Those Days

It’s 9:20 and I can already feel it turning into one of those days. Not the kind where everything goes wrong — that would be worse, so I should be counting my blessings — but the ones where a little interruption happens every ten minutes and then it takes me another twenty to get back on track again. For example, at this moment, Z is sitting on the footstool, staring up at the top of my dresser, and I’m finding it hard not to pay most of my attention to her. What does she want up there? What is she trying to tell me? This is after she’s been up, down, in, out, had a nice walk (1.45 miles, knowledge provided courtesy of my silly mileage tracker), had breakfast, had a treat, up, down again… what is she trying to tell me?

I need to decide that the answer is nothing and start ignoring her, but my inability to do so is what makes it one of those kinds of days. Focus is in short supply, brain fog is plentiful.

Hmm, I should note that yesterday I failed to manage diet perfection. I went to Panera to meet a fellow author. I picked Panera because it was a convenient location. But oh, I’ve turned into one of those nightmare people, torturing the wait staff. Panera has a hidden menu that you can ask for items from and I believe that all the items on it are gluten-free. But they’re not nightshade, dairy, nut free. I thought they’d have it written on something that they could hand to me but instead the poor sales clerk had to read through every item on the list. As soon as an item had three things in it that I couldn’t do, I’d reject it and we’d move on, but it still took a while. By the time we were done, I couldn’t handle the drink options, so I took green tea. It turned out to be sweetened. It also turned out that the meal option I took did have something in it that I shouldn’t have been eating — pesto, which has pine nuts and Parmesan in it. (I think of pesto as basil and olive oil, but it is a bit more complicated.) Total bad foods: caffeine, sugar, nuts, and dairy. Ugh. I should have just had a chocolate chip cookie and enjoyed my diet failure.

Anyway, possibly the brain fog, easily distracted, hard to get back on track morning should be attributed to some food that I had yesterday. Ideally, someday I will reach the point where small amounts of foods that are problems for me won’t cause reactions, but first I have to make it through a phase where small amounts cause big reactions. My poor immune system works much too hard.

Some of the distractions were fun, though. Yesterday Grace apparently gained a kayak and Noah turned into someone who used to kayak. I know exactly where that idea comes from — a conversation with a friend a few weeks back that has stuck in my head. We were talking about scuba diving specifically. He used to go diving and hasn’t done it in years. Misses it, but doesn’t make the choices that would bring it back into his life. I feel that way about sailing. I loved sailing when I had the chance to do it in college and post-college. Being on the water was the best. But in the years since, I’ve never tried to prioritize that, never tried to make it part of my life. Now, admittedly, sailing is complicated and expensive and it wouldn’t be easy for me to somehow become a real sailor at this point. But there’s definite romance in the idea of meeting someone who restores something you loved to you. And in the context of the scene I was writing, it felt natural and sort of exciting.

Except I don’t know anything about kayaks. How does one refer to a kayak? If you’re the kayaker, and you’re leaving the house, are you going for a row? A ride? On the river? So one little line in my story turned into a language research project. Now, I have some experience with these language research projects — it’s easy to spend hours and hours online reading and getting confused when a simple conversation with a person with some experience would take five minutes and get you everything you need. Generally, I still wind up doing the hours of research, because when it comes to language exploration, efficiency is not my hallmark trait.

But yesterday, my research led me right away to a place that does kayaking tours in central Florida. Only an hour north. And reasonably priced. And they do manatee tours. And they had openings next week on a day where the weather is supposed to be good. And… and… and… could I really just impulsively go off by myself and go kayaking? While I was mentally debating, feeling very much like I wanted to and equally much like perhaps that was just a little too far outside my comfort zone, I was also texting with Lynda, who said, “Let’s do it.” So yay! Next week, Lynda and I are going kayaking. We will see manatees and birds and probably get wet and possibly be cold and have a good outdoor adventure in FL.

Even more fun, the kayak people asked if we wanted single or tandem kayaks and I went with single. It’s listed as an easy ride and it’s a Florida river, not the ocean or anything, but I’ve never gotten to be the solo person in a boat in my entire life. Next Thursday there will be no yoga — just boat paddling, where I can see whether my yoga muscles actually work in real life!

And speaking of yoga, it’s now time to head to the Y. Oops, no writing spring this morning. I will have to do it/them later on. But maybe I’ll be more awake, then.

Waking Up Cheerful

It’s 8:30 AM. I’m on my second cup of mint tea. So far this morning, I’ve taken Z for a two-mile walk, (measured, embarrassingly, by my new mileage tracker, called MapMyRun. Every time I open it, I wish to inform it that there will be no running, none — but in the little drop-down menu I can change Run to Nice, Placid Walk. Not really. But Walk, anyway. I’m not sure why I decided to track my mileage, except maybe that I’ve been taking longer and longer walks and I was curious about how far I was actually going. Less than two miles usually is my guess, because today actually did feel like a long walk.)

Anyway, I’ve also made myself a healthy breakfast of salad greens, spinach, cucumber, carrot, white radish, and roast beef, topped with a warm bacon vinaigrette. I concede that parts of that salad are healthier than others — warm bacon vinaigrette is literally bacon fat mixed with vinegar and shallots and since when is eating bacon fat healthy? But hey, spinach for breakfast, that’s always good, right? I’ve also taken out the trash, made my bed, and started a load of laundry. Oh, and sorted through some tax information.

And now I’m ready to write.

Except, um, about what again?

So many stories are playing for attention in my mind. The reason for the long walk was to get a lock on something, anything, some piece of story that I can start writing this morning. Ideally, it would have been nice to figure out what happens next in the scene I was working on yesterday. My writing sprint stream-of-consciousness was because I was stuck — literally, totally blocked — on the idea of what car Grace would drive. It needs to be fun. A fun car. Ugh. I don’t know what cars are fun. I probably wrote 500 words on fun cars and what sorts of cars are more fun than others and what cars say about us — oh, look, I’m doing it again — and it was good, but now I’m waking up this morning to the realization that I still didn’t solve the problem. So does Grace need to drive a car? Well, it would just be easier if she did.

All right, that gives me a little tiny bit of a plan. I’m going to look to decide on the car and then I’m going to do my first twenty minute sprint of the day. Yesterday’s sprints worked really well to get my creativity stirring. I didn’t get a ton of real story words but I could feel myself getting into the world of the story again. Bits and pieces of dialog started simmering. I also found out that I have an extra month to work on the wedding story, which is — I think? — terrific. Ideally, if I manage to get myself writing again, I can spend the next two months exclusively on Grace and then set it aside, writing the wedding story, then come back to revisions on Grace. I think that approach is probably smarter than my continued attempts to work on both things at once (with far too much Precarious Balance and other stories fighting for the mental space, too.) Of course, having extra time might just mean that I screw around and waste it, the way I seem to have wasted the past three months, but I’d rather not be so pessimistic! I wrote most of Ghosts in three months. If I did it once, I can do it again.

I do want to write down some of my thoughts about Fen when I get a chance, though. I’m trying not to think too much about her, but her story is so much fun to me. I’m hoping that the fact that it will have had so long to percolate will make it quick to write when it’s time, but I also keep fearing that I’ll forget some of the twists that pop into my head. My head is so crowded with stories! All right, but thinking about them is not helping me focus on Grace, so it’s time to move on.

Goal for today: discover what kind of car Grace drives and write the scene where she arrives. Do two writing sprints and write another… hmm, 290 words. I suspect that’s well within the range of possibility, given that it’s 9AM.

Writing Sprint 1: 273 words with a few too many bracketed areas where I don’t know what the words really are. Whatever, they were words.

Writing Spring 2: Interrupted at 12 minutes and not going well, anyway. Approximately 40 words, because I revised a bunch of words from the previous writing sprint. Ah, me. But so it goes.

Yoga: Jumped ahead and did the 30 minute yoga instead of the 20. It’s yoga for people who do real yoga — jumping into Wheel (which is too hard for me) and naming poses without describing them. The chances that I can do the longer yoga from this podcast look remote. But the great thing about yoga is that it’s about breathing and doing what you can do, so I stretched and tried and tomorrow I’ll do the same. I breathed well, and it felt good. And tomorrow maybe I’ll pause in a couple of places and see if I can look up the poses online to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to do.

Ugh

Somehow I overwrote my Write Plan post.

Ugh.

This makes me very sad, because obviously, I didn’t write down the plan anywhere else. It was strange because WordPress was claiming that I had an unpublished draft and I couldn’t figure out how to make that go away. Apparently that message caused me to entirely overwrite a published post. That seems… inefficient.

… I figured out how to revert the first post to a previous version, and did some complicated cutting-and-pasting to get back today’s post. But I’m leaving this, just in case anyone else is confused by the appearance/disappearance oddity of postings. Also to remind myself of how much time I just wasted being confused by WordPress. Sigh.

Writing sprint starting in 15 minutes.

The Write Plan

On my refrigerator, I have a magnet that says something like, “Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall always be amused.” My mom gave it to me and when I see it — really see it, I mean, not just let my eyes skate over it in passing — I am always amused. So, somewhat laughing at myself, here is my Write Plan.

Week 1: 1000 words daily on any topic, and at least one, preferably two, 20 minute writing sprints devoted to a WIP.

Week 2: 1000 words daily, at least 500 of them fiction of any type, and at least one, preferably two, 30 minute writing sprints devoted to a WIP.

Week 3: 1500 words daily, at least 750 of them fiction of any time, and at least one 45 minute writing sprint devoted to a WIP.

Week 4: 2000 words daily, at least 1000 of them fiction, and two 45 minute writing sprints devoted to a WIP.

Week 5: more than 1000 words of fiction, three 45 minute writing sprints devoted to a WIP.

The WIP, more specifically, has to be either the wedding story or Grace. Those are the two projects that I most need to finish. The wedding story is due in April, so has to be done by then, but only needs to be longer than 10K words. If I was in normal writing mode, it would be a two week job at worst, but so far, I’ve written and rewritten the same 700 words of it for about three weeks. It’s time for that to stop.

I didn’t do the writing sprints yesterday — I only got the idea when my friend Tim suggested them yesterday evening. I should have tried at least one then, but I didn’t. So today is my official first day of my 40 day Write Plan. (Five weeks, it occurs to me, is 35 days. How do the yoga people turn a 5-week plan into 40 days, I wonder? Possibly I should have read the directions? But I guess I just keep it going to 40 days and if something happens — say a broken bone — my weeks can wiggle a little.

I say a broken bone because for the past three months, I’ve let everything come in the way of writing. People working on the kitchen? Can’t write. Son home from school? Can’t write. A holiday? Can’t write. Need to go grocery shopping? Can’t write. Any excuse, any distraction — a visitor, a doctor’s appointment, a dog with an ear infection — meant that I didn’t get any writing done.

But that violates the basic, number one, single most important rule of being a writer: Writers Write.

If I can’t write through anything — well, more or less, anything, I’m not insane — then I have to look for a job. If I want to be a writer, it’s time to write.

So, today’s goal — 1000 words (of which this is about 500) and a writing sprint or 20 of twenty minutes. I still have time this morning before yoga to either answer my email, which I should do, or do my first writing sprint, which I am going to do. Because? Writers write. Email can wait. (Sorry if yours is one of the emails awaiting my attention.)

Edited to add:

Writing Sprint 1: 160 words

Writing Sprint 2: 810 words, mostly stream of consciousness character development and plot ideas. But at least the ideas were flowing. Overall word count for the day breaks the 1K mark. Plus, I walked four miles (two separate walks) and did an hour of yoga. I feel productive!

More Writing About Not Writing

I was debating  whether to shut this blog down, but if I did, I would want to move my posts to my personal blog. Some of them contain thoughts that I might like to be reminded of someday, such as how to use contextual embedding or reminders to let my fingers do the work. But moving them seems like a lot of work. It’s probably not, but it’s definitely not the kind of thing I should be investing my time in. So then I remembered the original purpose of this blog — to keep me honest, for myself, about what I’m accomplishing (or not) with my writing. I’m going to try to return to that purpose, which means — yep, writing about not writing.

Yesterday was a word-search day. The kind of day where I’ve got a line — “Would the stranger reveal… something?” — and I know that “something” is not the right word, but I can’t find the word that belongs there. Ten minutes later, it’s “some connection” and then comes an hour away from the computer while I try to let the back of my brain get back to work on finding the right words. Eventually, the line becomes “Would the stranger reveal some connection, the link between Noah and General Directions that he was looking for?”

And then I have to debate ending the sentence with a preposition. Grammatically, it should be “for which he was looking?” but ugh, that’s clunky as anything. Then there’s “looking” — one of the most over-used words, and pretty high on my personal list of problem words. “Looking” isn’t like “said” or “the”, which are essentially invisible. There are times when it comes close, but there are also times when a better word is out there and I just need to find it. Eventually, my sentence becomes “Would the stranger reveal some connection, the link between Noah and General Directions that he was searching for?” At which point, I start to wonder whether my pronoun antecedent (the proper noun to which “he” refers) is clear enough.

At which point I quit writing for the day, having managed something maybe close to 400 words, split as 200 on two different projects.

Is it possible that I have really begun over-thinking what I write? Why, yes, yes, it is. Which is why keeping this casual blog and not spending hours agonizing over each word I type on it is probably good for me. I’m resisting the impulse to delete “really” and “probably” in the past two sentences — also words on my over-used list and also evidence that I’m over-thinking. At some point, it would be nice if not using the words I over-use could become a habit instead of a process of continual second-guessing, but I’m not there yet. And meanwhile, I need to keep writing, which means I need to stop second-guessing myself. There’s a time for revisions and it’s not during the first draft.

Yesterday’s word count: 1000 on a blog post, plus 400 or so of fiction.

Today’s goal: at least 1000 words, Yes, this blog post counts as 500, but it’s like exercise, starting with lower numbers and working your way up. I haven’t managed to write consistently since mid-November, so all my writing muscles have atrophied.

Oh, hmm, that’s an idea. I’m doing (sort of) this 40 day yoga practice. For the first week, it’s a 20 minute session every day. On week 2, it’s a 30 minute session. Week 3, 45 minutes. Week 4, 60 minutes. Week 5 (which frankly seems kind of ambitious), 90 minutes. So maybe I’ll make a 40 day writing practice to go along with it. Week One — starting yesterday — will be a minimum of 1000 words, in whatever form the words take. Blog posts, journalling, bits and pieces. I’m going to have to think about how the goals will stretch — I’d love to hit Week 5 writing 2000 words of fiction a day, but like the yoga, that seems ambitious. Still, ambitious is good, right? I need to be more ambitious.

I’m going to go do my 20 minutes of yoga now and contemplate my 40-day Writing Practice, and how it should work. Tomorrow, I’ll have a plan. But I hope the thing that makes me feel cheerful about this plan isn’t that it lets me off the hook for writing 1000 words of fiction today. Writing more should always count as better and reaching my stretch goals ahead of time is a good thing, not a bad. Although with the yoga, I’m definitely still trying to figure out some of the moves in the podcast, so I’m not going to be stretching. Well, I will be literally stretching, but I won’t be pushing to try to do the longer podcasts until it’s time.

Ugh, what an incoherent post. Oh, well, words, more words, At least my fingers are moving. I hope they move as quickly, if more coherently, for Noah and Rose.

The worst kind of writing

Yesterday I decided I should upload A Lonely Magic to NetGalley. For some reason — oh, wait, I think the reason is that I’m an obsessive perfectionist who should never be allowed to look at anything she’s previously written, ever — I started editing it again. Again. *sigh*. It was because I found a typo, early on — a comma that should have been a period and a related missing capital letter.

It wasn’t the worst thing ever. I made a bunch of changes, including some lines where the formal Sia Mara spoke too colloquially. I had Cyntha saying that something “made sense” and when I read that it was like it was written in glaring neon letters. That just didn’t feel like the right phrasing at all. This is, of course, why it’s good to give yourself plenty of time to edit, but whatever, it’s also the joy of self-publishing. The changes aren’t so major that they affect the plot or descriptions, so I’m not going to worry about them. I did wind up taking out a ton of Fen’s swear words, largely because I’m sick of reviews that comment on it.That might change who she is — she probably comes across as less aggressive, less hostile. Maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad, but if I decide it doesn’t work for me, I can always change it back.

I do find it sort of ironic that the fact that Fen uses the word ‘fuck’ seems to make people think the book is mature. In Twilight, Bella has bed-breaking sex with a guy who’s a hundred years old, and that’s apparently deemed okay for pubescent girls. In The Hunger Games, children kill children in bloody and horrible ways, and that’s fine for your average 14-year old. In Harry Potter, people die right and left and the violence is a massacre by the end, but sure, it’s YA. A non-virgin heroine who says fuck and is comfortable with her own sexuality, though — well, that’s clearly not for teenagers. It’s weird. But I am just going to call the book YA Fantasy in its book description now and declare it such and see how that goes.

Yes, I’m also trying to revise the book description. Wow, I hate writing book descriptions. Really, truly hate it. It’s so hard. Just a few sentences, what could be difficult about that? And yet I’ve rewritten this book description probably a dozen times and it’s never made me happy. I initially, last spring, worked with a copy-writer on it. Possibly I should go back to that first description. But I kept tweaking it all summer long, worked with my marketing intern on it, and have continued to tweak. The version on Amazon is from early January, when I dropped the price.

Side note: never make two changes at once. Is it a better book description or a better price or am I still seeing the lingering results of the promo I did on it in December? I have no idea, but ALM sold 48 copies this month which makes this month (relatively-speaking) a good month. Relatively speaking, because of course that earns me about $100 which, while nice, does not a sustainable income make.

Back to the main topic, I am definitely revising the book description again, but I’m taking a step back and trying to decide what the key points are that I want to include in it. Should it mention Fen’s age? I sort of think it should, even though it feels awkward to work it in there, but it will establish it better as YA(ish) and let my other readers know that this is not the same genre as previous books. Should I mention her mother? I never have, but her mother’s death — well, her mother’s existence — is an important element of the story. I’ve tried over and over again to keep the word “enchanting” in there, because I feel like it’s the best descriptor for what I was aiming for, but maybe I should just give it up. But what other adjectives would work? Do I need to say that Luke is a teenager? I always do, but maybe I shouldn’t bother. Does it make sense to call Malik gorgeous? I feel as if the adjective is a signifier of his importance, but maybe it muddies the issue.

Ugh, I hate writing book descriptions. The current version — with no tag line — is:

When a gorgeous guy tries to murder her, 21-year-old Fen is rescued by a teenage boy, Luke, and his sexy older brother, Kaio. But escape might not be so easy. A killer is after her and she’s got no place to run. Or does she?

The brothers offer her a safe haven, whisking her off to a glamorous Caribbean island, but the island’s atmosphere simmers with unnerving undercurrents. The brothers have secrets and Fen has questions. Who are they? How did they know she was in trouble? And why has she been targeted for death anyway?

The answers she comes up with are as unexpected as they are wrong but the truth is more enchanting than she imagined when she discovers that the brothers come from a magical underwater city. Every enchantment has dark edges, though and before long, Fen is caught in tides of romance, magic, and political machinations. With her life and the lives of millions of human beings on the line, Fen must look deep within herself to find the strength and courage she needs to stay afloat in an amazing new world.

A Lonely Magic is a young adult fantasy, suitable for readers of Twilight, The Hunger Games, and the later books in the Harry Potter series. There are no explicit scenes or graphic violence, but Fen’s not shy about swearing when she’s under stress. And she’s always under stress!

Suggestions for tag line or other comments very welcome. Thanks!

Wrong POV

So last week — oh, dear, was it really already that long ago? — I was asked if I wanted to participate in a boxed set of short stories or novellas, to be titled, “Magical Weddings.” As soon as I saw the title, ideas started flowing.

By yesterday, I was totally stalled again. I had a character. I had a setting. I had some isolated incidents. But I had nothing that came anywhere close to a plot or that even felt like a story I’d like to live in a for a while. I’d written about 1000 words that had gotten eaten in a computer incident, which of course made me feel tragic, like I’d written the best thing ever and now it was gone, gone, GONE. Lost words always seem like they were much better than they probably were.

So I tried to go back to A Gift of Grace for a while and got nowhere with that, then started thinking about Fen again and wishing I could be in her voice for a while, then remembered my Akira honeymoon novella and wondered if I could tweak it to include the wedding, then got really annoyed with myself. I have got to start actually finishing things. Four works in progress, six if you count the two that are totally unrelated to anything I’ve written before, seven if you count the Maggie short story that is ostensibly done but somehow not satisfying to me… I’m committing the grave mistake of the novice writer, not finishing what I start. That has to end.

Plus, now I’ve made a promise and it has a deadline attached, so I actually have to write the wedding story. I can’t just ignore it as the time trickles away. This morning, therefore, I decided to meditate. I wasn’t going to think about the story, I was going to clear my mind, sending well wishes to a sick friend of a friend. This is the only kind of meditation I can ever manage to do for more than a few minutes. Every time your mind wanders, you bring it back to the person you’re wishing well for, and send them wishes — May you be well, may you be healthy, may you be happy, may you have good doctors, etc. I think it works for me because the freedom of being able to create the wishes gives my mind a little room to roam, which is probably why it’s not really meditation. Ahem, but I digress.

Anyway, while I’m “meditating,” my mind wanders, of course. I pull it back, again and again, but every time it drifts back to the story, it’s clearer to me that my problem is my narrator. I want the story to be her love story, but her perspective is much too limited. There are other things that I want the reader to see that just can’t be seen from the inside of her head. In fact, the magic of the story is that the magic is unseen by the main character. She can only be vaguely aware of any of it. But the reader should get to see the magic. The reader should understand what’s happening under the surface.

Okay, so maybe I should write in an omniscient POV? But I never have and it’s a weird POV these days and ideally, some of the people reading this story won’t know how I write already so I don’t want to mislead them about my style.

Back to meditating. May K be well. May she be healthy. May the drugs be quickly effective. May she … maybe I should pull a Nora Roberts and jump from viewpoint to viewpoint? She gets away with it and it works for her. I could do the transitions smoothly, I think. I can even see how that would work — except this is a short story, maybe a novella, and the more POV characters I write, the longer it needs to be. Those transitions have to give enough context to work, to really reveal the mind of the person you’re in, which means establishing a lot of characters. Not just the two main romantic characters, but Akira, maybe Zane, maybe others. Sigh.

Back to meditating. May K be strong. May her immune system work with her. May her nurses be kind and careful. I need a God-character, all-seeing, all-knowing… oh.

Oh.

I’m tossing everything I’ve already written and starting over today. With Rose as the narrator. Yay!