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Category: Writing

Birthdays are less fun in your thirties

When you’re young, birth­days are a thing to count down to, some­thing to antic­i­pate with excite­ment. What could the day bring? Who would you see? What presents would there be?

Once you’re out­side of the teens, it sort of goes down­hill from there. If you’re into drink­ing, than 21 is a big deal — I’m not, and it wasn’t. After that it’s, 25? 30? Noth­ing much real­ly hap­pened on those years. I threw myself a birth­day par­ty last year, and while I had fun — it’s less fun when you do all the plan­ning, cook­ing and clean­ing to pre­pare for it, and then get every­thing put back togeth­er after.

This year, I took the day off from work, which is a big-ish deal because I haven’t used more than a cou­ple days off all year (aside from the reg­u­lar­ly sched­ule one day per week, or a nation­al hol­i­day where the library is closed — but those are usu­al­ly made up for by an extra long day lat­er in the week). I did have a nice day, but it was like any oth­er day off with a lit­tle more say in what we do all day.

We went apple pick­ing, and it was beau­ti­ful weath­er out.20150926_120125[1]

We stopped for lunch on the way home. I did some plan­ning and plot­ting for my nov­el for the after­noon — inten­tion­al­ly not doing the house­work that need­ed doing. Then we walked down to main street for some frozen yogurt with extra top­pings at Orange Leaf. A nice day, but noth­ing over­whelm­ing or excit­ing like child­hood birth­days.

Being 30 wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t real­ly all that good of a year though, which didn’t have any­thing to do with my age. Gen­er­al­ly, age doesn’t real­ly mat­ter to me — just because of how my mind works, I usu­al­ly keep a men­tal list of how old every­one is just because I can’t keep the stu­pid details out of my head, but that’s about where it stops. I don’t care how old peo­ple are and I’ve most­ly stopped car­ing that every­one who guess­es doesn’t real­ly know how old I am. It used to both­er me that no one thought I was an adult, any­one who tried put me as about 10 years younger than real­i­ty. Now, it’s usu­al­ly about 8 years younger, or rarely 6 years younger. But, it only both­ers me because it’s done in a way, at work, where they think I don’t know what I’m doing because of my lack of age. That’s a dif­fer­ent prob­lem, and it’s not mine either.

I don’t feel much like an adult, but I know that I do plen­ty of adult things because I have to and no one else will do them for me — which is my def­i­n­i­tion of being an adult.

I’m hop­ing that 31 is bet­ter than 30 was, as far as things hap­pen­ing. I start­ed a yoga class that I enjoy, and the hus­band and I are con­scious­ly try­ing to eat bet­ter food choic­es. I’m mak­ing a lot more of an effort to fin­ish my novel’s third draft before my next birth­day. To do that, I need to write more and spend less time rest­ing my brain with the noth­ing­ness of twit­ter and tum­blr. The last cou­ple weeks I’ve been doing a lot of nov­el plan­ning, and a lit­tle think­ing about blog­ging. I tried blog­ging for a month  at my “author blog” site, but made it about two weeks.

I dis­cov­ered that I just don’t want to blog that often, or about writ­ing, that much. So now, I need to fig­ure out what I want to blog about, how much, and where. I don’t have an answer for that, and my ini­tial reac­tion is to con­tin­ue on the not blog­ging train and just con­cen­trate on writ­ing my book. There’s only so much time in a day, and that is what is most impor­tant to me.

4 ways to get unstuck while outlining

Aside from watch­ing videos for writ­ing tips, I’ve also been scour­ing the web for arti­cles and ebooks on any how-to I can find for writ­ing.

Find a worksheet for your problem

There are a few new sites I’ve been fol­low­ing close­ly, and through them I’ve found a few work­sheets to use for char­ac­ter plan­ning I used She’s Novel’s Essen­tial guide to char­ac­ter cre­ation. For out­lin­ing, I found Jami Gold’s Romance plan­ning beat sheet, and Chuck Wendig’s post about out­lin­ing.

Break down all parts to smaller bits then reassemble. All arcs get their own page/list then put it all together in a big list

I used the list from Chuck Wendig for each of my two POV char­ac­ters to fig­ure out what need­ed to hap­pen in the book, and fill in any gaps. I also filled out the romance beat sheet for them. Then I took each of those three out­lines and wrote them on note­cards.

 

Reread draft taking notes on what’s going on

Today, I sat down to reread my draft — most­ly I skimmed it. For each chap­ter I wrote down the action points of what was going on. I found a few extra­ne­ous scenes, and a few extreme­ly long chap­ters. I wrote every­thing down in a list, not­ing with a big X the things I wasn’t going to keep.

Use notes to adjust big list

I took those notes and reworked them into a typed ver­sion of my note­cards.

I still don’t feel done with the out­line. It needs some more fill­ing out, so my next goal is to refor­mat my out­line. As much as I liked and relied on my note­cards for my pre­vi­ous drafts, this par­tic­u­lar one is not work­ing out. I just need too much infor­ma­tion right now. Specif­i­cal­ly, I’m going to break down the bul­let points even fur­ther from one big action state­ment per line, into the indi­vid­ual scenes need­ed to make them work.

That’s this week’s goal. After that, it’s time to start writ­ing again.

Periscope for Writers

I’d heard periscope men­tioned a few times, and had no inter­est in it. I’m not big on watch­ing videos — I’m still not real­ly on the YouTube train unless there’s some­thing spe­cif­ic I’m look­ing for (a how-to video, or some­thing).

Then, Jen­ny Bra­vo of Blots & Plots post­ed one, and I had just found her blog and had the time so I watched. Through her, I found Brigid Gallagher’s blog, and periscopes, and through her I’ve start­ed watch­ing ‘s DIYMFA periscopes. And I real­ly like them. Since they only have a 24-hour shelf-life, I actu­al­ly watch them — where­as with blog posts, I sub­scribe to feeds and most­ly for­get about them unless the title of the post pulls at me enough to click on it. I’ll read 2 – 3 blog posts a week, but there are so many more than that in my feed read­er. For that rea­son, too, I’ve sub­scribed to a cou­ple of newslet­ters, and I find that a bit more engag­ing than just a blog post — I tend not to com­ment on blogs, but I’ll reply to an email if it seems per­son­al and invit­ing rather than just a notice that there are new blog posts, or encour­ag­ing you to buy their book.

I don’t think I’m ever going to post a Periscope broad­cast, but I like watch­ing ones on writ­ing tips, or read­ing reviews, and how oth­er writ­ers are doing in their writ­ing jour­ney. It’s fun when live, but with my sched­ule I don’t often catch them live. It’s like tak­ing a class, but a lot more relaxed and friend­ly.

This is why I need a bigger desk

I do a lot of com­plain­ing about the mess and gen­er­al lack of room that my room has, and about my house in gen­er­al, but it’s not with­out rea­son.

messy desk
My messy desk, sur­round­ed by stuff and even with a most­ly cleared off desk area, the key­board and mon­i­tor take up almost all of it. I’d like to wall mount the mon­i­tor, but the pan­elling on the wall makes hang­ing any­thing a chal­lenge — and it’s horse­hair plas­ter cov­ered in ugly flo­ral wall­pa­per behind it, so the pan­elling is stay­ing for a while.

Since I can’t real­ly do much about my desk being too small, I moved to the din­ing table. Bet­ter light, a lot more space, and not alone at the back of the house.

Writing table
My writ­ing din­ing room table. I still am not a fan of this room, but it’s big, and bright, and there’s enough space to spread all my writ­ing things around on. The chair is even more uncom­fort­able than the one upstairs, so it’s not great for long peri­ods of writ­ing — not that I have long blocks of time to write in, so it’s not too much of an issue.

I’ve got­ten a decent amount done since I wasn’t also bat­tling my note­books and every­thing not fit­ting.

I do intend to just get rid of a lot of unneed­ed stuff, and that’ll help a lit­tle. But real­ly, I need a big­ger work table and a com­fort­able chair.

One day, when I have the time to do it and also some means of actu­al­ly get­ting rid of the stuff. Yes, it’s always ‘one day’ but any time I use to do some­thing else, like clear­ing out clut­ter, is that much time tak­en away from writ­ing, or read­ing, or doing the dish­es. Time is lim­it­ed, so I pri­or­i­tize what has to get done, and the rest just waits a while.

Sometimes, take a walk

I did some­thing total­ly out of char­ac­ter and crazy brave today. I signed up for a yoga class, and walked there by myself.

Okay, that’s not real­ly earth shat­ter­ing to many peo­ple, espe­cial­ly since I’m an almost thir­ty-one year old adult. But, I’m extreme­ly intro­vert­ed, and pret­ty anx­ious about meet­ing new peo­ple, feel­ing watched by any­one and every­one around me, and just in gen­er­al, new things ter­ri­fy me. To me, this was a big thing. A real­ly big thing.

I liked the class, but that’s not the point of this.

On my walk home, I real­ized that just going out for a walk was a good way to clear your mind. To not think about any­thing and then give all the thoughts time to set­tle down. So, since I’d just spent an hour learn­ing new things with new peo­ple, I had been pret­ty fraz­zled. The stretch­ing was nice, but also chal­leng­ing and my legs felt like I’d been using them (because, duh). It was already dark out, so I didn’t real­ly take my time, but I didn’t try to run home or any­thing.

I just walked. And I thought of a few scenes to my nov­el that I might like to add for char­ac­ter build­ing. They’re too neb­u­lous to write down, but I’ll let them stew for a while and see what comes of it.

Reading like a writer and a new goal

I lis­tened to Read­ing like a Writer by Francine Prose last month, and while I wasn’t thrilled with the book itself, the over­all mes­sage behind it was to read a wide vari­ety of books and to study them close­ly to learn by their exam­ple.

One which I prompt­ly for­got all about until last night when Brigid Gal­lagher men­tioned it in a periscope. I think I tuned it out because Read­ing like a writer chose only things that would appear on an Intro to Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture course’s syl­labus — no genre fic­tion at all. I write fan­ta­sy, and I think that I’ll always write some form of fan­ta­sy — even my con­tem­po­rary pieces still have some super­nat­ur­al some­thing to them.

Now, I know I could stand to learn a few things about word choice, sen­tence struc­ture, para­graphs, etc, from the greats of lit­er­a­ture — but I’ve nev­er real­ly felt sucked in by the clas­sics. I read for the plea­sure of it. I read to find out what hap­pens to the char­ac­ters — and I think that’s part of why I don’t like dense­ly detailed worlds (like the Lord of the Rings series, or the Sword of Truth series, both of which my hus­band LOVES and is dis­mayed that I won’t read because I can’t get into them).

From this thought, I’m debat­ing on whether or not I should revise my writ­ing goal of 300 words a day, once I start on the edit­ing again. Read­ing is impor­tant, and I don’t have enough time in the day to do both. It’s either writ­ing, or read­ing, and usu­al­ly works out to about a week or a few days of one, fol­lowed by a week or a few days of the oth­er, back and forth as I get caught up in a book, or stum­ble over some­thing that needs puz­zling through with my writ­ing. And, while I do want to make writ­ing a habit, I’ve nev­er been fond of ‘forc­ing’ myself to sit through some­thing for an arbi­trary goal.

Maybe, for me, the goal should be to read for at least 30 min­utes (ide­al­ly an hour), or to write 300 new words, or to edit one page. But, is that mak­ing it too flex­i­ble? Or, because of my work sched­ule, is that mak­ing it more reach­able? There are days (Wednes­day usu­al­ly, my 11 hour work day) where I don’t do either writ­ing or read­ing, and just make it through the day.

Notecards complete

I actu­al­ly meant to post this last night, but got caught up in a book and for­got. Oh well. I worked on the char­ac­ter I meant to, and since I already had her pret­ty well pinned down, it didn’t take long. So, I took all the notes I’ve been work­ing on for the past week and put them togeth­er on note­cards.

This sys­tem worked well for me for the sec­ond draft, so I’m going with it again. I think the order is set, but I could still find things to add. I like the flex­i­bil­i­ty of note­card out­lines.

image

Progress had been made! With tan­gi­ble evi­dence!

I think I’ll take a few days to read a cou­ple books, then it’s into world build­ing.

Writing update

I man­aged to get a lit­tle plan­ning done today for a character’s plot. Some­thing I thought I’d already worked out, but is now much bet­ter.

That’s been the sum of my week. Work on some­thing, make progress! Next day come back, and change what I worked on the day before. I’ve spent sev­er­al hours on this char­ac­ter this week, and I think I’m final­ly hap­py.

So, tomor­row, I’m work­ing on the oth­er char­ac­ter. So far, I think that’s with­in the realm of get­ting this out­line and plan­ning done in the next two weeks.

I still have a lot to do, and I hope that I can fin­ish my char­ac­ter arc tomor­row and not revis­it it over and over again. For out­lin­ing, I still have the villain’s behind the scenes plot line to work through, and the romance between the two main char­ac­ters to fig­ure out how to work out. I’m hop­ing to fin­ish all that next week. Then it’s a lot of set­ting and world build­ing, which will take about a week, I hope.

With the inclu­sion of the romance, and the increase in the ages of the char­ac­ters, I’m now pret­ty sure it’s not a New Adult any­more. In the ear­ly draft, I had one main char­ac­ter, and she was ear­ly twen­ties, and fig­ur­ing out how to live on her own in the cas­tle. I fin­ished that draft and in all the plan­ning and sub­se­quent drafts, she’s got­ten old­er, I added in a male lead, and now the two main char­ac­ters are late twen­ties, ear­ly thir­ties.

I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly think it’s because I’ve got­ten old­er as I’ve writ­ten it, since I start­ed all this when I was already in my lat­er-ish twen­ties any­way.

It just seems like a lot of peo­ple “around me” write and read YA, and while I do enjoy read­ing Young Adult, or even Mid­dle Grade fic­tion from time to time, it’s just not my writ­ing style. I thought I’d found a good fit with NA, but I don’t think it fits for this sto­ry. I think it’s just a reg­u­lar Fan­ta­sy nov­el — which isn’t bad, I guess, it’s what the sto­ry needs.

stickers, coloring, and other ways to actually write

I men­tioned that the butt in chair method worked, at least once, for me. But, now that I’m in the mid­dle of the work week and get­ting my butt into my chair isn’t work­ing.

First, I have to moti­vate myself enough to get into the chair. And, it real­ly depends on the rea­son for why I’m pro­cras­ti­nat­ing, for what works. If I’m pro­cras­ti­nat­ing because I’m stuck, some­times it’s bet­ter to let the prob­lem rat­tle around in my head for a while. If it’s because I can’t focus, that’s when I bring out the col­or­ing sup­plies.

I col­or a few sec­tions, or even just one, until I feel like I can think about just one thing for a while, instead of twen­ty. If the prob­lem is some­thing else, usu­al­ly guilt works. I like the stick­er method because I can see at a glance that it’s been a while since the last time I made any progress. For some, it’s a com­pe­ti­tion with them­selves to keep going, but my per­son­al­i­ty is anti-com­pe­ti­tion — I will active­ly avoid com­pet­ing in things. This includes com­pe­ti­tions where I am my only com­par­i­son. I do want to write though, so this gives me a visu­al (and cute) way to remind myself that I should get some words out.

 


Right now, the stick­ers only mean that I’ve made some progress. I don’t have any­thing more asso­ci­at­ed with them yet, but when I start active revi­sions, they’ll mean I’ve written/revised 300 words that day. The big stick­ers will be for going beyond that by a sig­nif­i­cant amount.