Tournaments, Cross Dressing Princes, and Mini Operas: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ali:  No breaks in this week’s chain, I am pleased to report.  Also, I made cookies and went on a seven mile hike over the weekend.  As of yesterday, I’m only two miles away from hitting my work out goal for the week (a seven mile hike helps a lot).  Work in progress for this week = a fairy tale about a cross-dressing prince.

Jenny: Breaks all over the chain! Two words for you: Baseball Tournament. Actually, make that three words for you: Surprise Baseball Tournament. Wait. Make that ten words: Badly Scheduled and Badly Given Notice of Weekend Baseball Tournament.

It was a hot, rough weekend my friends. I should also mention that this weekend was the first practice for Owen’s second  baseball league. Yeesh.

Anyway, as far as writing goes…

1. Finished rewriting a chapter of La Llorona and marked up the next phase of the novel. Soon I’ll be at the point where I can write fresh words from scratch — meaning I’ll probably go a little faster.

2. Also, I have nine days to really finish a short play that I’m working on for a local theatre festival. I’m not quite there yet, and it’s the baseball tournament that I largely blame for this.

3. At some point soon we should be hearing the results of ENO’s mini opera contest…but my formatting was so bad that I’m not holding my breath. If you’d like to see how jacked up it got in translation from Blogger to ENO’s website: here ya go. (And if you’re so inclined, feel free to hit ‘like’ and show me a little pity.)

What’ve you guys been up to? Lots pages? Lotsa brainstorming?

Let the Chain Be Unbroken: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ali: Today’s our first joint accountability post.  I’ve been doing well with my calendar chain strategy.  One week of X after X on my calendar and no gaps.  When I started, I was nervous.  I’ve been on a long slacker stint and I was going to have to get back into a groove that I’d been out of for a while.  Luckily, the beauty of the chain is that it’s not a question of quantity, but consistency. 

Each day, if I write (or revise, or transcribe) I give myself an X.  Some days, I think about skipping.  One skipped day isn’t the end of the world, after all.  Then, I remind myself that I just need to do a little.  I tell myself, “Don’t worry about it, just do a paragraph and you’re good.”   One paragraph?  That’s easy enough.  So, I sit down to write one paragraph.  It never ends up being a paragraph, though.  I write my paragraph, then I figure that wasn’t so bad, I’ll write another one. 

Yesterday, I sat down to write one paragraph and ended up with almost three pages instead.  Okay, so they’re three pages in a small notebook, but three pages is better than a paragraph, and a whole lot better than nothing.  I’m liking this chain approach.   It’s deceptively simple.  Even better, it’s helped me finish a first draft of Chapter 2 and start Chapter 3.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Jenny: I’m with Ali. Totally digging the calendar chain. However, having been at this for only one week – gasp! – there is already a gap in my chain:



Behold! The Gap of Doom!

I know, I know. I’m so ashamed. But let’s not focus on the single negative, gigantic circle that resembles a zero.

Let’s look instead at the stuff that was accomplished. For example, I now get to say that I’ve written an opera. You can read it here if you wanna.  (A mini-one, but it’s still a libberetto!)  The low-down on this particular project is simple: Neil Gaiman, Will Self, and A.L. Kennedy are the judges for the script portion of the English National Opera Mini-Opera competition – they get the links to the blogs that have posted scripts, they read them, judge them, and pick the top ten to move onto the soundtrack portion of the party. (Announcements will be made by June 4 for the book portion.)

When the top ten soundtracks are picked, the finalists then move onto the film portion and winners are picked from there.

I saw this via Neil Gaiman’s twitter feed and thought, “I never thought to write an opera. Wouldn’t it be cool to write an opera?” So I did. And let me tell you…it was tough. I feel like a better person for it, sure, but it was still pretty wracking, even before blogger refused to accept any of my formatting. Grrr. That gap there on the 18th is actually where I was banging my head against the wall for trying this.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad. I also managed to get through Chapter Four on rewrites for La Llorona.

AND GREAT NEWS! The littlest kidlet just got into preschool! So I just have one more summer to make it through and then there will be MORE WRITING TIME. Fear me!

So all, in all, I guess that circle looks less like a head-banging zero and more like a hug surrounded by kisses:

Behold! A hug on a bad day.

Gotta love it.

(P.S. Ali – see? Pictures.)

What Was Blocking Me: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello Tuesday. Time to be held accountable!

Last week and the week before I lamented my lack of progress. This week I’ve figured out what the problem was, and I think I’m kind-of recovering.

It took agent Rachelle Gardner’s post on money and writing to talk me down from the thought process that was freezing me. That process? Namely: worrying about money and pinning too much hope for the future on publishing the writing.

Since Gardner posted about this, I’m assuming it’s a subject that’s come up more than once. Meaning I’m not alone in the dreaming department.

Like so many others right now, my family is not rich – in fact, we’re that bit of the middle class that is just barely scraping by. Both my husband and I have college degrees (he has two). My husband worked in real estate and loans right as that whole mess exploded. We lost our house and had to move back in with parents. Now we rent from those same parents, but at least we have a place that’s pretty stable.

I worked (sometimes two jobs) while my husband got his Masters and his teaching certificate – because a career change seemed in order after all that other stuff. Now he’s teaching at one of the best schools in the state and we’re more secure. Secure enough that I stay home with the kids, partly to not pay for the ungodly costs of daycare, partly because I really want to be there for my kids, and partly because I want to focus on my writing. But there are student loans coming due and we’re already in a place where we can afford the monthly cost of living – but heaven help us if anyone gets sick, or a car breaks down.

Our situation isn’t unique. As a matter of fact, I believe our situation pretty typical – and certainly better than a ton of other families.

And in this economic climate it’s hard not to put more on the writing dream than the dream is capable of sustaining.

Writers have heard the stories: Stephen King typing away in a corner, J.K. Rowling walking her sleeping baby to the corner coffee house while she was on assistance. Stephenie Meyer’s endless home runs on the way to publication: a dream, writing the book, landing the perfect agent for her project, and the rest is history. So is it such a leap that, when we’re debating whether we pay for food or utilities this week, we dream about hitting that payday for something we love doing?

It’s difficult to remember that these writers are exceptions to the rule. Sure, they controlled the things they could control: the writing. But that doesn’t make their fantastic real-life stories any less fantastic.

Generally, I manage to keep that kind of money-worry stuff on the backburner, but somehow it took over this month.

My thought process was “Just finish this book. Send it out. Sooner you send it out, the sooner you’ll get paid.” And I thought I was being modest: “Just enough to get a good savings account going” or “Just enough to pay off one or two of the student loans” or “Just enough to cover the kids’ extracurriculars/preschool.”

Finish it, finish it, finish it. Send it, send it, send it.

Of course, what I did was put too much pressure on the piece of life that’s supposed to be special. And I stopped writing entirely by the time I hit this week.

Then there was a vicious cycle: With no outlet (writing) to deal with the stressors that I was trying to eliminate/reduce via writing, I panicked about writing and put even more pressure on it. Which meant I couldn’t write anything. Which made me panic even more: “I’ve got to! I’ve got to!” Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Normally, I manage to hold it pretty together. Not so this past week. By the time Mother’s Day rolled around I was a wreck.

Sometimes the world hands us what we need, and Rachelle Gardner’s post was a call back to reality. It talked me down. Gotta be talked down sometimes. And, judging from the amount of comments, I’m not alone. That kinda helps. I’m working on pulling it back together.

I just really needed to hear that what I was doing was okay. And if you need to hear that too:

What you’re doing is okay. No, what you’re doing is great – keep doing it.  

Sloooowww Progress: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

All right, all right, all right, all right.

I do this each week to be held accountable in the hope that when I write a post every Tuesday I can impress all y’all with my impressiveness.

Alas, this is Week Two of Not Much Done At All. I can still blame baseball because it’s still going on…but that’d be a poor excuse. I wish I could self-analyze my lack of progress, but mostly I think I’m against self-analysis at the moment. Perhaps I’m just drained at the moment? Every now and then that happens.

Plus I’m suffering from the Bright Shiny New Idea moment. Only in my case, when it rains, it pours. In the past week I have come up with some really kick-ass premises for some new novels. And a play. And a mini-play. The ideas bombarding me this week are enough to keep me busy for the next five years. Easy.

Yet I can’t seem to get stuff down.

I’m in daydream land right now, not action land.

Help me out here: what do you do to convince yourself to Get To Work?

Augh! Tuesday Again!: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Grr. Tuesday snuck up on me this week. Time to be held accountable.

1. I showed up to be critiqued at my writer’s group on Sunday. Took lots of notes on a short story that I’m going to send to Hayden’s Ferry Review for their “In the Dark” themed issue. (Ali posted it as a challenge to all y’all as well on a Saturday Pages post – so there’s still time guys!)

So, at the very least there’s gonna be some revision going on around here.

2. Annnnd there’s already some revision going on. I’ve been working on my La Llorona story – adding some scenes mostly, and cutting stuff that’s not important to the main plot. I’m up through the third chapter (I have twenty-two total and plan to work my way through all of them by the 15th).

I also went through the notes that I have from my original readers. I’ve discovered that if you wait a year you will come to the exact same conclusions as your original readers. My opinion of waiting between drafts has always been wait a looooong time. Way longer than you think. It’s the best way to get perspective.

Plus it’s easier to ‘kill your darlings’ when you don’t necessarily remember writing them….

Short and sweet, huh? I’m still baseballing too.

Blame it on the Baseball: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello Tuesday and writer-friends! Time to be held accountable for our writing actions…or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, I fall into that “Lack Thereof” category this week.

And I blame baseball.

Not the major league kinda baseball – the way-more-intense world of Babe Ruth League baseball for children 9-10 years old. The world of baseball that my ten year old son now inhabits. The kind of baseball that demands I participate as one of the Moms. Snack times, gathering equipment, and all of that time/soul-sucking stuff. (And this is just the preseason…I can’t believe how much these boys and girls play!)

Since practices have gone five nights out of the week, I’ve lost some daytime hours and have had to adjust to a new routine.

But I have done some writing related thingy-bobs.

1. Observe (because Ali insists on more pictures):

Masterpiece in Progress

What is this? This is my dining room table, covered with chapters from my La Llorona story. (And for those who might be interested in learning more about the legend of La Llorona so you kinda know what the story touches on: here’s a good website.) I discovered that I didn’t have enough room in my office to spread out, so I took over the dining room. I needed to be able to visualize what I was trying to accomplish.

My plan is basically to work top left corner to bottom right corner…though you can rest assured that the second row of papers you see there will be entirely new by the time I’m done.

***The children have been warned – on penalty of heavy maiming – to NOT TOUCH***

2. Eavesdropped via Twitter on the 20th Annual Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference. Apparently Donald Maass was there and made a huge splash – lots and lots of writers tweeting about how encouraging he was. So I was, of course, exceedingly jealous that I wasn’t there. (If you’d like to hear what the PPWCers had to say visit the #PPWC2012 hashtag in Twitter. There’s a bunch of neat stuff, including some book character costumes from one of the dinners.)

Another thing I ran across during my PPWC stalking was this incredibly useful checklist via DeAnna Knippling. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about writing and hitting that Hopeless Phase, she’s probably got the solution somewhere on that list.

What’d you guys manage to accomplish this week? Learn anything useful that I can steal?

Still Typing: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello writer-friends. It’s Tuesday, which means that it’s time to be accountable…which I wasn’t last Tuesday.

Quick reason for no posting last Tuesday: My grandmother died on March 31. It was rather an emotional week that manifested some strange things.

The first of which – Last Monday (the Monday after her death) I decided to go crazy and write a book in a day. For those of you who would wish to attempt this feat, here’s what you have to do in a nutshell: type 8 pages an hour for 24 hours.

I was unsuccessful.

But I think I’ve figured out the emotional component that made me want to attempt such a reaching kind of thing. It’s this: my grandmother never read anything I wrote. Because I’ve never really finished a draft that I was proud to show her, or the readers that surround me. I have the rough drafts and sketches and all that stuff we writers accumulate. I’ve shown these things to my fellow writers, but not to any readers.

Which, I’ve decided, is stupid.

What the hell am I doing this for if it isn’t for people to read the stories?

I’m over halfway there for my book-in-a-week. And I think it’s accomplished a multi-purpose emotional set of tasks:

1. I know that I can finish a rough draft relatively quickly – even quicker than a NaNo pace. So that has given me a sense of time…I have plenty of it to accomplish the telling of stories.

2. Writing is fun. Don’t focus on the publishing, people. If you’re focusing on the publishing and ‘business’ elements, you’re not writing anything anyone wants to read. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. If you just take the time to cut loose and enjoy yourself, you’ll accomplish a lot more and have more fun doing it.

3. Be willing to show the people you love what you’re up to. I’m sure a lot of you have read the Door Open/Door Closed section of Stephen King’s On Writing. He’s describing writing with the door closed and then, when the rough draft is finished there’s this offhand line: “it’s time to give up the goods.” I hadn’t thought much of that line – it seemed to me that he was saying “show it if you wanna show it.”

But what it really means is: Give up the goods.

(Profound, I know.)

Yes, there’s editing to do. Yes, you’re gonna change things. But the people that love you and surround you want to see some evidence of what you’ve been up to. Some of them actually want to read it and give you encouragement/advice/their opinion. Don’t spoil it for them.  
***If they actually read it you also get the added bonus of having something to discuss with them – what they think, what they dislike, what they were impressed by, and what they wished they didn’t know about you.***

4. Palate cleanser. I needed a break from the two humungous projects I’ve been working on. (One in a first draft bang-it-out state of affairs, and the other in a rewrite phase.) I’ve realized that I have a ton and half interesting ideas and that it’s okay to splurge and refresh every now and then. I don’t think I could’ve emotionally dealt with the two in-progress projects last week – I’ve placed too much on them intellectually and emotionally. A fuck-it-whatever piece was just what I needed to recollect myself.

That’s what I’ve learned this past week-and-half-or-so. What’ve you guys been up to?

P.S. In case you’re wondering – the novel is a steampunk romance mystery with Jack the Ripper. I think it might make an interesting series…we’ll see!

I’m a Winner!: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

It’s Tuesday again folks. And every Tuesday you will be subjected to regaled by the writing progress I have made over the last week. But! I insist that I not be the only one exposing myself sounding off. Let your comments reflect what kind of suffering butt-kicking you have done too!
And there’s one big thing I’ve done in the last week:

I WON NANOWRIMO!!!!!!!!!!!!

50,000 total new words for my work in progress in the last month!!!!!

*crowd cheers*

So, about equals about 10,000 new words on my work in progress for the week.

That’s really probably enough, isn’t it?

And I’m not alone. Crossing the finish line with me: my good dear friend Deb and my good dear spouse Shane.

A big hearty congratulations to everyone who wrote this past month. And to everyone who is still punching those keys: STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND GET TO WORK.

It was a great experience and now I shall list what I have learned:

1. Having someone to write with is a good thing. Early on in the month I was gonna throw in the towel. Then Shane got a fire lit under his own typing fingers and sped past me. In one day he banged out 7,000 words, made me feel like a total bum, and therefore I kicked my own ass to keep up. Because, really, I should not get beaten by people with full time jobs. If they can do it, I can do it. No excuses.

He still kept ahead of me throughout the month. *Jenny’s carrot*

Until I saw the magical ‘40,000’ on the bottom of my Word screen. After that I was not stopping, I wasn’t slowing down for anyone and ditched everyone and everything to end NaNo early on Sunday. I was beyond thrilled.  

So it served to prove that, all too often, I’m the person in my own way.

2. I need a sketch pad or something where I can sketch out floor plans, ground plans, street maps, or whatever. The idea for this had already been in the back of my head because of an Umberto Eco essay in Confessions of a Young Novelist. I don’t have the book in front of me, but Eco talks about how he added dialogue because a set of stairs in The Name of the Rose was long and the characters should be talking all the way down. Basically, he was so aware of space and location that he had his characters behave accordingly.

I think I need to do that — and the point was brought home to me via my writer’s group on Sunday. Basically, the end section of Part I is confused. There’s a lot of action, but no one knows where anyone else is in relation to the whole. Part of that is me not having a clear idea of where or what I want my characters to be doing.  I also forgot where I put the kitchen. And the home office.

This is stuff you need to know, ya know?

3. Writing is a reward in itself. Yesterday, when I had nothing I had to write, I still had a million and one things I wanted to get down on paper. I actually stopped myself because my well is really really really dry at the moment. It was energizing to get all that stuff down, but I need to get my bearings a little bit.

Today I’m going to continue work on a short story, but I’m going to take it nice and slow.

How are you guys recovering? Revving up for the holidays?

Marathons, Sheep, and Conclusions: A Tuesday Post of Accountability!

Welcome to Tuesday! And every Tuesday you will be subjected to regaled by the writing progress I have made over the last week. But! I insist that I not be the only one exposing myself sounding off. Let your comments reflect what kind of suffering butt-kicking you have done too!

Stuff I’ve done this week:

1. And still NaNoWriMo. This past Saturday I participated in a marathon with Shane and Deb via the Pikes Peak Writers. It was strangely quiet in the big room. Partly because I forgot my headphones and partly because the big ol’ room was empty except for me, my buds, and two other folks who were pushing through.

However, I’m over 35K words now.

Sure, some of those words include ‘sheep’ – a flock of which I did not see coming – but it’s a fun ride, nonetheless.

2. Conclusions come to:

Take December off. MUST have a break. Plus I’ve got to read a whole bunch of books if I’m gonna hit my 80 book goal.

Then, in January (yep, I’m coming to some New Years Resolutions/Goals), finish the Line as quickly as possible. After that, start revising short stories – thus beginning 2012 as *drumroll* THE YEAR OF VAST REVISIONS!!!

Yep, next year I’m dedicating to revision mode. I have so many projects in various states of completion that next year will be dedicated to finishing. Polishing. Making pretty.

Next resolution: make a concerted effort to not talk about selling. Always in the back of my mind is the idea of selling the story. Getting it out there – and while that is still a priority – the writing and revision are to be made The Priority. So often the talk on the blogosphere revolves around selling and the publishing world and how hard everything is, or what options there are. 

I’m telling myself to get over it. Work on the work. If you do what you’re supposed to do (tell an interesting story and write it well), I really believe the other stuff will fall in line.

Has NaNo brought things into greater clarity for you? Whadja do this week?

Your Slip is Showing: A Tuesday Post of Accountability!

Welcome to Tuesday! And every Tuesday you will be subjected to regaled by the writing progress I have made over the last week. But! I insist that I not be the only one exposing myself sounding off. Let your comments reflect what kind of suffering butt-kicking you have done too!

1. Um, yeah. NaNoWriMo is still going on. I’m not sure what week we’re in now. Week six? Week twelve? Feels like it’s been going on forever, and I’m slightly behind and in catch-it-up mode at the moment. It’s been this interesting see-saw bit: one day I’m up, the next day I’m down. I can’t seem to get ahead…which, I won’t lie, would be really, really nice.

One thing that’s funny about writing at a quick pace and not caring about what you put down (which isn’t entirely true, I just can’t not care about what I put down) is that your tangents/flaws/habits show themselves in a very exposing manner.

For example, I am an em-dash kinda chick. There is nothing like those double dashes to emphasize the parenthetical talky talk I like to emphasize. I’m sure this is especially annoying to the reader.

Also, I love the word that. And that is really helpful when you’re trying to up word counts. Any time a hang-up is overuse of words, NaNoWriMo blesses you.

I’m not the only one to notice this phenomenon either. Shane is also participating in NaNo and he has discovered his penchant for overusing metaphors has resulted in sometimes three or four metaphors for one thing. (His word count is ahead of mine…perhaps I should embrace the power of long metaphors.)

Ah, to have your slip showing….

2. Reading. I have done some of it during this NaNo thing. However, I’ve also not finished reading anything. I’m halfway through a bunch of non-fiction, and only one novel.

I’m finding reading novels frustrates me as I try to pound out my own novel for NaNo. The novels remind me of how much I need to revise my em-dashed mess for it to be any kind of readable. Then all I want to do is revise. But no! I must hold back. I have plans! I have a schedule! I must write the dunderheadedness now! (See? NaNo also exposes your use of whacked-out words like dunderheadedness. I actually used the word nefariousness in my WIP. This is how it goes….)  

How’re you guys doing?