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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

September Update: Incredible Progress

I've tried to sit down and write this blog a few times so far this month, but I just wasn't feeling it. Not that I don't have plenty to report or anything. I just haven't been in a blogging mood.

But, I need to get it done, because we're a week into October now.

So, first up, I finally finished my old Cafe story, got it edited, and posted it to the Cafe. That was my biggest accomplishment for the month, and boy did it feel good. Now I feel like I have finally closed the "book" on the Cafe, so to speak. I know I didn't owe it to anyone, but I felt I owed it to myself and my project of eight years. Plus, I really wanted to get that third story of the Witch's Daughter series finished up. I even brainstormed some ideas for the next story! Maybe I'll write another one next year and, I don't know, post them on this website or something. Or at least link them. I guess I probably can't put any more stories on the Cafe, since we're closed. But anyway. That's a future Sara problem. I'm not in any hurry to write the next one. It's just nice to know what comes next, if I ever decide I want to revisit that world. I've often thought it might make a good novel, although for now, I like that it's just stories from her life rather than a cohesive book.

Also, I've started tracking how many words I write each month that are actual story words rather than brainstorming notes. I'm still counting brainstorming notes in my overall totals, but I was curious how much forward motion I was actually making. And I wrote almost 11k words last month! That includes finishing up my Superhero Shane story, finishing up my Witch's Daughter story, and getting a good chunk of words written on the next Sally Prescott story.

So yeah, I had a really great month. I think Rachel did, too. She broke 35k last night, so she's finally over halfway.

This month, I want to keep poking at SP. I haven't been in much of a writing mood, but I've been trying to at least read over it and put a few paragraphs on it when Rachel and I meet. It's slow going, but progress is progress.

I also wrote out some notes for a romance novel I may write someday. But that was this month, not last month. And while it's a few thousand words, it doesn't count toward new content. So, I'm hopeful I can keep up my writing momentum this month. Or get back into it. I'm not sure I'll finish SP or not, but I'm going to try. That's my main goal.

But, if I honestly can't get back into it, I may poke at other projects, see if anything else captures my imagination. I've got Chain Letter Choice, Nightmare of Sleepy Shoals, and Once We Were Witches that are all floating around in the back of my mind. There's also the second Druid Wars book, but I'm fairly convinced that'll be a next-year project. I only have maybe one, one and a half solid writing months left this year, so I'd rather use my energies to add to things I've already started rather than start something completely new.

If nothing else compels me to write, I may just shift back to editing. I have plenty of things to edit, so that might be a better use of my time if I can produce words. I'm just not sure I'm ready to dive back into MystWatch yet. I want to really miss it before I go back, so I have plenty of enthusiasm to do the things I need to do with book 2 and with the Shane story. Book 3 is still very much a back burner, project for the future right now. Hopefully my siblings will understand. It's taken me this long to get back into writing after swearing it off utterly last year. It's still a delicate flame that I'm guarding as protectively as I can, doing my best to nurture it without snuffing it out. Once it's back to a well-established fire, I will share with others that I'm back at it. If I get there. But now, I'm still staying quiet about writing and treating it with as much awe and delicacy as I can.

Which means I am not planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year. It will be the first time in 15 years I haven't at least attempted it. I do plan on trying to write through November, with Rachel like we have been, but I will not be using the NaNo website to do any tracking, nor attend any of the events. I don't even plan on logging into the website. I left them some fairly scathing feedback, expressing my disappointment at their change in direction, and told them I had no plans of returning. I feel like this year, the best thing I can do is keep that promise by not giving them any site traffic. I may feel differently next year, but this year, NaNo does not exist for me. It is dead. A part of my past I want to move on from. Which is a complicated mess of feelings, but mostly I'm looking forward to a November that I write on my own terms without being harassed by emails from HQ or MLs or newbie writers or writers that steal my creative energies. Like I said. Delicate flame. None of that will feed it, only work to extinguish it.

Anyway. I have three weeks left this month to make some writing progress. Hopefully I can wrap up with SP adventure, since I had originally hoped to write two a year so I could eventually start putting them out. But, as long as I get one finished this year, I'll be happy. I'm writing them mostly for myself right now, anyway.

That pretty much wraps up this update. Apparently I did have a blog post in me after all.

Friday, September 4, 2020

August Update: Better late than never!

I called myself out last post about how I should do these blogs when I'm thinking of it rather than waiting. I thought about doing it Friday the 28th but decided to wait for Monday the 31, but...I should have known better. It was mom's death day, and I ended up not even getting on the computer at all.

I really might just go back to doing these at the beginning of the month rather than the end. Mostly because I never know how the month is going to shake out until that last day, and sometimes, that last day has me staying up late to finish up projects.

In this case, I'm glad I waited. Because last night, I finished up the Mystwatch Shane short story I've been trying to write for years. I'm not completely in love with how I got to the end, so it may change, but at least I can say I have a complete zero draft. Can't edit something I haven't written yet.

So that's my big accomplishment since I started working on it again on August 27th. The last time I'd added words was back in February. It feels good to have it done. It's about four thousand words more than I intended (the Makai short is only 3k and this is just over 7k), but I think it needed to be. The Makai one was more just to get a glimpse of what goes on in his head and some backstory on how he got his scar (and what his relationship to Lindsay was). Shane's story is actually a cohesive story, where Shane goes out and does something on his own. So it needed more words, I think.

Anyway. I've finished one of my outstanding short stories. I also finished my outlining pass of Mystwatch book 2. It took a lot longer than the "few days" I predicted last update. It took almost all month. After nearly 17 hours of work, I've got another 13k word document full of the chapter outlines and all the things I want to do in each chapter to make the plot and character motivations more cohesive. It's somewhat discouraging, since now I have a TON of work to do on this book that I thought was good enough. But I want to do it. I'm, well, not excited to do it, but I am eager to make it the book it deserves to be. I just needed a little break from editing. I've been in the mood to write, so that's what I'm going to do for a bit.

I thought I needed a break from the Mystwatch world, but the story I really wanted to work on was Shane's. Now that that's done, I have a few other things I want to poke at. My biggest goal for the next month is to wrap up the Witch's Daughter short story I was supposed to publish to the Cafe a year ago come October. It bugs me that I never did finish that story or get it up there. I know I don't owe the Cafe a thing, but I always meant to finish this story and post it, so that's what I'm going to do next. One of these days, I might revisit that character and that world and either put together a collection of stories about her, or just outright write a novel for her. I even found a cool cover on Selfpubbookcovers for it.

Oh! Speaking of covers from that website. I actually bought a cover I've been coveting for awhile. I can't remember if I mentioned this or not, but Rachel talked me into buying the cover for the first Druid Wars book. I've loved it since I first saw it, so I dropped a hundred bucks last month and bought it. Which means, of course, that I need to get cracking on book 2 one of these days. I do have about 100 words written on it, and they're good words. I like the beginning, and I can hear Osiris's voice in my head. So. That will come before too much longer. Maybe spring next year when I get past my winter slump where I tend to do better with editing.

I'm doing better at recognizing my cycles. When fall hits, I am in the mood to write. Late spring to early summer, too. Late summer and the doldrums of winter I do better with editing. So I'm trying to map out the projects I want to work on according to those rhythms. Rachel and I are still meeting online a few times a week to poke at our projects, so I am making slow but steady progress these days. The worst thing for me is to sit down for writing time and have no idea what to work on. That's why I started the writing project spreadsheet all those years ago. Not as a publishing schedule, but as a way to make sure I always had something lined up next. It got overwhelming and detrimental when I started treating it like a deadline thing, where if I got behind, I was never going to make it as a writer. I've actually started using Mywriteclub again to track my projects, for now. Maybe I'll go back to that spreadsheet if Rachel and my writing times continue to go well.

They have been going really well, though. They're low-key, no pressure, celebratory of our progress, no matter how small, but forgiving of the slower, less progressive days. And if we need a break, we don't meet. It's really everything I need in a writing date. And once the world isn't ending anymore, maybe we'll start going places to meet in person. Or maybe not. It's nice to be able to write without pants or a bra and be able to wander to the kitchen for a snack if I need one.

Anyway. That's my update for the last month and my plan for the upcoming month.

Beyond that, I'm thinking I might try to finish the next Sally Prescott adventure, since I've been trying to write at least one of those a year. I had thought about calling that one quits, but I read back through the last few adventures and found myself laughing outloud, excited to read the next one. They're fluffy, fun reads that don't matter. Published under a pen name, I can enjoy the money if people like them but not worry about people refusing to read my other work if they don't. But. That's a long ways down the line. Mystwatch and probably Druid Wars come before SP. I need at least three seasons written before I start publishing them, anyway.

The only other thing I wanted to note is that, right now, I'm no longer committed to having Mystwatch book 3 ready for Christmas. I think what I may tell my siblings is that, I want to self-publish these. To wait for the re-reads and the final book for when they have been through an actual editor. Actually formatted. They've waited this long. What's another year and a half, two years? And they may disagree, and maybe I'll give them cleaned up book 1 and 2 for Christmas and tell them I expect book 3 to be ready sometime next year. I am thinking about editing it in January/February when I'm itching to edit something.

But. That relies on me having book 2 ready by the end of this year so Rachel can read 1 and 2 in order to beta read 3. My plan right now is to do my book 2 fixes once I've gotten over my writing mood. Probably November/December. I think for September and October, I will keep writing. If I get through SP, I might even work on Once We Were Witches or Sleepy Shoals. Or Druid Wars. Or maybe something new!

I'm excited (and a little overwhelmed) to have so many options. But, I know I will be able to keep plugging along, because Rachel and I have a good system. Any fatigue is short lived. We get each other excited about writing, and encourage progress in a relaxed, no-pressure way. We're going to do this. We are doing this!

I'll let you know how it's going once October hits.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July Update: Foundation work on book two (and beyond)

Here we are. July is drawing to a close, and I'm actually doing a blog post before it does. I would have liked to wait a couple more days, but I know myself. If I wait, I will forget.

So, it's been a very busy month for me, writing wise. I mean, I haven't worked a great number of days, but I have spent more than 15 hours working through the rest of MystWatch book 2 this month. I finally finished my read-through.

That's the good news. The other good news is, there are a lot of really great scenes, in this book. But, there's bad news. Jack was right when he beta read for me. Well, it's not bad that he was right. It's bad that I ignored what he said and didn't fix things. Now, I have to fix those things. And there are a lot of things. An almost 10k word document of notes on things I want to fix. Luckily, a lot of those words are brainstorms on how to fix stuff, and also things I like. Regardless, I have my work cut out for me.

But, I'm ready and willing to do the work. I'm deeply immersed in the world. I have a lot of ideas on how to make this book better. A lot of that is helped out by the fact that I've also finished writing book 3. I can use that to inform some of the things that need to happen (or are left out) in this book. Some of those things are going to require a lot of rewriting, and some of those things only a few sentences here and there. I'm looking at doing a lot of cutting, too. One chapter entirely is heading for the cutting room floor. The book was around 123k when I went into this edit. It's up to almost 125k now, and I haven't even begun the bigger edits. I'm hoping to keep it around 125k, so once I finish this developmental edit, I may have to do some intensive surgery at the language level.

I'm really proud of myself for working so hard this month. Rachel and I have set up a loose writing schedule, where we aim for Tuesdays and Thursdays and one weekend day. The sessions can be an hour or two hours or three hours, depending on the day and how we feel. We've canceled several of them, but also met several times. It's helped us both keep accountable and make progress. It's so laid back and chill, with her. We say hello, we state what we're working on, then settle in for 20 or 30 minutes. And then we check back in, unless we're on a roll. If we can keep that up, we'll both be in good shape.

Of course, I do sometimes write outside of our meetings. And I think someday she will, too. We're setting up a foundation, right now. We've both had our writing homes obliterated by disaster, so we're both starting from the ground up again. Luckily, we're experienced builders. We just have to learn to trust ourselves again, trust that we know what we're doing.

I am a much better writer, now, than I was when I wrote (and edited) this book. The fixes are necessary. There was a time I thought about just doing a copy edit and leaving it, but I can make this book so much better. And I want to. I'm excited to. Which is an awesome feeling. I haven't been excited to write and edit in awhile. Leave it to MystWatch. It always gets me excited.

My plan right now, since I've written up some notes on a couple of plot fixes, is to do another quick read of this book, making notes of what happens in each chapter. I found I had a hard time figuring out where to insert the new plot elements because my old book outline is out of date. So, going through, writing up chapter synopses, and then inserting editing notes for each chapter is what I'm going to work on for the next few days. That will likely bleed into next month. I'm assuming it'll take at least a week to get through this entire thing again. That said, I'm slow at work this week, so I can sneak in some of this work on work time.

Basically, I'm making up what I call an editing treatment. I've already done that for this book once or twice before, but clearly it needs it again. I was tempted to do it for book 1 again, but at this point, I don't think I'm going to do much more editing on that book. Heh. Famous last works.

At any rate. I'm going to keep working on this book until I get sick of it or feel too much fatigue to move on. That could totally happen after my summary pass. I hope not. I'm starting to feel short on months. It's August, in a few days. I'm starting to worry I may not have book 3 ready by Christmas. I have four months and change. Some of that will be time that Rachel is reading the books. At least when I reach that point, I can start to explore other projects.

Other projects are beginning to tantalize me. I've been in the mood to write new fiction for about a month now. I will probably switch to writing brain when I reach capacity on work for book 2. Not sure what I will work on, first, but I admit to being very tempted to dip my toe back into Druid Wars, even after swearing it off last month. I showed Rachel the cover I've been coveting for the first Druid Wars book, and she loves it. So, I told myself, if I can get a good start on book 2, I may allow myself to drop the $100 on it. I've been in love with it for years, and it still hasn't sold. It must be mine.

And that's pretty much it for me. July was mostly work on book 2 of MystWatch. My goal for August is to do the editing treatment and get started on fixes. I hope to keep meeting Rachel online as often as we can, and maybe even keep doing a day here and there on my own. And those times I get to feeling overwhelmed, I'll just remember what Jack told me. One step at a time. Baby steps are still steps, as they say.

One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. I'm going to get through this. One way or another.

Monday, June 29, 2020

May and June Updates: The Series I Can't Seem to Quit

Pandemic time is so weird. It feels like I've been sheltering at home for years, but at the same time, I somehow completely missed that it's been two months since I last updated by writing blog.

The kinda bummer about not updating last month is that I actually did some work I wanted to talk about! But, it wasn't a ton of work, so it's fine just mentioning it in this update.

So, in my last post, I determined I no longer wanted to be a career writer. I do want to publish a book or several sometime in my life, and that may be traditional but is more likely to be self-publishing. That hasn't changed. In fact, if anything, I feel even more strongly about that. Both of those things, actually. That I definitely don't want to rely on writing to make a living, for sure. But more and more, I am becoming increasingly more certain that I do not want to deal with traditional publishing at all. It's a mess out there, and I am not young or hip or savvy enough to keep up with it all. Nor do I have the energy to try. Which, I admit, isn't a great attitude. But, it is what it is. That is how I feel about my writing.

I also mentioned last entry that I might look into the MystWatch books, if I had the energy and was so inclined. And it turns out that I was, in fact, inclined! It took me a couple of weeks, but I went through book 1 and did some cleanup on things that have always bothered me, incorporated some information about crossbows now that I've actually fired one, and tweaked a few scenes that didn't flow as well as others. I have done some really amazing work on that book. There are so many scenes where I'm just like, yeah, I nailed it. That needs no additional tweaking. I would love to get every single scene that perfect, but I recognize that's probably too much to expect. Anyway. It was a fun little romp into a world and a story I love so, so much.

And then I stepped into book 2, thinking that, like book 1, it would probably be a fun little romp where I'd have to fix a few things and edit on a higher level.

Boy was I wrong. By the end of the third chapter, I was seriously thinking that I might have to completely rewrite this book. Fortunately, I pushed on, and now, about 10 chapters in, I think I have found a fairly easy solution to fix a lot of my problems with the book. Trouble is, I stalled out on chapter 10 weeks ago. I just couldn't face the book and all the work it needed. I thought this was a fairly polished book! And while it did go through many developmental passes, it really never went through the other phases of edits. Why would it? It's the second book in a trilogy that didn't get picked up.

I was so close to just saying fuck it. Why bother editing this? I don't really owe it to anyone. I've considered it finished for awhile. Why dig into it, now?

But that was lazy writer brain talking. Since I do plan on self-publishing these books someday, I know I need to do this work. Even if I don't plan to publish them for another few years, any work I do on this book now is less work I will have to do down the line. If I can get a solid developmental edit done now, that will be one less editing step I have to pay for. And the next time I read it, it will be a more fun copy edit or even proofread edit, like book 1 was this time around.

Anyway. I haven't done any writing work for nearly two weeks. Not until this morning, when I started kicking around ideas on how to fix the plot problems book 2 has. And now, while I won't say I'm super excited to dive back into it, at least I have a clearer idea on what I need to do to fix it. I just have to decide if I want to start back at the beginning and fix things moving forward, or keep plugging away at my readthrough. I think probably the latter. That way, if I run into more problems, I can brainstorm fixes for those, then I can work to implement all of those things in one big editing pass.

So, yeah. I got a chunk of editing and rewriting done over the past two months. I'm hoping to at least finish my readthrough of book 2 in July. I'm not sure I'll start implementing edits next month unless I get a big burst of creative energy. It could happen, I suppose.

I've also been thinking a lot about my newest novel. All 3k words of it. And also Once We Were Witches. I've been in a very witchy mood these days. So maybe I'll get some actual writing done one of these days. I'd also love to finish writing Chain Letter Choice at some point. That book is over halfway finished, and although it will probably need some structural edits, it seems dumb to waste that much of a written book.

Says the writer who has cut loose all of the novels I've written prior to the last couple of years. Yeah. I decided going back to work on Online Dating for Demons or Dante novels or even the next Druid Wars book was not work I was excited to do, and, in fact was causing me more anxiety than anything. I think nowadays I'd like to look forward rather than back.

Except for MystWatch, for some reason. I'm always drawn back to that series, no matter how long ago I started writing it (nine years ago this summer, if you're curious...which is, interestingly enough, about the same age as this blog). It's the series I can't seem to quit. I don't know what it is about it that I love so much. I still get that excited writer feeling when I read back over it, or when I think about the characters or the things that happen. I often think about what the characters would be doing now (well, not now now, since I have no idea how they'd handle a pandemic...they don't seem like they'd be great at social distancing). I have at least two spinoff series ideas. Even after all this time, I'm still passionate about it. Maybe it's because it's my first finished novel and my first finished trilogy. But I can't help but think there may be more to it than that. Maybe there truly is something magical about it.

And hey, if I'm only writing for myself, I am free to explore that magic anytime it comes calling. I have no obligations to anyone to write other things or give up on this story that still gives me goosebumps sometimes. Sometimes I do fear that I'm stuck. That maybe I should move on. But I can't think of a reason why I should. I've written other things. I still haven't published this, so I can still keep making it better. And I do. Every pass, I add something that makes it better. As long as I still enjoy that process, I don't feel like I should have to quit.

Ehem. Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent. I've been having a lot of worries lately, almost bordering on guilt, that I keep working on this trilogy. I know that's dumb. It's my world and my writing hobby.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

April Update: Redefining my Reasons for Writing

My last update was rather fatalistic. The sad part is, I believed it, then. And while the pandemic is still a constant drain on my energy and creativity, I've actually found a little time and space to put some words down.

I spent most of the month thinking about a FF12 fanfic, and about halfway through the month, I finally decided to jot some of those ideas down. And I ended up with nearly 4k words by the end of the month on this silly little thing. I actually decided only a couple of days ago that I was going to count that toward my monthly writing goals. Was it a coherent story? No. It wasn't even written as a story, more as brainstorming notes. But I'm counting it. I spent time thinking about a narrative, and I wrote down the details of that narrative. That, right now, counts.

And hey, yesterday, I actually wrote nearly 400 words on the YA novel I started last month. See? That is the main reason I counted those fanfic words. Because those words led to other words. My own words. Narrative words. On my own story.

I still really love the concept of that novel. I was starting to worry that first chapter was going to be boring, but it is a great balance of tension and release. And I got to the end of the chapter yesterday. It actually has a really good chapter arc. I've never intentionally built a chapter the way I build a story, but in a way, I think I've always done that. I made an intentional choice to end that chapter where I did because it hit a bit of a natural "climax," and then a resolution for the chapter, but introducing new conflict.

I'm good at writing. As much as I love physical arts like painting, pottery, even music, I am mediocre at best at those things. But writing? I have some natural talent, and I have cultivated those skills for over a decade.

I will always be a writer. I will always come back to writing. I love it. Even when I can't do it, or don't want to do it, or don't feel like I am any good, I am still a writer. I keep coming back to this fact. I take breaks. Some longer than others. Sometimes it's hard to go back to it. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes my returns are fleeting. Sometimes, like last time, I had a couple solid years where I wrote and edited a ton. Like everything in life, there are cycles.

All that being said, being a writer and making a living writing are very different things. I have done a ton of ruminating on this. I've been struggling to separate those two things so that I can actually enjoy writing again. I think, deep down, I still hadn't let go of the idea that I was going to make a living as a writer someday. It was still a someday dream. And that was hurting my ability to write just to write. I could only think about how to monetize what I was writing. I hate that. I don't want that, anymore.

I don't want that anymore.

I don't want to make a living as a writer. I do want to write. I want to write books, and short stories, and blog posts, and hey, maybe even get some of those things published. It'd be cool if I could get some of my books out there for people to read. I don't even care that much about the money, at this point. The pressure of writing, writing, writing to make sure I get something out every X months in order to keep whatever algorithm going to make the most possible money. I've been tracking my progress for around five years, now. I can't keep up that pace. It leads to burnout. So, self-publishing as a career is out. And...well, I don't think I write commercially or well enough to break into the traditional publishing industry. Even then, there's probably a certain amount of pressure to write, write, write to make money, money, money, for my publisher, for my editor, for my agent. Aside from all that, the query process is awful. That did more damage to my creativity than...well, not this pandemic. It did a lot of damage, though. I still haven't gotten back into it. Even without the pandemic, I would probably still only be dipping my toe in creative waters.

It used to be that I desperately wanted to get out of my current job, and the idea of writing full time seemed like a dream job. Now, as much as some days my job is mind-numbing, uninspiring, and frustrating, I value it quite a bit. I make a decent salary. I'm nearly halfway to retirement. It's enabling me to save up enough money to buy my dream house, to be able to put away savings for later in life, and gives me plenty of time to take off work, be sick, work from home, even do a bit of writing/blogging/research on work time, when we're slow. And I don't have to worry about being self-directed. And I don't have to take work home with me.

True, I hate that 40 hours a week are not my own, but if I have to work, and I can't be a full-time writer, I have a damn good job. Will it last me the next 16 years until I can retire? Maybe not. And I might have to reassess at some point, if this job comes to an end. Do I stay at KU? Do I stay an editor? But I don't have to answer those questions right now.

Anyway. That was a bit of a tangent, but it does have some relevance, here. This blog was originally designed as a way to track my progress to becoming a published author. I think the unwritten implication there is that once I was a published author, I'd slowly transition this blog into my journey as published author to full-time author.

That's no longer the case. This is the last year of my 30s. I've made a lot of progress as a writer. And it's something that, even after this long, I still love. Most parts of it, anyway. Some days, anyway. Ehem. It's a thing I still do, feelings about it aside. But my goals have changed.

Yes, I still want to publish a book. But I think the second, unspoken part of that goal can be laid to rest.

I want to be a published author, not a full-time writer.

And hey, just because I'm almost 40 doesn't mean I have to stop striving for that. And even when I accomplish that, I can still blog about my writing progress. My writing goals.

So. This month, I managed to write nearly 5,000 words. Next month, I'd like to do about the same. Even if it's fanfic. And maybe take a look at the MystWatch books, if I find I have the energy and inclination.

Unless something untoward happens, I will see you next month for another update. Maybe an update that's not quite as philosophical and rambling. But maybe it will be. I am a writer, after all.

Monday, March 30, 2020

March Update: Pandemic

Well...all of my plans have been hijacked by a global pandemic.

I don't have much to say about that, here. But, I am starting to feel like I'm just not meant to be a writer anymore. I'm sad and frustrated and depressed that I'd finally started getting back into the groove of things--setting reasonable goals, going out to write with friends, spending some of my free time adding words to stories--when COVID-19 took over the world. Now, I'm lucky if I manage to do more than play videogames in the evenings after a long, long day of trying to keep focused working remotely at home.

I have no energy or head space for fictional things. I can't even make myself care about worlds I love. It's like I've stepped back to that no-man's land of writers block, where just the thought of writing anything made me more tired than I thought possible.

I did try to start a pandemic daily log. I managed that for a few days, but now I mostly just use it to vent when I'm frustrated about stuff. It's a secret place for bitching rather than an interesting or entertaining account of what is going on, so I don't really feel like it should count toward my writing goals. So, I wrote 1400 words this month, before the pandemic hit hard.

And now my goals are more basic and have nothing to do with writing. Try to get outside at least once a day. Try to exercise. Don't binge eat. Don't binge drink. Don't check the stock market if I'm not emotionally prepared. Try to keep the house at least sort of tidy because it helps my mood. Make time for art when I'm up for it, at least a couple of times a week. Try to remember social distancing means physical distance, not complete social isolation.

There may come a time when I'm ready to write, again, but right now, I'm back to thinking that maybe the writing life isn't for me. As much as I wish I could make a living with my stories, in a way, right now, I'm glad I don't. Because I don't think I could sit here all day and write, even if it was for a paycheck. And I wouldn't have insurance.

Anyway. That's where I'm at with writing. I'm not, right now. I don't see that changing for awhile. Definitely not until after the pandemic peaks and begins to ebb again. Maybe not even then. So many things are going to change between now and then. Me included. I really may be done writing. For real this time.

So I may not update this blog again. Definitely not next month, unless I get hit with a powerful creativity. Possibly not again for several months. Maybe not at all. I'm not hugely optimistic, at any rate. With what's happening in the world, it's hard to be optimistic about much of anything.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February Update: Still Plodding Along

I'm actually writing this update on March 1 and backdating it, because I forgot to update my progress last month. Woops. I guess that's why I was doing beginning-of-the-month posts. So I could post a few days or so in, and it wasn't a huge deal. I suppose I could date this as a normal March update, but that leaves me without an update for February, which I don't love.

So, we're going to pretend it's February 30 for the day. We're writers. We can do that, right?

That's a lie. I can't pretend it's the last day of February. I have too many things to do for the first of March. So, I'll just pretend for the sake of this post.

Okay, so, progress. Previously on my blog, I mentioned I'd been playing with all these different new dream ideas and made tentative plans to work on Druid Wars 2 and MystWatch 3 this year. I also made the goal to write 5k words a month on whatever I felt like working on.

So, this month, I bounced around a lot. I worked on a couple different short stories. I poked at Suddenly, Zombies! for an afternoon. And then, I had another YA urban fantasy dream that I wrote down...and now I have a new novel I'm working on.

I like this one better than the storm elemental one I was thinking about doing. There were pieces of that one that I didn't know how they worked, and it was a driving force of the story. So I shelved it (and also because it came during my fallow period and didn't excite me enough to bust me out of it). Now, this dream has a lot of similar elements, but came to me more fully fleshed out. Still some weird logistics I'll have to tweak, but in general, it's going to be easier to work with. Maybe less exciting, but that's okay. I'm torn, now, between the idea that this book is going to cannibalize all the pieces of that book, so I can't write it anymore. But maybe it can be in roughly the same world? It's just two mom stories. Maybe that's a wheelhouse I can get into. YA with teenagers that have magical moms and have to deal with it?

We'll see, I guess. That's getting ahead of myself. Right now, I really just want to write what I'm excited to write, and this book has permeated my mind. And the writing is relatively easy. So I feel like I'm writing on the right project.

One of the things I didn't talk about because I think it happened after my last post is that we've created a new writing group. We've pulled in all of our most dedicated and supportive members of the old, flagging group, and have set up monthly meetings and weekly check-in posts. It's really helped me a lot with the staying accountable, setting measurable and achievable goals, and even set up some writing time. We're going to meet the first Sunday of each month to address what we want from the group and how to structure it as we figure out all of our wants and needs and what works and what doesn't. We all have such discrete schedules that it's hard to make one day and time work for all of us. But. We seem to be all making writing time in drips and drabs with the people who can. I've fallen back into the Saturdays with Dianne and sometimes Amanda. It works really well for me, because I get to sleep in a bit, sometimes go for a walk, do a few chores or errands, then sit down and focus on writing for a few hours before figuring out dinner plans and stuff with the boys. Afternoons seem to be my most productive time, other than late in the evening, so it works. I don't think I'll ever be a morning writer. Mornings are for reflection and brainstorming and writing down dreams.

At any rate. That was info I needed to share but was more long-winded than I meant for it to be. The heart of this post is that I have a new novel idea, I wrote almost 7k words this month, and I'm feeling great about writing, again. I'm still planning on going slow. I still love the 5k a month on whatever I want to work on goal. I may abandon my novel mid month. Or I may have a prolific month and write 15k on it. We'll see. No pressure either way.

I do keep circling back to MystWatch, though. I tried to write some words on the Shane short, but I've decided I'm not in the write voice to write him right now. I am going to do an editing pass on books 1 and 2 in preparation for editing book 3, then hand the whole series to Aron, at least. Maybe Em, if she wants. Once I've been immersed in that world for that long, I'll have a better grasp on how to get into and wrap up Shane's story. I owe it to him. And it will help me see if I can write a spin-off series about him. I want to. I think it has potential to be cool. And it'll put me back in that world without falling back into the whole, holding on to your first completed book way past time to let it go. Which I think everyone is worried about, at this point. Me, too, a little.

I'm not making any huge plans to work on that in the next few months. I'd still like to see if I get any beta reads back. It's on Dianne's to-do list, now, so maybe in a month or so, I'll have her feedback to help guide my edit. And Jack will be done with his MFA after this weekend, as well as basketball, so hopefully he'll finally finish reading it, too. And I may nudge Rachel, just to let her know that I'd really love her thoughts and feelings on it, when she gets a chance.

Phew. That's a lot for one post. I'll end it with the goal to try to write at least another 5k next month, hopefully on my new novel. And I'm going to think on adjusting my posting schedule so it's back to being at the beginning of the month rather than the end. Maybe I'll start posting the day after our monthly meetings. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

January Update: I'm Still Here

Hey look! I'm actually updating my writing blog! How exciting is that? I wasn't sure I'd have anything to say after last year.

But I do.

I am still a writer.

That's mostly what I wanted to say.

This month, I've actually done some writing. About 5,700 words. Writing that I was excited about, that wasn't a chore! I even met with the girls on a Saturday like old times and Dianne and I talked for hours, building a world and developing a general plot. It was so, so awesome. That's one of the things I've missed the most. Hanging out with the girls, talking craft, working on brainstorming together, looking up after some quiet writing and sharing when you've come up with something clever. It's the part of NaNo I missed out on. And that is probably a lot because I didn't go to any write-ins. But also because, at official write-ins, I never felt like I could just hog an entire afternoon to talk about my ideas.

I was having these wild, steampunk, sci-fi dreams for about a week early this month. Then, we had a couple of really foggy mornings. And an idea was born. After much daydreaming and freewriting, and even making a kindergarten-level model, the world is precariously built, and I have the beginning of a story. Most of the words for the month were brainstorming, but over 500 words were on the actual novel. I've even got a Pinterest board. I am excited about this idea.

Of course, that means I haven't written on it much at all since mid-month. It's not that I'm scared or anything, but I'm being cautious. I don't want to force things. Writing was harder than I wanted it to be, when I finally did it. I know it'll come back, but it's a lot of work right now. And I've also been sick, which takes away some of the writing energy.

But, not only do I have this cool idea I'm having to build a whole world for, complete with climate and politics and fashion (because Dianne), but I also came up with a steampunk romance story I'm excited to tell, as well. I haven't done any world building for that one, beyond trying to describe what was in my dream. It could very well be in the same world as my NaNo novel was, but it could also be its own. I haven't decided yet. I really just want to tell the story, then I'll figure out details. Which, of course, is what got me into trouble with Dream Machine back in November. But even with all the world building I've done for the other new idea, I haven't done much actual storytelling yet. So there's a balance to strike in there somewhere between prep and actual writing.

My brother and sister also finally got to read Druid Wars. They both liked it (Aron loved it, and Emily liked it but had some feedback for me, in general saying she didn't love it as much as MystWatch). So I have some excitement for that world again, as well. It will probably be a long time before I go back and make the changes Em suggested for book one, but I found the opening I wrote for book two, and I am kinda toying with the idea of revisiting that this year.

And, as always, I'm always drawn to MystWatch. Just walking around Lawrence, I feel the pull of that world, the stories I've told and still want to tell, there. I still haven't gotten feedback from anyone else but Amanda on book three, but I'm about to go through without and fix things, then send it to Em and Aron anyway, make them be my beta readers. I asked Em if she'd be willing to give me feedback on stuff going forward, and she seemed excited about it, so that makes me happy. The next book I finish is going to her first.

Although to be honest, I do not know what book that will be right now. In my last blog post, I talked about how this year was going to be the year I was going to wrap things up, since this blog is on it's "last year," but I think what I've realized is that, despite needing a break at times (sometimes a longer break, sometimes shorter), I will always be a writer. Noting my progress and accomplishments here helps remind me of that. It helps me get excited when I get things done and helps me remember when I'm in a slump that those moments will pass.

The biggest thing right now is that I'm making a conscious effort to divide writing from publishing. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do as far as publishing. Despite swearing that I'm not making any plans anytime soon, I often think about self-publishing, or what I might submit next. I'm just not making any decisions right now. I'm going to see what ends up happening this year as far as writing. Focus on product, then maybe next year figure out what I want to do with that product, if anything.

So for this year, I've set a goal to write 5k words a month each month. That's it. That's my only goal. No finish this or start this or submit this. Just, write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing. I've spent several years with such a structured writing schedule that it might be nice to just relax and go where the wind takes me. But, setting a goal to write 5k words a month (and keep up with this blog), will keep me in touch with writing, so I don't end up adrift with no creative output for months. I can write 5k in a couple of days. Even if I don't have a creative inspiration at some point during a month, I can fake at least a few thousand words, or make up those words on another month.

So yeah. First check-in post of the year, and of the decade! I'll probably shift to posting at the ends of months this year rather than beginnings, unless I have big updates. So for now, until the end of next month. Leap-year February!