change three times a day to fit that than to simply plan on activewear most days. Now I teach once a week for yoga, my martial arts classes are limited to three times a week, and I coach gymnastics on one night. It’s a much different pace than before, and I’m finding my stride with that.

With the bedroom completely torn up, I couldn’t remember where I’d stashed my binder, and when I was ready to start book 2 last night – I panicked. This morning, I found it. Bonus, I found a great place to stash things when I need them stashed. Just gotta remember where I put it next time.

Bring on book 2.

Hello, 2023.

I took time off to be with my family while they were home. My husband isn’t quite sure what to do – today is his 18th day off in a row (extra vacation – use it or lose it) and he goes back tomorrow, along with the kids. I’ve seen so many memes about coming in, being quiet, and nobody yelling that this is your year, but being the best version of myself isn’t claiming anything about the year.

There’s a quiet time for me between Winter Solstice and the new calendar year. I often choose a new notebook and find some goals I’m ready to work on, whether they’re new or not. Writing always makes that list, no matter what I did the year before.

I joined 750words in 2011. In the last 12 years, I’ve written over 4 million words, and that’s just what was tracked on the site. There are usually blog posts, handwritten ideas, and all sorts of rewrites that aren’t tracked. I learned a lot. For 2022, it was around 252,000 words, and I didn’t write in March. (Mom died, and before that I traveled a lot to see her in hospice. It’s very difficult to give myself permission not to do my words, but this was the time it was appropriate.)

Within my projects during 2022, I had a story published. I have a couple stories out for consideration, and I managed a decent rewrite of the first book in the space western series. I also had a couple other ideas for extended series or novella length works. I’m hoping to continue the series and see how many others I can develop.

While I’m still working on my revised goals for the year, I’m going to start the second book rewrite as well as a short story this week (the one I didn’t finish by the 31 Dec deadline). I have my new notebook lined up, and I’m excited to see what happens with both of the projects. By the time I finish one of them, I’ll have another to work on. Some of you know my love of paper – so my project binder as well as this year’s notebook are below.

Service Guys

I always wonder what they expect when they come to a particular house. Today we had a whole-house humidifier installed to the furnace. It’s a straightforward, time-consuming job. The guy who showed up was young, had a smile, and seemed pretty understanding that I hadn’t gotten my kids to school yet because we expected him tomorrow.

If he’d shown up tomorrow, husband was on track to work from home and be on top of everything he was doing. Instead, I got to sit in the mechanical room and chat with him. Most of these guys are good-natured. I learned a lot about them during my internship in college, where I worked for an HVAC controls company, so he’s literally the kind of guy I worked with back then, except it’s no longer the 90s and stuff.

So I ask him about what else he’s doing, and we commiserate about how birds get in the way. He’s never quite sure how a job will go. My husband prepped the water line that goes into the humidifier, and he had a large mechanical room to work in. The next job he’s going to today is in a closet, in a condo, and he’s not even sure water is hooked up in there. His height is another barrier – closets are not made for men over 6′ to comfortably work in generally. I hope he has good luck, but often not so much.

His manager called, and he forgot to tell that dude that he was expected tomorrow. I told him that was very important to express to the managers. While the service guy laughed, I know he understood my point. However, I think my tomorrow will run smoother despite the mix-up, and today I am working with a short time to do a few things. Luckily I’m flexible.

One of my favorite parts of listening to him today was how he didn’t have “real” tools. He even had to borrow my broom to clean up after himself. I wish I could write a note to those managers: He needs all the tools. They send him into all the jobs, and sometimes he has to call someone else to show up at a job. Every job brings something unexpected, and sometimes they’re good things- like the waterline this morning- but most often the other way. Be kind to any service people who come into your home. They most want the job to go smoothly and everything to work when they’re finished.

End of November

Have you ever tried to write a novel in a month? It’s not necessarily impossible, especially for a zero draft. The fun part for me this month, I didn’t try to write a zero draft. I aimed at a better one. However, I didn’t take into account how much I had to write from scratch to make this novel work.

So, I have a draft that is better in some places than others (especially the middle needs attention). The part I’m really proud of is that this draft is all Book 1 and not with Book 2 mixed in of my Space Western. I have a beginning, middle, and end, and my plot and characters are pretty much where they need to be. I only have chaptered it up to 9, and I am starting to go through to find the rest.

Also, I wrote/edited about four short stories this month. Two have been sent out, one is finished this morning (that few paragraphs were haunting me), and I’ll start the rewrite on the next soon.

Finished four books this month, and I was surprised they were all #2 in series:
Narwhal I’m Around (The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter #2) by Aaron Reynolds
Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse
In Over Their Heads (Under Their Skin 2 of 2) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Merger of Evil (Sequel to Minion of Evil) by Shannon Ryan

November (NaNo and more)

I crossed the 50 000 words for NaNo today. I’m not quite done with the novel yet, and I’m all right with that. I’ve also submitted two short stories to magazines for publication. I’ve got two or three more short stories I’m cleaning up. The good news is also I have notes of names so I don’t forget them. I have minor twin characters that are difficult to parse sometimes. I’m so excited to finish this draft, though I had no idea how much I’d need to write from complete scratch when I started. I have two more of these, but the second book has more of a draft, I think, because books 1 and 2 were woven together. It feels like I barely scratched the surface getting book 1 by itself.

What’s gotten into me? Who knows, but it’s fun. Life feels great when you’re accomplishing the things you know you need to do.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Reading while Writing

I’ve been working on this novel for a long time, but I keep needing to put it down. This week I read my current draft (40k) looking for the things I need to finish it.

A friend and I swap recommendations, because we each need to do that. I found a new speed-reading app and she found a read-aloud app, so we’re both playing with these. It’s exciting, because I’m not always good at reading my work out loud, but I listen when it plays. I also can catch the big gaps in my story when I speed-read and see, oh, right, that’s a big gap.

Usually I try to write in order, but I got ahead of myself. It’s understandable because this rewrite was much different than others – I have a highlighted and commented copy by my side to make it both easier and harder. Easier, because I know what this book looks like instead of the last draft (which had a combined book 1 and 2 feel to it), and harder, because sometimes elements of both books are very much entangled together.

It feels like the downhill stretch. Exciting to know what I need to finish and have a plan for how to do that. I’ll probably need to read it aloud, too, so I know I finished this draft. Maybe by month’s end!

Descriptions

I remember that very first novel I tried to write- I was in high school. I had pieces, some good and some not so great, and so many more ideas in my head than I knew how to put onto paper. Classmates knew some of my notebooks held poetry and others held these story notes. In my first high school, they’d pass my poetry notebook around after a few stories in junior high. In my second high school, a few trusted friends would listen to my meanderings. I still have these notebooks in my office.

Description has always been a bit troublesome. That first piece of novel I had a character who changed hair from blonde to red and back again at times, so I found a way to weave that into the storyline. It was easy to get lost in such a huge cast of characters as an epic fantasy might be; at times I did lose my way. The novel (or series, who knows?) never did materialize, but something about that act of creation felt like it was my thing.

On the way, however, I’ve had to get better at descriptions. Yesterday I sought out a description for a character I don’t often see from the outside. I’m not sure he’s got the right coloring for his species. I looked up notes from years ago to figure that out. (I do not recommend dragging projects out for years. They evolve as you do.) It becomes a distraction, and yet I’m still glad I’ve got those original notes on my ideas of what these creatures may be. I’ve similarly been trying to document all my places that are named as well as visited. (Because in a series we’re going to come back to the places where the Important Characters reside.)

I love how it is all taking shape, and I’m excited to get to the end of this draft. Descriptions may never be my ultimate strength, but I’ve improved over the many years I’ve been writing. I should just pretend he’s the cute guy in the picture.

Short Story or Novel Opening?

This is something I’ve struggled with a while. It probably leads to the idea that so many of us are novelists or short story writers, because a few of us are always starting with what feels like novel openings.

The real trick, I suppose, is figuring out the difference to make that short story shine. Maybe upping my short game will also improve my novels. I do think I’m improving, though. I included enough world building to make it feel like the beginning, rather than ch 3. Chapter 3 beginnings feel like they’re in the middle of something much bigger but not enough to give the reader the feel for all those beginning definitions to really ground someone in the story.

Still, I appreciate the opportunity to turn over this story and try again. Are you with me on the idea that we always find a few ways to improve a story once we ask someone else to look at it? I often find I do. I’m going to find a placebo reader who will just let it sit three days for me to rewrite it again. It may not be enough. Writers seem to need muses that make everything urgent and life-threatening, or they end up doing housework or something less filled with blank pages.

I’ll admit to my NaNo project, and today I woke up at 5 (accidentally) but I got in a good sprint this morning before going back to bed. The novel is progressing, and my time bomb is still ticking. The main character just got hit with an idea that makes her think uncomfortably about her future.

Finger crossed.