Tag Archives: writing

ROW80 Round 2: Goals

Hello again! I’m signing up for another Round of Words in 80 Days. This round is set to run from April 7 to June 26, and I’ll be checking in every Sunday.

This year has turned into the Year of Making My Living Space Better. Not quite what I’d intended, but it’s a good reminder that I am not, in fact, a brain in a jar attached to a keyboard.

The current round falls during an especially busy time. I am (all while working full-time):

  • dealing with the tail end of renovations
  • setting up a kitchen (luckily not a super-urgent project)
  • trying to get my house generally organized and a teeny bit decorated because I’m tired of not paying attention to it and having it look like nobody cares
  • upgrading my front and back yards from “terrible mess” to “kind of pretty and really low-maintenance” — which involves some landscaping help and some gardening effort on my part

Therefore, my focus in this round will be on the above. I’m going to report on my progress every Sunday, mostly to remind myself that I am extremely busy and therefore I am not allowed to beat myself up for not getting other things done (like writing).

And, to go along with that “not a brain in a jar” thing, I am also going to report on my exercising progress. Currently I do an hour of yoga once a week and folk dance for an evening once every two weeks. I just set up an exercise room in my attic, so I’m adding calisthenics and more yoga. And the weather is finally turning to spring, so I’d like to add walking as well (fast walking when possible). No particular goals here — anything will be an improvement.

Finally, there’s writing. I don’t want to put my writing on pause completely, because in my experience, it’s a LOT harder to get started again once I get out of the habit. (I don’t write every day — right now it’s more like 3-5 days a week — but that’s a regular, hard-won habit that I don’t want to let slip.)

So my writing goal for this round is: to write/edit/outline for 1.5 hours a week, including at least one session of half an hour or longer.

Happy writing!

ROW80 Week 11 and Final Check-In

This is it — the end of this Round of Words in 80 Days! Well, technically there are a few more days left, but I’m only doing weekly check-ins, so this will be my last. It’s longer than usual because I’m also including a recap, so bear with me….

Writing Updates

This week Real Life kicked my butt. Don’t worry, nothing horrible happened…I’ve just been really busy and haven’t had a lot of brain left over for writing.

That said, I’ve still logged over an hour and written 900 words of a new scene on the next chapter of the novel edit, which is more than can be said of some weeks when Real Life happens, so yay.

Renovation Updates

The IKEA snafu has finally been sorted, the missing piece has been delivered, and assembly will be happening this week. Kitchen appliances are also being delivered this week, which means the kitchen will in theory be usable. Next steps: move out everything that’s currently being stored in the kitchen and the cupboards, put it all somewhere else, clean the room from top to bottom, and start setting it up for actual use!

My significant other and I spent much of the weekend buying curtains and sheers for the entire house (why yes, we’ve been living here with only jury-rigged window coverings for the past two years, why do you ask?). I think we’ve bought everything we need now…just need to check them out in the rooms where they’re going, to make sure the colours work the way I thought they would in the store.

(I had blinds growing up and we had blinds in the apartment where we lived before this, so neither of us has any experience with curtains. But we like the look of curtains better, especially in an old house like ours, so that’s what we’re going for. Gotta learn sometime, right?)

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time thinking about landscaping and browsing magazines for ideas, so that’s been taking up a lot of brain cycles. But I have to say it’s nice to be dreaming about spring despite the snow still on the ground!

ROW80 Final Recap

Back in my original ROW80 post, I declared 2014 to be the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space. I wrote:

I’m taking a step back, refocusing and recommitting to what it is I really want to do with myself. Which is write.

Specifically, I want to make more space for my writing. I hear myself constantly complaining about how busy I am. My house is cluttered so there’s no room to think. The Internet is an ever-present demon. And the writing I am getting done feels like it has stagnated because I’m not sinking into it as deeply as I could be.

I think that has kind of backfired. I’m still super busy…though at least now the focus has shifted from nebulous computer-related things (like before) to making my real-life space better. My house is still cluttered, but I’m moving towards having more usable space, which has got to help eventually.

I’m also making headway on decor, which is also a worthy goal — I deserve a beautiful space! (To be clear I’m not talking about a perfectly clean and Pinterest-worthy space, but one that makes my heart happy.)

My original ROW80 writing goal was to spend 5 hours a week writing and/or editing.

I fell short of that — my average was more like 3 to 3.5 hours, and I only hit 5 hours once (last week!). But it started at around 2 to 2.5 hours, so the amount of writing gradually crept up from week to week. That’s worth something too.

What’s Next

I’m seriously thinking of signing up for ROW80 again. I found it helpful for keeping myself moving, if not always on track.

The next round (April 7 to June 26) will encompass a time when I expect to be seriously busy with Real Life stuff — mainly getting the kitchen and yard/garden up and running — so there may will not be a lot of writing. But I’d like to encourage myself to keep moving on the writing, even just a little bit.

It’s also helpful to look back on my own updates about Real Life and remind myself that hey, I really was busy and no, I’m not slacking off (take that, nasty little voice in my head).

Your turn! If you’re doing ROW80, how did this round go? If not, how about those New Year’s resolutions? Do the critical voices in your head help or hinder you?

Home Stretch on the ROW80 Week 10 Check-In

This is the second-last update I’ll be making for this Round of Words in 80 Days. Can’t believe how fast it’s gone. Regular reporting has helped keep me accountable, so I’m going to sign up for the next round as well (starts April 7). If you’re thinking of joining, let me know so I can be sure to cheer you on.

On to the updates…

Writing Updates

My original ROW80 goal was 5 hours a week of writing or editing (fiction only — not counting blogging). Due to Life, I had to revise that goal down to 3.5 (a handy goal because the math is so easy). Most weeks I managed between 3 and 4 hours. Well…this week I finally hit 5!

Even better, I finally conquered a chapter that’s had me stymied for waaaaay too long. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s good enough for now (this is the second draft, not the last draft) and I am MOVING ON. Oh, and today I got to write a really nasty cliffhanger. That was fun. Whoever said writers were nice people?

Another goal was to start putting a little more effort into this blog. I wrote two non-ROW80 posts this past week — My Writing Process and Winter Elegy — which hasn’t happened since last month, so go me!

Renovation Updates

The IKEA snafu still isn’t sorted — they were supposed to call us last week and didn’t, so we need to follow up this week.

However, we braved the cold weather to go to Home Depot (in a blizzard!) and order some appliances for the upstairs kitchen (we’re in a shared housing arrangement). Those are getting delivered in two weeks, so soon we’ll have no excuse to keep avoiding the cleaning that needs to happen in that kitchen to make it usable. I’m looking forward to having our own kitchen again and getting back to more independence.

We’re also making headway on drapes — a kind friend has offered to hem them for us (we are, sadly, about as far from DIYers as one can get), and we now know more or less what we want, so in the next couple of weeks we need to go buy all the curtains. Yay?

And finally, we’re looking into getting help with beating our front and back yards into shape come spring. More about that soon!

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

It’s blog hop time! I’ve been tagged by the lovely Aussie writer Ellen Gregory, who adores both fantasy and travel (sound familiar?). The idea with this one is to answer four questions, then tag three other awesome writers to answer the same questions on their own blogs in a week or so. If you’re the sort who loves to read about the writing process, then do be careful or you could be lost down the rabbit hole forever….

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently editing a YA historical fantasy novel, with plans to query agents once it’s done. I’ve also just finished a serial story set in a fantasy version of Thailand (the fifth and final part of the serial will be posted next month). My next project will be to revamp the serial into a single (longish) short story.

What I’ve mentioned so far happens to be fantasy, but I also write other types of speculative fiction — steampunk, science fiction, Gothic — and sometimes even non-genre fiction.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

One answer is that I often write at the border between YA and adult. (New Adult, I guess you’d say, except that NA is usually contemporary and mine usually isn’t.) Another is that I think my writing has an essential optimism that shines through…the sense that yes, your place in the world is out there and you will find it, even if you have to cross the world or fight your way through larger events or live through years of your adult life to get there.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because speculative fiction makes my heart sing.

Because when I say “I wish I could write like that” or “As a reader, I loved that book to pieces”, it’s usually speculative fiction I’m talking about.

Because it makes my inner 12-year-old happy, and she’s important to me.

Because making up worlds, genre-bending, and mashing elements together to see what sticks…is fun.

Because I want to see more like what I write. Much as I love medieval Europe, there are whole other civilizations out there, and I want to see them in fantasy too.

Because I love the moment when I stumble on a genre mash-up, or a crazy worldbuilding thing, and think, “You can DO that?!” (Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere blew my mind back in high school. So did discovering steampunk, sometime later. So do most of my favourite writers, even now.)

Because I love the tropes of the genre.

Because the sky’s the limit.

4. How does my writing process work?

I like to say I’m a reformed pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer) or headlight writer (you can only see as far as your headlights). My short stories are often still written that way. And I’m gradually moving from longhand to typing, even in the brainstorming and outlining stages…which were the last to go.

For longer works, I usually start with a lot of brainstorming, research, backstory, and character development — not via questionnaires or “outtake” scenes or dialogues, just jotting down lots of notes. Then I develop a very broad outline with the opening/setup and major turning points (act breaks). There’ll be some one-liner descriptions for scenes in there too, mostly in the first quarter of the story, getting nebulous very quickly. Or, in other words, more or less what Ellen said.

When it comes time to start writing, I prefer to draft quickly so I don’t lose the feel of the story or the overarching plot. NaNo works great for this, even if it means that what I end up with is rough.

And what happens after that? I do have some trusted critiquers, but I’m still working on finding a process for editing that works for me. If you have any advice, please share!

Tagged

And the tagged writers are…

  • Erin Zarro — writer of science fantasy, and of poetry
  • KD Sarge — writer of science fiction romance, with shenanigans
  • Kit Campbell — writer of paranormal romance, with banter

Making Headway on the ROW80 Week 9 Check-In

We’re heading into the final stretch of ROW80! How are all of you fine folks doing?

Writing Updates

Last week, I said I wanted to start putting a little more effort into this blog. In case you missed it, I wrote a travel post about visiting Rajasthan, India — with photos taken by yours truly.

I’m also finally making headway on the novel edit, I think. I had Friday off work and put in a good 2 hours, for a total of 3 hours this week. Not as much as I wanted, but (a) I also had to deal with a furnace issue on Friday and a very full Saturday, and (b) I’m focusing on staying positive and celebrating what I do get done rather than beating myself up for what I don’t do. So…three hours, yay!

Renovation Updates

We’re still sorting out the IKEA snafu, and busy researching ranges and drapes. So nothing visible is happening, but plenty behind the scenes. Which has been true of the novel as well, come to think of it!

At least we’re making good use of the newly finished attic / exercise room…which is really the point of renovating anyway, right?

 

Upping the Ante on the ROW80 Week 8 Check-In

How are you all doing? We’re heading into the final month of this round. Anyone tackling NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) in March?

Writing Updates

I finished out February with 14.5 hours of writing/editing, mostly on my novel edit-in-progress. My February goal was either 14 or 15 hours  (I said different things in different places), so I’m calling that a win.

Last week I raised my goal slightly to 4 hours of writing/editing from 3.5, and hit it. I’m shooting for 4 hours again this week, and a goal of 20 hours by the end of March.

As for actual progress, this week I edited Part 5 of my fantasy serial, “Still Waters Run Deep”. It’ll be posted at Turtleduck Press next month.

Also, I now have my crit partners’ responses all the way through the end of the novel. I’m just starting to dig into the responses and figure out what to do with them. So there’s still a lot of outlining and brainstorming and various other forms of thinking on paper (or rather, onscreen), and not much actual prose happening. I’m still worried that this isn’t getting me anywhere fast — I can brainstorm endlessly and still not have a story — but at least I’m slowly increasing the time I spend at the keyboard.

In other news, I’ve kind of neglected the blog in the past couple of months. I’d like to start putting a little more effort into it again, with one longer post, one shorter post, and one #ROW80 update per week.

Renovation Updates

The renovating efforts have slowed down this week, but we now have the necessary electrical wiring to put in a stove and a fridge in the upstairs kitchen. The furniture assembly isn’t quite finished due to some snafus with IKEA, so that has to get straightened out before we can organize the kitchen. Cold weather has made us disinclined to go out and buy stuff, so we’re still bumbling along with everything half-finished. Grr argh.

Still…onward!

 

Chugging Along with the ROW80 Week 7 Check-In

How are you all doing this week? Did you get up early to watch the hockey game? (I didn’t, but an awful lot of people I know did. We Canadians take our hockey seriously.)

Writing Updates

Writing continues to chug along. I’ve hit 3.5 hours for the second week in a row, meaning I’m on track to hit 14 hours this month. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I’ve done in a month since November and also more consistent than I’ve been since then, so go me!

This is my second week working on a novel edit that got shelved mid-draft, so I’m starting to dig deeper into the material. It’s only the second draft and I’m a pantser, so there’s a lot of digging still to go. I can only hope I’m getting somewhere….

This week I’m setting the bar a little higher and aiming for 4 hours.

Renovation Updates

This past week we’ve finally made some headway on getting the upstairs kitchen operational (my significant other’s parents live with us, and we’ve been sharing a kitchen). We have:

  • met with a guy about electrical upgrades (to happen this coming week) that will mean we can get a stove and fridge for the upstairs kitchen
  • started clearing out / cleaning the kitchen (which, not being in use, naturally became the “junk” room)
  • assembled some IKEA furniture, for the kitchen and elsewhere, that will help with storage (one of our biggest challenges)

Also, this is not exactly about renovations, but we’ve used the newly set up exercise room most days this week. Go us!

 

Looking Back on 2013, and ROW80 Check-In

Okay, I’m a bit late, but hey, it’s still January!

Last week I wrote about my desire to make more space for writing. During the past year, I’ve been busy doing other things. Since I want to be a writer when I grow up (note to self: that would be now!), my focus needs to change this year.

(ROW80 folks: check-in is at the bottom of the post.)

I am aiming to do better. But because I tend to beat myself up, I still want to celebrate my accomplishments from the past year…

Non-Writing

Bukit Bintang street food market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bukit Bintang street food market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2013 was, of course, the year of the Grand Adventure in Asia. My travel partner and I spent three months exploring Malaysia, Thailand, India (for six weeks!), and Nepal. The trip was exhausting, exhilarating, and everything in between. It wasn’t the first extended trip I’ve taken, and I hope it won’t be the last.

In slightly less earth-shattering events, other 2013 accomplishments included:

  • road-tripping through the Canadian Rockies and back
  • starting a vegetable garden (I’m now a year and a half into home-ownership)
  • getting into photography (having a good camera and lots of new locations will do that to you)
  • knitting my second pair of socks (do you know how much knitting goes into a pair of socks? Hint: it’s a lot)

Writing

Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. 1

While the above kept me pretty busy, I did manage a little bit of writing:

That’s not bad given all that was going on, but like I said, I intend to do better this year.

On that note…

ROW80 Check-In

My weekly goal for ROW80 is 5 hours of writing or editing.

For Week 1, I hit:

  • 2 hours of drafting and editing “Still Waters, Part 4″
  • somewhere between 0.5 and 1 hour of prepping novel chapters to send around to my critique group

…so somewhere around 2.5 or 3 hours in total, well short of my goal

For Week 2, I’m at 1 hour so far (drafting “Still Waters, Part 5″). Clearly I need to step up my game.

I work full-time, I had a busy weekend (in a good way, but still), and my house is being renovated (mid-size renovations rather than major ones, thank goodness). But that’s still just excuses.

Writing Productivity Tools

On the plus side, when ROW80 started, I finally got around to setting up LeechBlock, a Firefox add-on that lets you block whatever websites you want, whenever you want. I’ve got it set up to block, between 9 and 10 PM (prime writing time for me), all the websites that are the worst distractions for me. Wikipedia is not one of them, so I can still go online to do some quick research — I’m pretty good at not getting distracted if I’m in the middle of writing and just need to look up something specific.

If that’s not enough, I also have a program called Freedom, which actually disables my computer’s Internet for a set period of time. The drawback of Freedom is that you can’t pre-set it like you can with LeechBlock — you need to have the willpower to turn it on manually. In fact, you can pre-set LeechBlock to block everything…I just haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.

Four more hours in Week 2. I can do this. Onward!

Your turn! How are your goals and resolutions for 2014 going so far?

Making Space for Writing: ROW80 Goals

Last year, I was very busy with Life — not in a bad way, but it meant I didn’t do a whole lot of writing. This year, Life has settled down (knock wood). So I’m taking a step back, refocusing and recommitting to what it is I really want to do with myself. Which is write.

Specifically, I want to make more space for my writing. I hear myself constantly complaining about how busy I am. My house is cluttered so there’s no room to think. The Internet is an ever-present demon. And the writing I am getting done feels like it has stagnated because I’m not sinking into it as deeply as I could be.

So I am declaring this the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space.

It’s a multi-pronged problem, so I’ll be making a multi-pronged attack.

ROW80

First step: ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days). This is a writing challenge where, unlike NaNoWriMo, each participant declares his or her own goal. It runs for 80 days, then takes a break and starts again. That means it’s not a mad coffee-fueled dash like NaNo. As I understand it, you’re supposed to take ROW80 a little slower, integrate your goal into your normal life, and work towards building habits.

My ROW80 goal: To spend 5 hours a week writing and/or editing.

(A week is counted as Monday to Sunday. Related tasks such as researching, brainstorming, and outlining may or may not count, or I may count them as half time, or something.)

I’m tempted to talk about gradually raising the goal, or about how much I hope to accomplish by the end of the 80 days, but I won’t. I have a long history of setting unrealistic goals, or “product” goals that don’t take into account the length of the process, and then beating myself up when I miss them. So this time I’m starting simple.

My current projects are:

  • Writing, editing, and posting a serial story for Turtleduck Press (I’m just finishing up Part 4 of a planned 5)
  • Editing a novel (I’m about 1/3 of the way through an intensively edited second draft)

But again, I’m only setting “process” goals for now.

I will say, though, that I intend to do those 5 hours a week in bigger chunks. In the past I’ve sometimes written in sprints of 10 or 15 minutes, which is great as far as it goes, but it’s not conducive to sinking deeper into the story. So I’m going to aim for an hour at a time, but again, that’s not an official part of the goal.

One of the Life things I’m doing is working on Turtleduck Press. As a member, part of my duties involves writing short stories, which will count towards my goal. Another part of my duties is editing other members’ novels, which will not count — I like doing it, but it doesn’t get my own writing out there any faster. Writing blog posts also will not count — only fiction.

Wednesday Check-In

I’ve done 2 hours so far this week — an hour each of writing and editing. It might have been more, but I had to skip Monday because of wrist problems. Still, I’m on track to hit 5 hours.

Other #ROW80 Members

I’m doing #ROW80 with a couple of fellow Turtleduck Press authors:

Erin Kendall

Kit Campbell

You can see the rest of the ROW80 participants here.

Go show them some love!

In future posts I’ll be talking more about my 2013 (because I did accomplish a fair bit, even if it wasn’t writing, and I’d like to celebrate that) and my plans and reasons for refocusing in 2014. In the meantime…

Your turn! Are you feeling too busy? What are your priorities for 2014?

NaNoWriMo: The Final Stretch

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re into the last few days, the time of reckoning. You have one weekend day left, and two weekdays.

How are you doing?

If you’ve already hit 50,000 words (or whatever your personal goal may be), congratulations! You can coast for the rest of the month and, if you’re American, enjoy your Thanksgiving / turkey dinner / Black Friday / etc.

If you’re still short of the goal, don’t despair! Great things happen every year in the last few days of NaNoWriMo. People pull off superhuman feats to win. Sit down, glue your pants to your desk chair (or a chair at the coffee shop, if that’s more your style), and try a few of these methods to keep you focused

But what if you know you physically can’t make 50,000 words? Or you’re not willing to write complete and utter crap to get to that magical but arbitrary number?

Take heart. You may have written more this month than you do in other months. You’ve probably written more than you would have if you hadn’t attempted NaNo. You may have been able to jump on that wave of NaNo energy. You’ve almost certainly learned some valuable lessons about yourself as a writer — even if it’s just a realization that NaNo doesn’t fit your writing process, or that you need to find a way to make more room for writing in your life than you did this month. Maybe you’ve even developed some good habits that will serve you well going forward.

(Full disclosure: I’m in that last camp. I’m participating as a NaNo Rebel, editing instead of first-drafting. My initial goal was 50 hours, but I’m sitting at around 25 and I’ll be lucky to hit 30 by the end of the month. But that’s an hour a day, better than most months, and it’s gotten me back into the habit again. And, unlike NaNo, it’s a pace that I think I can sustain.)

So what’s next?

Don’t send out your freshly minted novel into the world yet!

December is unofficially National Novel Finishing Month — since you may not have hit the end of your story even if you hit 50,000 words, and most published adult novels are quite a bit longer than that anyway. (How much longer depends strongly on genre.)

March is unofficially National Novel Editing Month…and if your editing process is anything like mine, a month may be just the beginning. Don’t even think about publishing until you’ve edited — and that means the big stuff like plot, pacing, and characters, not just fixing your grammar and typos.

But don’t think about that yet. For now, celebrate, type like a crazy person, or look back on the month and figure out what you’ve learned.

And know that, no matter what you have or have not accomplished this month, you rock.

*cue Chariots of Fire theme*

Your turn! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? If not, how has your November been?