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.

Friday, November 6, 2020

October Update: No More Progress

 Well, after a couple of stellar months in the progress department, it all fell off in October.

I'm not sure what happened, really. I started off fairly well, as I mentioned in the last post. I worked on edits for that Cafe short story. I brainstormed for a romance novel. And I even poked at SP. Then, Jack and I spent a weekend camping, and I did some writing by hand for my writing date with Rachel. I actually got over 600 words written on the romance novel I'd brainstormed for.

But that's all I did last month.

I got to feeling like I was only keeping writing dates with Rachel to keep her working. I wasn't getting any enjoyment out of attempting to write, and she always seemed to be looking for an excuse not to write, so I didn't press. We even talked about starting writing again once November hit. Doing our own "secret NaNo" as it were. But. We haven't done that, either.

I just haven't felt like writing at all. Or editing, for that matter. It's been a huge load off, not worrying about NaNo this month. And it's also been a really freeing feeling, reminding myself that I don't have to be a writer anymore if I don't want to. I don't have to remember quirky things I see to maybe incorporate in a book, or try to find the words to describe a beautiful scene. I can just be and enjoy the moment.

I've been thinking a lot about my future the last few weeks. I've spent the last decade or so intently focused on writing and editing. I wanted to write and edit fantasy novels for a living. I had hopes that I might be able to quit my day job to do those things within ten years. I looked forward to trying to make that my whole life.

And now? I don't know. Maybe it's the disillusionment of having two novels rejected completely by the publishing world. Maybe I have gotten tired of the imposter syndrome any time I have to edit anything. Maybe it's realizing that, after twenty years of writing, I'm not really all that good at it. It was the same with the clarinet. I played that damn thing for fifteen years and was never better than passable at it. It was easier than I expected to quit it entirely.

Now, I don't see myself ever quitting writing entirely. But. I think I've settled into the idea that it's a hobby. When I don't feel like doing it, or don't have time to do it, it's okay. I don't have to. I no longer have a self-publishing timeline. I don't have to spend thousands of dollars to try to self-publish a mediocre trilogy about vampires and vengeance. I don't have to torture myself to write a sequel to a book I don't love, or finish books I've put down because I've lost interest. I don't even have to try to be funny and quirky with my fantasy adventure series unless I'm really feeling it.

Now, did it feel good to finish those two short stories? Hell yes, it did. Does it feel amazing to go back and read something I'm really proud of? Definitely. So. Yeah. I'll keep writing and editing for myself. But forcing myself to write when I don't feel up to it is a great way to snuff out that writing flame, as I keep saying.

It's entirely possible this is part of a midlife crisis, but I think I'm going to take my life in a new direction. I am tired of trying to be an editor. As much as I love certain aspects of my job, I do not actually like what I'm doing most of the time. And I get very anxious when I have to do actual editing for it. Still. Even after five years of doing this. So after a lot of thought and internet searches, I have tentatively decided to aim for a career change over the next few years. I want to do something with nature. Something that gets me outside. Because that's always been the hardest part of being a writer. After spending all day long in front of a computer for work, it was sometimes difficult to make myself sit at a computer for a few more hours to work on writing.

That's all I'll say about that here, since this is a writing blog. But. As I enter my 40th year next year, I may start updating this blog quarterly, or when I've had a good writing/editing month. It may be time to retire this blog. This blog I started when I turned 30, with the goal to have a book published by my 40th birthday.

I did not meet that goal. Not really. But. With the help of this blog, I did work toward that goal fairly diligently for the last decade. It kept me accountable. It kept me hopeful when I'd given up hope. It reminded me that I love writing, even when it's hard or seems fruitless. Writing is its own reward. And by letting go of my ten-year goal of being published, I can go back to the days where I wrote for the sheer joy of putting words on a page. Nobody ever has to see what I write, anymore. And I'm giving myself the space to pursue other things.

And maybe I'll make a new blog to focus on my new journey to work outside. I do hope that within the next ten years, I can make a living doing something with forestry. New decade, new goals.

I know I've said before that I might stop updating here, and I keep coming back. So I haven't given up on this blog, yet. I won't make any promises of updates or lack of updates in the future. I will play it by ear. And as the months march ever onward, I will continue to be a Prospective Writer.