Background story:
My husband’s FAVORITE series is the Sword of Truth series. He’s read all of them, and thinks they’re just the best. Because I’m a book person, and he’s a book person, we tend to talk books. So, once he found this amazing series, he wanted me to read it too. Understandable and happens all the time BUT … I HATE THIS SERIES SO MUCH I CAN’T STAND IT. I’ve spent the last almost 3 years trying to get through it and I’m mid-way through book 2. There are 19 books.

NINETEEN.

THREE YEARS.

I don’t read slow. I can read a book in a day or two if I have the time for it. But, not this series. I can’t force myself to care about it.

And the hardest thing is discussing *why* I hate it so much. I have a few reasons, and I’ve gone through all of them with him, but he just can’t see it from my point of view, and always has a rebuttal for every reason I have for not wanting to read it. He just can’t accept that I won’t read the series because he LOVES it so much and wants to talk about it and dissect it with me, like he does with everything else. (Movies I’ve never watched I’ve heard hour long rants on how the physics was wrong — which made me not want to watch the movie because I’d already heard almost the whole thing including dialog, but anyway)

That’s beside the point, but sets the scene. So, the latest (19th) book came out and since I’m a librarian I saw it hit the shelves on release day, and texted him to say his favorite series has more material. (because even if I don’t want to read them, I understand loving a series and wanting more as soon as possible). So, naturally, he went out and bought the book.

What started my writing crisis was that we were discussing his favorite book series. Again. And he was expressing inpatients because I hadn’t read it, and I’ve read a LOT of books since I started reading his series (as a rough guess, I’ve probably read about 100 books since). So we were discussing why, which is where things get “heated”

  • I can’t connect with the characters. They feel static.
  • The MMC is a whiny baby — he annoys me.
  • The author repeats things a LOT, as a way to establish that something is a habit. But it’s obvious enough to be really annoying – or it could be just annoying to me because I literally don’t care how often this character checks that his sword is clear of its scabbard. Not at all.
  • The first book has a lot of POV characters that by the time you go from one to another to another and back again, I’ve forgotten what the first one was up to (some of this hinges on the fact that it’s taken me so long to read it and I’m not all that invested in the first place)
  • The second book has fewer POV characters and spends more time with each one, but what they’re doing still isn’t all that interesting and I found myself wanting to yell at the characters throughout the whole thing to “hurry up already and get to the point” – plus, because it does take longer to go between characters now I’ve REALLY forgotten what the other ones were up to.
  • There are actually a lot of instances where things could be solved by just being straight forward and talking to each other amongst characters.
  • There are other similar instances where things could have been avoided if they had just simply kept going instead of wandering off on some contrived thing instead.
  • They go into SO MUCH DETAIL about strategy and how governments are run that I’m *so bored* when I read it. But to my husband this is a bonus. He’s thrilled with it, and says that books 3 and 4 the main characters aren’t even IN IT until the end and that the whole thing is about this other government. He finds it fascinating … I’m trying to convince him to accept that I’m never going to read those books.
  • And that’s not even going into the CONTENT of the books … because frankly I don’t remember enough of it. I know there’s some questionable instances, and that you can CERTAINLY tell it was written by a man for male readers and it’s part of that Tolkienesque field of epic fantasy (and full disclaimer I don’t like Lord of the Rings either)

Somehow things got onto the subject of how it sounds when we’re reading books. He says he can hear the female character in a female voice, the male in a male voice, the old man in an old man voice, etc … and I can’t recall ever having that happen for me. I hear everything in my voice. Rarely, if I’m reading a book that I know as a movie I may be able to put an actor’s voice to it, but only if I’ve recently heard that character’s voice. I can see entire scenes, I can picture a tree and the apple that falls from it and seeing it bounce along the ground. And he says he cannot – for him it’s more of a wire mesh vagueness that suggests what’s going on. But he was flabbergasted that I don’t get voices, and that’s when he said that maybe I should stick to reading non-fiction because without voices, why read fiction?

And it just … stuck with me.

I know he didn’t mean it in the way I then took it and ran with it. (I know he was also just hurt that I can’t read his favorite series and he really really just wants to talk about it with me) Which is to say, my brain then went on a downward spiral of if I’m not cut out to read fiction, how can I write fiction, and if I can’t write, than what am I going to do with my life because books are my life, I can’t not write, it’s what keeps me sane, I couldn’t handle not coming up with stories, I can’t let go of my characters.

Then I came back to my senses and realized … if I can’t bear to part with my characters, than there must be enough of them in my head to be real characters. Right? So, even if I don’t hear their voices distinctly, I do hear their dialog, and I do know what they’re feeling.

So that’s where the spiral ended, and I decided to sit down and write the start of my new novel just to prove to myself that I could. So, there’s that. But still, it made me curious … am I really that weird for not hearing voices? Is there anyone else out there that doesn’t hear voices or accents in their head when they read?

I’m not a blogger, and I’m not going to do this regularly, but sometimes things in the writing community come up and I want to lend my voice to it — which is what notquitepetite.com was turning into, but it still was holding on to the past of being a journal-blog of sorts. That’s something I don’t want.

Some writer-fairy-grandmother advice:

  • You don’t have to write every day to be a “real” writer. You’re writing, or thinking about writing? You’re a writer.
  • It doesn’t matter how long your chapters are, or how long your draft is until you’re ready to publish … and even then, not so much. Don’t stress about the little details, just write the story as it needs to be told.
  • Your mental health is important.
  • Writing is hard, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up about it.
  • Sometimes abandoning a project for a new one is a good choice. Sometimes not writing at all for a month and reading instead, is a good choice. Do what feels right to you.

I’m going to add to this list over time. Do you have anything you want to share with other writers?

Somehow, I’ve managed to read more than fifty books, and write almost 200,000 words.

2016 wasn’t a great year until the end. I didn’t write much until after April. I didn’t read much either, and I don’t care.

I’m not a write every day person. I write when I can, I read when I can — moving from one project to another when I get stalled, or switching to reading for a block of time, works for me. Apparently the latter half of this year (most of those words happened fairly recently, like since this fall) was good for my creative output. It wasn’t good for much else.

Things are starting to go well, I started a new job so my hours are a bit more stable than they were with two part time jobs — but I’m commuting more so I don’t actually have any more time available to me — it’s about even. That’s one good thing, the new job. My husband and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary in April. So that’s two. I made more friends with library people (three) and I seemed to care less in general about … everything — which could be good, or could be bad, depending on how you look at it.

I feel less stressed, less worried over all the little things. I figure after what we went through so far put things into perspective. It can get a LOT worse, I understand that, but it was pretty bad and we managed okay. Not great, but okay, and we’re on the other side now, sorta.

I realized some things I was trying to do, just won’t fit into my life. I’m not a blogger. I’d like to blog about writing, or about fixing up the house, but there’s far too much pressure and not enough time for any sort of dependency. I’m not an authority on anything, so I don’t feel like I could adequately contribute. And I don’t have the time or mental energy to fit stressing about not blogging into my life. So, I won’t. And that’s where I’m at.

My hosting expires in April. I’m going to keep up the author page, maybe try to spruce it up a little, but this one won’t be staying after that. It’ll probably just redirect there. That way I can concentrate on writing, and editing, and reading, and the main course of being an author.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2017, or at the very least, that it sucks less than 2016 did.

Life is crazy, the to-do list is never ending, and there’s always something more to add to it. As far as I know, there’s no getting around that, it’s just part of being an adult. Having a passion for something, and wanting to pursue it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it done. There’s really only one way to become a novelist, and that’s to write novels. Whenever and wherever you can.

I’m not an advocate for writing every day. It does no good to compare yourself to someone else’s ideal, and then berate yourself for not living up to their standards. Find your balance, find what you can do and fit into your life, and do that.

In October, I started taking yoga. I’d been thinking about it for years, but always put it off as too expensive, too scary, as something I wasn’t fit enough to do. Knowing myself, practicing at home isn’t going to happen. I’ve tried. There’s always something I need to be doing while I’m at home. If I don’t sign up for a class, then it’s not going to happen. I’m too afraid of just showing up unexpected to a drop-in class. So, I signed up for a beginner series. Then I signed up for three more one after another.

I’ve only taken beginner classes so far, but I already feel stronger and more secure in my body-image. I haven’t changed at all, but my mindset has. And that’s given me a little inspiration as far as my writing is concerned. When starting out in yoga, you will not be able to get fully into all of the poses. Some of them are simply out of reach, and you may not ever really get there. Your body’s structure, might just not be set up to accomplish that.

And that’s fine.

My yoga instructor has said that yoga is a journey, and your yoga practice is the path of that journey. The ideal of the poses, is the goal. If you can’t fold that far forward in humble warrior, that’s fine. You may find that over time, with practice, you can fold further. If not, visualizing the goal and striving to achieve it, even if you’re not actually moving forward yet, brings it’s own strength.

To me, it sets up your mind to accept that you can.

You may not be able to yet, but you’re not ruling out the possibility. And that’s important.

It’s the same with writing. You may not be a best selling novelist, but don’t sell yourself short or set yourself up for failure by giving up that goal before you get started. You might fall over in walking tree pose, but there could be a day where you don’t. You might go a month without writing, but even if you only write once a month, eventually you will finish a draft. Then you’ll finish another draft, or twelve. You’ll find your groove, what works for your life, your goals, and you’ll do that. Whether it measures up to some arbitrary standard or not, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you what’s right for you, there’s strength in that.

I’ve seen a few posts from a friend lately about bullet journaling. Then as I was tackling the idea of what to do next as far as my KonMari project is concerned, it inevitably left me going through all the things around the house I want to change.

Which is admittedly, a lot. Not just fixing broken things, but updating and basically a full house renovation.

Unfortunately we have nearly $0 to tackle any of that stuff.

But, things kept going round and round in my head, so I got out a notebook and started writing.

bullet house journal

It’s not fancy, it’s not pretty. I’m impressed it’s legible to be honest.

The KonMari checklist is just that, a list of all the categories I found on a few pages on pinterest. Some I won’t use, but I wrote them all anyway (minus the children’s stuff one because … well aside from not having any, I’m not ready to think about when I do). The two pages of brainstorming ideas are a literal block of test. I mentally went through each room in the house and noted down what I remembered off the top of my head that the husband and I had discussed doing (minus his computer room/future nursery for obvious reasons).

We don’t have the money for the big renovations we want to do. But I can clean up the house, and I can maybe get an idea of how much we might actually need to save to do some of the things on our list. I think it’s also part of step 1 of the KonMari method, visualizing what you want the space to look like. Right now, the answer is “anything but this” and has been for the 4 years we’ve lived here.

This is a start to fix that, a modest one, but a start is a start.

 

I don’t want to use this place as a journal. Nothing good really comes of that, so I’m not going to go there. But I do believe in being open about things, because someone else might be out there struggling, too. There’s never an easy way to go through hard times … literally why we call them hard times. It’s hard.

Last fall, I got pregnant for the second time. I wasn’t nearly as sick as the first time, but I was still filled with trepidation. We waited a couple extra weeks before taking the pregnancy test. Then we waited another week before calling the hospital to have a test done to confirm. At 7 weeks along, we had a dating ultrasound and everything looked great. Already I had made it farther than before, but still we didn’t want anyone to know. We didn’t want to let ourselves start to hope. Around 9 weeks I told my jobs, because I was starting to feel really run down and rather queasy. I never got sick, but I felt on the verge of it for months. By 11 weeks we told my parents. Then gradually we told more and more people. By the end of 12 weeks, we started discussing names, and at my 14 week appointment, when my DR said everything looked perfect, we started getting excited.

At 16 weeks I miscarried. Again.

Miscarriage at 16 weeks is crushing for a few reasons. Obviously, you’re no longer getting the baby that you had hoped for.  You’re blindsided because you were supposedly in the “safe zone”. There’s doubt of whether you’ll ever be able to carry to term. Anxiety about the wasted time and the ticking clock (hello 32, I see you on the horizon there). But there’s also the pain of actually going through labor. And then also, not having a baby at the end of that labor. The afternoon surgery I had with the first miscarriage couldn’t be done at the local hospital. I’d have to travel over an hour to a specialist up north to have a D & E performed at 16 weeks. It would have been a 2 day procedure, and the risk of damage to the uterus was increased over the previous one. So, we chose to go through labor.  Since we still do want kids, we want to give any future pregnancies the best chance possible.

The nurses were great, but that was the single worst day of my life so far. I have never been in so much pain. I had bruising from the IV and blood draws for two weeks after. I couldn’t climb stairs for two days. And only now, two and a half weeks later, do I feel normal, no lingering twinges, or other pains.

I’m still working through the emotional pain of it all. I’m not sure when or if that really goes away.

On NOT Writing

I’m going to do something really controversial for a writer this week: I’m not going to write.

It’s a hot topic, and one that I’m still coming to terms with.

And, it’s a lesson that I have to continually teach myself — it’s okay to not write. There is a thing called burn out, and for me personally, pushing through it only makes the problem worse. That is why I don’t advocate for writing every day — I don’t disagree with it, it’s just not practical.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. I am. I write! (Mostly on lunch breaks or late at night after work and dinner, or rushed between jobs.) But not every day,  and sometimes not every week.

The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to need other things in life: human interaction, other creative pursuits, sleep. When you have limited time to devote to anything outside work, all those things have to share. They’re all essential to living a balanced life, and that balance is what fosters the mental clarity needed to write well.

The hard part is knowing when to take a break. Knowing if you’re actually burnt out, or if you’re just stuck on a problem is a skill that takes time to develop.

That’s when it really helps to keep track, and notice any patterns. When do days go well? When do they go really badly? What’s your mental state like?

This year hasn’t been the best year, there have been a lot of ups and downs, and mostly downs. I’ve been stressed, and because of that, I’ve felt totally overwhelmed most of the time — largely about things outside of my writing life, but writing this book has been one of those stressers. I’ve wanted to finally get on with finishing this draft, that I was pushing myself to just keep going.

It wasn’t working.

I’d make a little progress, then stall and spend time beating myself up over not writing, not continuing. It made writing harder, and I eneded up wasting time I could have used writing worrying about not writing.

Until I gave up. I’d had enough. I picked up a book, then another, and just let myself read for a while.

It was a recalibration. After getting back into reading, I wrote chapter three. Then instead of feeling down for not moving right into chapter four, I picked up some stuff to make art again. I painted a picture. Then I wrote chapter four.

Now, I’m at that point again of having finished writing a chapter and transitioning into the next one. I’m already feeling that resistance to writing, so instead of fighting it, I’m going to read a book.

Writing every day will work for some people. It doesn’t work for me and my schedule, and that’s okay. Maybe alternating between reading, or being otherwise creative, and writing will help you, too.

Tag! You’re it!

I saw a post by Kristen of She’s Novel, with a few interesting questions about how she writes, and I thought it was fun.

Since I haven’t been having a lot of success lately, I thought I’d see what my answers would be, and maybe they might help me get back into the spirit of writing.


Where do you write?

I don’t have a big enough desk to write at so for a while I was writing at my dining room table – but I was getting overwhelmed by all of my notebooks spread out over the whole table, and still having to run upstairs to my computer whenever I needed to look something up (sometimes my phone was just too small for what I needed), or whenever I had to print something. When I don’t need all my notebooks of world and character building, I write on my lunch breaks at work. I’m still looking for a suitable place to write at home – which is I think why I haven’t been getting any writing done since I took my stuff off the dining room table. I finally put all of my outline and my second draft and the beginning of the third draft into Scrivener, but I haven’t been able to write anything into it yet. It’s helping me to see where the holes are, and to see which scenes need to be written, but I can’t get comfortable, and I can’t focus while I’m at my desktop computer.

When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?

I write at night after work around 9pm until I go to bed around 11, or in the afternoon at lunch (or I would, if I was getting any writing done – that’s the time I have at home anyway – although some of that time also includes making and eating dinner, any time spent with the husband and cats, or anything else computer related, even mundane things like paying bills, or checking email).

I’d much prefer to write in the morning. First thing is when my mind is going with ideas. By night, my brain is fried. I’ve tried getting up earlier and writing before work, but it just doesn’t work out. I’m way too tired at 4am to get any writing done, and we have to start getting ready by 5:30-6am most mornings.

Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?

I’m usually writing while eating lunch or dinner, so it’s whatever I’ve packed for lunch or whatever I’ve cooked for dinner, not really a specific snack. I try not to snack too much between meals, anyway.

How often do you write a new novel?

Ha. Haha. I’ve been writing this same novel for the last five years. I think I’ve got it figured out now, and I’m slowly (slowly) teaching myself how to write a novel, so I’m really hoping that the next three novels in the series get progressively shorter in terms of how long it takes to write them.

Do you listen to music while you write?

Sometimes, but nothing with lyrics when I do. If I need it to drown out background noise (usually my husband watching TV or playing a game while I was writing downstairs at the dining room table), I’ll listen to a playlist of my favorite Lindsay Stirling and David Garrett songs. Otherwise, when I need to really concentrate, I prefer silence.

What do you write on? Laptop or paper?

I don’t have a laptop anymore, it died. In our old apartment, I used to write on my laptop on the couch in the living room when I was between classes or before work, and it was great: bright and sunny, on my comfortable couch, with my feet up and just typing away. Then we bought our house, and my computer, and my external hard drive died (with all of my writing on it! – luckily my WIP was saved to google docs, but that’s was the only thing) and my laptop died all within the first month. It’s been a few years, and I just can’t get into writing at my desktop computer. The chair is so uncomfortable that I can’t get into the zone anymore. (It might also be that I’ve been writing this story for so long, and that editing/re-writing is a different experience than drafting was.) The dining room table chair was even less comfortable, but at least it was sunny. It’s so dark in my house.

So now I write on paper usually in pencil, but sometimes I need a colorful pen just to perk up the mood (sometimes the little things are all that keeps me going), then I’ll type it up on my desktop and tweak things as I type.

Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?

No. If I had any rituals, I’d get even less writing done than I do now – which would mean not writing at all.

What do you do to get into the mood to write?

Read. Whenever I’m reading I want to write. It’s too bad that I only really have time for one or the other, never both at the same time. So, I usually read a book or two until I don’t know what I want to read next, then I’ll write until I run out of steam, and by then I’ve usually decided on my next book to read.

What is always near the place you write?

My phone, but to be fair, my phone is near every place I’m at. For writing, it depends on the place. If I’m at work, I’ll have just my notebook and pen. At home, I’ll have my binder for world building/story bible and a large notebook with more notes and photocopies of research, I’ll also have my binder for character charts/notes/list of names. I’ll have my binders for past drafts. I’ll have my note card holder with the outlines for the next three books. I’ve also recently added The Novel Planner, to track when I’m writing and how much – I’m still working out how best to implement that so that it actually makes a difference to the amount of writing I get done.

Do you have a reward system for your word count?

I’ve tried stickers. I’ve tried daily goals. I’ve tried more tangible rewards like getting a new book, or allowing myself a day of play on my favorite game, or a movie night or something. None of that works. Anything that costs money isn’t a motivator because if I have to pay for it, it’s not really a reward. Food just makes me feel guilty for having too much junk. If I reward myself for writing by reading, or playing a game, I’m using time I might want to use for writing, for other things – and then I feel guilty for not writing! It’s a no win situation.

I’ve tried sending what I’ve written to a friend, but her schedule is as packed as mine, and I haven’t had a response. I tried a critique partner, but I was using all of my writing time to read and respond to her stuff that I didn’t have time to write anything new for mine. I tried a writing group, but it took a couple hours out of the evening where I could have been writing, and I didn’t end up getting any useable feedback that would help with editing a first draft.

I’m still trying to find something that will work.

Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?

I don’t have one? I think my saving feature as far as writing goes, is determination. I have to write this book. I cannot not write it. I don’t have the time. I’m often frustrated. I really don’t actually know what I’m doing at all, but I keep going. I’ve been writing it for five years now, and that’s a long time. As many obstacles as there are in front of me, I just keep moving along slowly (so slowly). If I don’t finish this series, I’ll never be able to write anything else. At this point, I’m committed, whether I like it or not.

I’ve tried working on other ideas, on giving this a break, but I just keep coming back to this one.


If anyone else would like to answer the questions, please leave a link in the comments, so I can check them out. Maybe we’ll learn something from each other!

There are writing advice blogs everywhere. Most will tell you that the best way to develop your skill is consistent practice. And I’m sure they’re right. I look forward to specific days because I know something is coming from someone I follow (ex. @blotsandplots posts on Monday, @ShesNovel emails her newsletter on Sunday).

It works. Having more books is proven time and again to gain you more followers.

But what if you can’t?

For me, I drown in guilt for not writing, even though I also feel guilt when writing because I should be doing something else. I make excuses about being busy, and tired, and needing to mentally recharge … But my inner voice says that it’s all just excuses: I should be writing.

It’s true, but being busy, tired and drained is also true, and sometimes I want to enjoy a hike without feeling like I should be home writing.

image

What’s a writer to do? Ultimately, it really is up to each individual. Everything is. But, what’s best? Isn’t that the point?

1. Write what you can

It’s best to write often, even a little, because it will get easier. But stressing over not writing will only hinder your actual writing time, if you’re anything like me because there will be more pressure to make up for that lost time.

2. Have a place to keep your stuff

Not everyone has a sizeable desk to spread out on, or anywhere quiet in their home to write. Make the most of what you do have, by finding the spot with the least resistance to getting started.

For me that has been leaving my notebooks and stuff out on the dining table. I walk by all the time, when I’m home, so it’s a visual reminder as well as being ready to go when I do have time to sit.

If at home writing isn’t your thing, finding a portable solution might be. A backpack or laptop case that keeps everything together, so that you can just grab it and go.

3. Be prepared

I find that I can’t just sit and write, and my jobs lately don’t allow me the freedom of daydreaming. As a result, I loose track of where I am between writing sessions. To get back in the mind set, I look a my inspiration pictures for the scene I’m writing: character, setting, colors. I might try music to set the mood, but not often. I most often write without music,  but if there’s tv or talking noise nearby, I’ll need something to drown it out. Then, I read a little of where I ended and hopefully jump in.

If all that fails, maybe there’s something else at work. Are you too tired to focus? Is something in this scene not working? When I get to this point, I step away to figure out why I’m having trouble.

Sometimes it’s because I’m thinking of other things, and journaling will help. If it’s because I can’t settle myself after work, I try coloring to relax and focus. Whatever the problem, my point is to adress that rather than waste time trying to write if you know the words just aren’t happening.