Thursday, September 30, 2021

2021 Q3 Update: Slow and not even steady

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...Heh. I don't really know how that whole quote goes. All I know is, my project timeline is out the window. As usual.

I didn't do much over the last quarter. I did work a few days each month (an average of four days per month, based on my spreadsheet), but I didn't make significant progress on much of anything. I worked on Mystwatch 2 edits one day in this quarter, then never went back to it. I hit a chapter where I was going to have to write a whole new chapter, and I just...never did. I'm irritated with myself for not pushing through the "I don't wanna" feelings and writing it while I was in Mystwatch headspace. But. Eh. Right now, I'm following my passions. Or trying to. The minute Mystwatch was no longer a passion, I had to let it go. The fact that I keep coming back to that world tells me there will be time again for me to work on it. And I'll be excited to work on it, rather than avoiding writing for three weeks because that's what I should be working on but I don't want to so I'll just not work on anything.

That said, I did work on stuff. Writing group has started meeting in person for writing on Wednesdays at Rachel's. It's been a mix of chatting and work, like most in-person write-ins from the past, but I've actually found myself to be fairly productive for at least an hour at them. So I hope we keep doing them.

In August, the only days I worked were the days we met. So in July, I worked on SP 2.4 a couple days. One day was awesome, because I sat down and outlined the whole thing. Usually I outline those when I'm a few thousand words in not knowing what comes next. I'm hoping by having an outline somewhat established out of the gate, I'll have an easier time settling in to work on it. I'm just shy of a thousand words on it now, but I really like my opening so far. SP openings are always my favorite. I can't start a new adventure until I have a solid opening scene. I've liked my habit of trying to write at least a few hundred words on the new adventure right after wrapping up the old one. That's when I'm the most in the right mindframe for it, and it always makes me so excited to start the next one! It's nice to know that I've left Sally right at the cusp of some new mischief. And she definitely lets me know if I've left her alone too long. She starts demanding my attention. I did try to go back to her on Saturday, but short of cleaning up a few sentences and adding one or two, I didn't have much luck. I don't think I'm in the SP mindframe right now. I do still hope to get a bulk of this adventure written before the year is over. But if I don't, that's okay. As long as I'm working on something at least a few days of each month.

I still do want to aim to write at least a week out of every month. To help with that, I am going to start joining the Saturday night Discord write-ins. They don't help me nearly as much, but if I get a thousand or so words written on Wednesdays and a few hundred on Saturdays, that should be roughly 5k and eight days a month. Well. Seven. One Wednesday a month is the monthly meeting.

As much as I'd like to try to write on my own during the months, the fact that I am carving out time to write or at least talk about writing eight times in a month is beyond valuable. It's helping me deal with my feelings about writing and writing group. Even if I'm not writing much, even if I'm not submitting or querying or publishing, I am working on things, so I can talk about what I'm working on without feeling like an impostor. It's helped a lot, not only with my creativity but with my friends.

Anyway. In August, I wrote four days out of the month, for a total of just over three thousand words. That isn't quite the five thousand I'd like to be hitting (or the 10k I had planned on hitting to reach all my new project timeline goals, ugh), but at least it was progress.

All of August was spent working on Chain Letter Choice. And I added another almost thousand words to that last night. I am really liking having such a detailed outline to work from. I really thought it would kill my interest, because I already knew what happened. But as it turns out, there's a huge difference between saying, "okay, this is what needs to happen in this scene and these are the emotional notes I want to hit" and actually taking the time to build the scenes. I read over a scene I'd written where the outline just said, "they have a conversation that resolves the tension and she finally forgives Seth and chaos," and the scene itself actually brought tears to my eyes! So yeah. The outline thing is totally working. It does put a damper on the excitement of not knowing what happens until you write, but that does sometimes happen when I get into a scene I have to flesh out a bit, still. And the thing is, when I am only writing a couple times a week, I don't get lost in the writing to where things just happen because I'm deep into exploring. Having an outline to know what scene I'm writing next helps me keep writing scene after scene. Even when I'm not feeling it, I'm still making progress. I don't have to be deeply into the world to know what's happening next. I have it all written out. All I have to do is read the last scene I wrote, read about what is coming next, and that's all I have to focus on. I can write the best scene I can by focusing on that small piece of the novel, knowing I've already parsed out how it fits into the greater novel. I think that will mean a lot less cutting out of meandering scenes when I'm trying to figure out what comes next. Which isn't to say some of what I wrote won't get cut. I spent a lot of time stretching out tension by making my character do boring class stuff, but I'm hoping that's created the tension I want while also showing character growth. We'll see, I guess, when it comes to beta readers. Or if I hate it when I'm reading through it later. When this thing is finished.

I do want to finish it, someday. I still think the goal of having it done midway through next year is a good goal. Of course, that's six months from now. I have probably 30k left to write (I'm coming up on 60k now, so yeah, probably 30k). So if I can write 5k a month on it, I should be done by March. Or by May, like my goal says, if I take a month or two off. I think I'm coming up onto more action scenes, and more scenes where the three are together, so they should be more fun to write and go more quickly.

That does mean SP takes a back seat. Or I can fit her in a month or two when I need a break from emo teens. Heh. Of course, the next book I want to write is Nightmare of Sleepy Shoals. That will have lots of emo teens in it, as well. I am excited about that one. It's been percolating for long enough that I think I'll be ready to dive in and write it next year. Unless. Unless I decide to do Druid Wars 2. I have been thinking about Druid Wars a lot the last few days. So we'll see.

It's also officially fall, so my mind has been trying to covertly spy on Once We Were Witches. I've noticed, brain. Don't think I haven't. I did spend an afternoon cleaning up my A Witch's Daughter #3 story on the Confabulator Cafe. I finally sent my brother a link to it, so I decided to give it a proof, and ended up fixing a few things that were kinda cringy. I love that character. She's like a more magical, slightly more absent-minded Sally Prescott. I bring her up because I think she is probably tied in to OWWW. At least in my mind. She is the heir of a curse, and (spoilers) the main character of OWWW is trying to figure out how to end a curse her family put on someone.

Oh no. Now I am excited for that book! But that's okay. Every time I poke at it, I remember that there's a big section near the beginning I need to revise, so I always get stuck on whether to keep writing like it's fixed or fix it before writing, then abandon it without doing either. Cuz that's how I roll, apparently.

Anyway. September was an eclectic mix of projects. I missed two of the in-person write-ins. One because I was worried I might be getting sick, and the other because it was Mabon. But that's when I decided to do Saturday Discords. In addition to the Cafe short edit, poking at SP 2.4 and working on CLC last night, I also made an attempt at the fall 24-hour short story contest. We all forgot to sign up, but I got together with Amanda and Dianne to talk about the prompt. Amanda was there for moral support, and Dianne and I both came up with ideas. But we both only got a few hundred words written before giving up. Without the chance of winning, slim as it may be, neither of us were motivated enough to finish.

I do like the ideas I came up with. But probably not enough to ever finish them. Or maybe I will. I should. They are very relevant, since it's almost October now. We'll see how I feel the next time I sit down to write. Just because I want to get CLC and SP 2.4 and 2.5 done by June of next year, I should still leave space for other, smaller fun projects.

So that's what I've been up to the last three months. For October, I'd like to keep working on CLC and SP. I would love to have Mystwatch 2 edited this year, as well, to keep on "schedule" but I think that will probably be a January/Feburary maybe even March next year project. Those are the months I seem to prefer editing if I work on anything. So hopefully by my next update, probably at the end of December, I will have at least another 10k written on CLC, and maybe another 5k on SP. Of course, I rarely work in December. But maybe this year I'll make an exception. My main reason for not working in December in previous years has been post-NaNo exhaustion. I don't plan to actively NaNo this year, so I should be able to keep a steady pace as long as my writing friends keep working. At least I can try to work the first two weeks of December, before holiday craziness starts to hit. Somehow, I get swallowed by the winter holidays with a raging force by my brother's birthday every year.

And I'm okay with that. Maybe I'll even write a holiday short story. I do love to go back and read my holiday stories on the Cafe.

Ehem. But. A Halloween story first. It is almost October, after all!

Until the end of next quarter. Stay witchy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

2021 Q2 Update: Quarterly Updates and Project Timelines

Woo, boy, does that post title make this sound boring AF. After writing the post, I can confirm that it is relatively boring.

I've determined that updating quarterly will probably work the best with how I'm currently writing, so here I am, wrapping up second quarter this year. And I have updates!

First, I did spend the remainder of March writing! I didn't do anything at all in April (after writing 7,600 words in the last seven says of March, I think I was a bit burned out). But! In May, I settled in and finally finished SP 2.3. Yay! It's longer than any other adventure so far, and it takes over half of the story to get into the main plot, so it'll need some major edits. But it's written. And I've written about 400 words for SP 2.4, so I have a jumping off point when I'm ready to work on that one. Maybe later this quarter.

Also in May, I reread and poked at Chain Letter Choice for a few days. I'd had plans to actually finish writing that next, but short of making some notes (important notes that allowed me to figure out how they beat the boss at the end), I only added a few hundred words.

In June, I wrote almost a thousand more words for CLC, but I was having a hard time settling into it. So I let myself write some some Disney's Descendants fanfic, then a few days later, I tucked into MystWatch.

I read through the first book in two days, making minor fixes, then I pulled out my notes for book two. And got overwhelmed and didn't know how to start. The first two chapters had huge edits that would set the stage for the edits of the rest of the book. I spent a couple of days fiddling with that, then took some time off, thinking maybe I wasn't actually ready for it.

But, after spending a day working on Once We Were Witches, I determined that MystWatch was still where my head was, so I buckled down and started into it. And I've been making progress the last few days. Only about a chapter a day, but as long as I keep at that pace, I should have this done by August. That's the goal.

As I often do, when I get into a writing groove, I start making project timelines. It's somewhat counterproductive, because I get overwhelmed by the amount of projects I have left to work on, and if I miss deadlines, I have to throw the whole thing out the window...but at the same time, it helps me to see what all I have to work on. And this time, I have only put projects I'm actually excited about on this list.

My tentative plan in my project timeline spreadsheet is to assign 3-4 projects each year and work on them as I have time and energy. Because I sat down with it one day and figured that I can either:

  • Write 2 books a year; or
  • Write 1 book, edit 1 book, and write 2 SP a year

Which means I can have writing years and editing/SP years or I can try to both write and edit in a year. And what I determined was that I want to be able to do both writing and editing in a year. Writing two books a year is unreasonable, anyway. It's a lot of words and doesn't leave much room for SP. So, I'm aiming for the writing one book and two SP a year, and also editing a book a year.

Of course, right now I have books half-written, so I should be able to write 1.5 books a year. Plus, I'm not in any sort of position to edit anything other than MystWatch right now. So the next year or so of wrapping up projects I've started might alter the timeline a bit.

The only trouble with the plan I've come up with is that I will need to increase my current word count goal of 5k a month to 10k-15k a month for this to work. And that's actual words, even, not including brainstorm. I think I figured 10k for 10 months, estimating 20k for SP and 60k for novels. Which also probably includes this year, since I'll probably take at least another month to edit MystWatch 2.

I'm never sure if this kind of tracking helps or hinders me. Mostly, I have put dates on my various projects of when I'd like to get them done. CLC by midyear next year (with the idea that I'll work on it some this year after MystWatch and SP 2.4). Sleepy Shoals by the end of next year, Druid Wars 2 the year after that, and OWWW the year after that. That's four books by 2024, and I think seven more SP adventures.

Anyway. That stuff is boring. It's the kind of stuff I wanted to stop spending so much of this blog talking about. All my plans end up derailed at some point or another, anyway. But I do like setting these goals. It gives me word count goals, and project goals, and a feeling like I know what I'm working on next so I never lose momentum.

Of course, at any point, I might rearrange what book I work on next. And it may turn out I need more time for projects. Or I may need to insert more projects in (like professional edits if I do decide to start self-publishing). Plus I am going to be taking a class in the fall, and editing for Rachel, so maybe trying to write 14k words a month is too much. And sometimes I go to write SP and nothing comes out. That's likely the one I'll get behind on. Or maybe a new book project will pop up and everything else will fall by the wayside.

Who knows. I'm just playing by ear and assessing this by quarter. And none of it really matters, because I'm mostly doing this for myself and for friends and family and other people that I know.

But I've been having a lot of feelings about writing, and some of them are because of writers group. Writing group is hard, because while I get excited to talk about writing with them, we're all at such different stages. Dianne talks about submitting short stories, Amanda is querying a novel, Rachel is self-publishing and so is Neil. I am excited for them, and my brain immediately goes, if I did x, y, z, I could do that, too! And then I have to take a step back, because that's not the path I'm on anymore.

And I don't think I want to be on the paths they're on? But it's hard. Because maybe I do. Maybe secretly I do, but if I actively say it or work toward it, I will drive my fragile creativity to stagnation again.

Right now, I want to push myself to finish my projects because getting them done feels good, and going back to read something I've written and polished is my favorite thing in the whole world. Once I have more projects done, we'll see how I feel about next steps. Right now, it really just has to be for me.

I'll check back in at the end of September to talk about how it's all going. Hopefully I'll have Mystwatch 2 edited and be close to done the next SP adventure. Then I'll be gearing up for a couple months writing on CLC!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

2021 Update: Hey, an Update!

I have been reluctant to update, since my last post was such a poetical, fitting last post for this blog. I talked about how I was about to turn 40, which marked the expiration of time to meet my writing goal. I shared how that goal had changed, how I no longer wanted to write for publication. And I mentioned that I'm thinking about a career change that would limit my time and ability to write for the foreseeable future. I even referenced the title of the blog!

That made for a wonderfully satisfying "The End" to the writing blog story.

Unfortunately, that's not how I work as a writer. Nothing is ever really finished. Especially me writing, as this blog has illustrated over and over the past decade. So, while I've stayed away from updating this blog for the last nearly four months, I haven't exactly been dormant when it comes to writing.

Well, I was totally dormant all of November, all but one day in December, and all of January. But! In February, I did some things!

Back up, though. Before I talk about this year, I need to take a moment to talk about last year, since I never did my end-of-the-year post. Because despite there being a pandemic, and despite my break-up with writing, I did make progress on things.

In 2020, I:

  • Wrote a total of 62, 650 words
  • Of those words, 22,618 were non-brainstorm words
  • I wrote at least one day in every month except November (ironic, no?)
  • My average of days worked each month (even with my zero month) was 6.75
  • I spent 75 hours editing my work
  • I finished my last outstanding Cafe story (and finally wrote the "Closing Time" post)
  • I finally finished Shane's MystWatch short story
  • I came up with two new novel ideas, one of which I wrote 3k on
  • I made progress on SP 2.3
  • I did another really great editing pass on Hunter's Blood, making it nearly perfect
  • I did another intensive editing read of Hunter's Torment and did an editing treatment for it
  • I started a homesteading/apocalypse blog

That's all the writing stuff I did in a year I had totally given up on it. And of course, by totally giving up, I mean I didn't really want to do much writing, but I pushed myself to work. A lot of times I did that to help Rachel out. But I also did it to help myself out.

Because despite turning 40 and not reaching the main goal I set when I started this blog, it's been a hell of a journey, and I don't want to stop, now. I spent an afternoon the other day reading back over the earlier years of this blog. Little baby Sara was so full of hope and motivation and big ideas and plans. It was fun to read about her getting serious. To watch as she felt out her process. To see the evolution of her writing. To watch her give up and then go back to it, time and time again.

The Sara from this blog is a damned inspiration. She went from never having finished a full-length novel (and honestly not finishing all that many short stories), to writing two complete novels, a novella, and several short stories in the first year. She worked hard and made progress and didn't give up even when all odds were stacked against her (or if she did give up, she went back to work, just as hard).

Who am I, 40-year-old Sara, to dishonor how hard 30-year-old-Sara worked to get to this point by giving up, now? I've written something like six books and a hundred short stories at this point (a gross estimation, but probably fairly close, give or take).

And the real truth is, I miss it. I mostly miss having written, because it's still the coolest feeling in the world, reading something I've written and being amazed at how good it is (or, at the very least, how much I, subjectively, love it). But I also miss losing myself for hours as I explore a world I see in my mind. How characters take on lives of their own. How fitting each scene together is like putting a puzzle together. How going on long walks helps me work out story kinks. And I really, really miss sitting at Dillon's with my writing buddies talking about all things writing for hours and hours and finally settling in for thirty minutes of writing before we have to leave.

So! New decade, new goals. Different goals. I still want to write. But the goals are going to be things that I can control. Getting a book published is outside of my control. Even if I had done everything right (which I'm still not sure I did), the outcome could have been the same. Besides, the book publishing world is a weird place these days, and being any sort of public figure a tricky business. I know that writing for myself is a less motivating strategy, but it seemed like I was happiest, and wrote some of my favorite stuff, when I was still just practicing writing. So I'd like to get back to that.

This seems like a good year to get back to my roots. Write the stuff I want to read. Focus on finishing up stories (but only the ones I still love). Push myself when I feel the desire to write, but back off when I don't. Try to get at least 5k words written each month, and hopefully write at least 7 days each month.

And I have made a few overtures toward those ends already.

In February, I really tried to get the writing group to help me with some sort of short story prompt project. Similar to the Cafe, but without posting on a public platform. That, sadly, only lasted about a week before I grew bored. Not sure if it was writing that I grew bored with, or my ideas, or the lack of interest from other writers in what I had hoped would be an exciting way to breathe new life into all of our writing.

As much as all of that failed, I did brainstorm ideas for three short stories, one of which I even started (a Makai MystWatch short, of all things). I even threw a few thousand words on SP 2.3. I wrote a total of 4.1k words in February, and 3k of those were narrative words, not brainstorm.

Of course, it's a week from the end of March, and I have yet to do any writing this month, brainstorm or otherwise. But. The last few days I've been in the mood. I'm hoping by writing this blog (and having read over it earlier this week), I can muster up some motivation and write at least a few of the days left in this month.

So that's this year's update so far. I am still not sure I'll update every month. It'll depend on my progress and my feelings about said progress. But I want this blog to be more fun. Toward the end of the decade, it was a slog of my publishing plans and what my next big project was and how that fit into my five-year or ten-year plan. Which, was important, then. I was trying to figure out if I could make any money self-publishing, and if I could keep submitting traditionally while I tried to make money myself. It was a stressful balancing act that relied on me creating a certain amount of product to keep it all going. But despite amazing progress for three years, it wasn't a pace I could keep up. Especially with the mounting pile of rejections. So, as I mentioned, I'm going back to my roots for the next ten years of this blog.

I may never recapture the magic of those early days. And now that I'm a decade older, my passions and interests have changed, so I may never write the kinds of things I used to. But I want to keep writing. Even if it's only a handful of days each month. Even if it takes me a year to finish even one book or get one SP adventure completed.

Maybe as the year plods along, I'll tweak my goals. But for now, I'm keeping it simple, and following the spirited and elusive unicorn that is the magic of my writing.