Last week, my son went to visit his dad in Phoenix. For the WHOLE week. In order to distract myself (and keep from getting dehydrated with all the tears), I challenged myself to write a book in a week. 50,000 words in 7 days. I was fairly confident I could do it, providing I didn’t get bogged down in “where the heck does this go next?” It would be hard, especially physically, but I was determined to do my best.
I didn’t actually make it.
43,083 words. SO CLOSE. I’m really bummed I didn’t make it, but I also know exactly why it didn’t happen.
- I started on the wrong day. Ideally, I would have started shortly after they left on Sunday and gotten a full day of writing in. Instead, I let myself miss him and ended up playing Don’t Starve Together with my brother half the day. Good for my mental health, but it meant that my seventh writing day was the following Sunday…when he was home all day.
- I took a day off in the middle. My brain was verging on burnout, so I took a day to play Fallout 76, watch Cheers, and generally futz around. I should have taken a half day, not a whole day.
- My sixth day, Saturday, was also a half day. I didn’t realize they would be back as soon as they were, so I didn’t schedule my time accordingly.
For reference, here are my numbers:
Had those last two days been full days, or had I not taken Thursday off, I’d have made it.
And, honestly? Who am I kidding?
I wrote 43,000 words in 6 days!!
Even though I didn’t actually hit 50k, I still kind of feel like I did. Here’s my takeaway:
- With the right setup, I can write for 6 hours without any pain. Friday was an 8-hour day, and made my shoulder ache something fierce.
- 6 hours is a perfect amount of work, providing #1 is true. I felt excited, refreshed, and downright jubilant when I was done. As opposed to Friday, when I ended with a stressed-out brain buzz and only wanted to sleep for two days to recuperate.
- Short books make it easier to maintain writing momentum. Longer books have longer arcs, meaning one has to hold a bigger picture in one’s head. This series is somewhat actiony and plot-driven, so it moves from one scene to the next without a lot of subtext. Godmother would not have been nearly so easy.
- Knowing the plot – at least major and minor guideposts along the way – is imperative. Part of the reason I took Thursday off was to figure out a way forward (I ended up using most of my notes in the first three days). Deep plotting isn’t necessarily required (but I know from writing Eternals that it helps even more).
- Mental breaks are necessity. During previous long slogs (usually around the climax of each book when everything gets really moving and I don’t want to stop), I needed days to recover. I can get away with less time if I know where I’m going when I get back, or have #6.
- Habit is insanely important to the creative process. At the end of Wednesday, I had no idea where I was going or what came next…like, at all. I told myself I was going to ponder the problem while playing games (ha ha – I know better, and I still tell myself this lie all the time). When Friday started, I still no had idea where I was going, but I used my breakfast to figure it out and I was at the keys on time and obviously full of verve.
- Deadlines that mean something actually matter. I suck at deadlines and due dates. They are my Achilles Heel. Not because I’m lazy or have poor time management skills, but because I have no emotional connection to getting it done. You can dangle all the rewards or punishments you want, but if I’m not emotionally invested in what I’m doing, it doesn’t happen. So I need to find ways to challenge myself consistently that matter to me in order to be my most productive. (Which I already knew, but finding out there are things that matter enough is huge.)
- Since I’m a broke work-at-home mom, I don’t get 6 hours of uninterrupted writing time 5 days a week. But if I did, and if I figured out how to maintain it, I could theoretically crank out even a Godmother book in a little over a month. And isn’t that just a lovely goal framework, right there?
So, I didn’t make my goal but I learned a lot of really important things about myself and my process. And I’m almost done with my Top Secret Project #2. In a week. Those are some huge wins!
The most important thing I’m walking away from this challenge with, though? The knowledge that if I ever manage to make money from my books, I really can make it work full-time.
And honestly? I don’t know that there’s anything more important to a writer than having faith in ourselves. Some have it in spades; others of us have to work at it. But if you’re like me, rest assured it’ll come. It’s a practice, not a finite resource. Keep moving forward, keep trying new things, and eventually we’ll get there!
I completely forgot to update my blog when I released Reluctant Godmother #2! How silly of me.
I’m insanely proud of this book. My copyeditor, the wonderful Katie St. John-Shin, raved about it as she read it. My dad texted me this morning to let me know he’s halfway done, and wanted nothing more than to tell everyone he meets about it (except that he’s a trucker, and that talking to other truckers about fairy godmothers would be, shall we say, awkward). Oh, the warm fuzzies that brings!
The weft and wend of this story…it has so many threads to pull together, I often despaired I would do a clumsy job of it. I worried through the entire two years that I wouldn’t be able to pull off what I had planned. It tried many times to spiral out of control, to grow steadily larger until it finally topped out at about 180,000 words (pre-edits). I had pulled apart the structure of the first act so many times, I couldn’t remember what was where as I was writing the second half. For most of the final haul, I felt like I was flying blind. Had I left that part in? Did I mention this thing earlier? What was I forgetting? Was this character a jerk the whole time, or had I written it to gradually build confusion? The day my mom finished reading the first book and asked me if we’d find out about what was going on at the end in the next book, I about gave up (how was I supposed to write a decent sequel when I could barely remember the beginning of the second, let alone the ending of the first?!). Thankfully, I didn’t.
Because none of that is why I’m so proud of this book.
I started writing A Wand a Day in September of 2016 and finished almost exactly two years later, in September of 2018. Going back over my productivity tracker, I would write a few thousand words…then put it down for a month. Write a few thousand words, put it down for a month. And it’s no wonder. I got tremendously sick for two months in the spring of 2017. When I was finally feeling better, my mom ended up in the hospital. Then my son got sick. Then my husband needed a bone marrow biopsy. Then my cousin spent a month in a medically-induced coma. Then I got sick again. 2017 was not a great year.
2018 opened with tremendous stress, culminating in a sudden move to California in April. By the end of the summer, I was sick again, this time with breathing issues we’re still trying to figure out six months later. So, healthwise, it’s been a rough road. My stubborn refusal to let the book go is the only reason it’s available now.
But more than that, this book saw me through a complete transformation of self. If One Good Wand was hard to write because it dredged up all my insecurities, past troubles, and unresolved feelings, A Wand a Day nearly did me in.
In the course of the last two years, I lost both of my muses to interpersonal complications. Given that their likenesses form important parts of Tessa’s world, writing became a study in constant heartache. The Chisel’s behavior became a frustrating parallel that made me want to collapse on the keyboard every time he appeared on the page. Mueller wouldn’t talk to Tessa until last August, when I finally figured out a reason for his reticence. (Yes–August, in the last 30,000 words of the novel. Fixing their interactions was a whole edit in and of itself.) I no longer have my alpha reader and sounding board, either. So Tessa’s struggle throughout the book to hold onto a life that makes sense mirrored my own losses and fears (ironic, since I had planned her life that way in 2015). And that was the hardest thing I’ve ever put into a story, bar none.
As spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan says, “If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”
Tessa Hargitay may have successfully pulled off her first fairytale ending as a press-ganged fairy godmother, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to accept the ballgowns,
beehives, and responsibilities that go with it. In fact, all she wants is a paycheck that pays the bills and gets her back on her feet in the Mundane world.
Unfortunately for Tessa, magic has other plans.
Between her witchy boss’s push to promote her to personal assistant and the Fairy Godmothers Union’s bubbly attempts to recruit her, Tessa’s plan to return to normal human life isn’t going so well. Add to that a spoiled princess she’d rather strangle than provide a fairytale ending for, and her life couldn’t be more complicated. (Except for the hunky men of magic wanting to heal her broken heart and the monsters hungering for her new power…)
One way or the other, she’s going to have to make a choice – Light or Dark, Magic or Mundane – before the beasts that prowl the woods and boardrooms of Colorado decide her future for her.
Buy a copy from Amazon!
Happy New Year!
I mostly took December off from writing. It was an important holiday season to get right for me (lots of firsts, both good and hard, this year), so I feel no guilt over it. EXCEPT for the fact that if I had written a little bit here and there, 2018 would have been my most productive year ever. ARGH!
Words written: 200,796 (honestly, I’m sure it’s more than that and I simply forgot to log everything, but…c’est la vie)
Best words written previously: 202,620 (2015)
Books completed: 2
Books published: 0
Number of countries where my books have sold: 4 (US, Canada, UK, Germany)
Income from books: $20.15
Amount spent on publishing-related things: $950
Career re-evaluations: 7
Massive life changes weathered: 2
Major health concerns battled: 3
Trips to the ER: 2
Trips to Disneyland: 1
Family drama survived: Number does not compute
New books planned: 12
Despite my lack of income, this has been an enormously good year. I made changes that needed making, finally set my feet on a path (how uncomfortable and weird that feels after so many years in the air!), came to some decisions, rediscovered my resolve, and seriously leveled up my resiliency, self-care, time management, consistency, emotional stability, and on and on.
Onward to 2019!
May it be glorious, messy, joyful, human, and delightfully eccentric. ❤
What are your life stats for the year?
Such an original title. 😛
One of these days, I’m going to start crafting actual, useful, “professional” blog posts. But I’m moving in two weeks and now just doesn’t seem like the right time. ^_^ So instead, a quick update!
For those waiting on Reluctant Godmother #2 (A Wand a Day – come squee with me over the cover if you haven’t seen it yet…or even if you have!):
I am slowly but surely adding more words. It is by far the messiest book I’ve ever written, and I anticipate a lot of work even after I finish the rough draft (nooooo!). All of the key factors are in place, I pretty much just have to get the words on the page. Now that I know what I’m doing with my life (see the moving statement above), those words should get there faster. I just went through my calendar and I’m hoping (if all goes as planned, which of course it never does) to release it sometime mid-summer. Then I’ve got a special present for fans planned shortly thereafter, and I’m hoping to have the third book out this fall. (But seriously, no promises – my life is like a balloon somebody forgot to tie off right now.)
For those waiting for word on 13 Colonies:
Uh…yeah. I unpublished One For All because I need to update it and redo the cover (as well as some personal reasons). But I promised my cousin (who was very sick last year) that I’d continue it when he got better, so somewhere in my timeline I’m going to fit in a novella or two. I mean, I have one that’s a third done and one that’s fully plotted, so what the heck, right? (C’mon, Girly, get it together!)
And lastly, for those waiting on any kind of whisper about The Eternals:
Yeah, I got nothin’ for ya right now. I do intend to finish the serial. Like 13 Colonies, the majority of it is plotted and ready to be written, I just have to find the time. This one’s unfortunately at the bottom of my to-write list, though. Sorry. 😦
I’m intending to be a better blogger, too, so keep an eye out for fun stuff here in the mean time!
Ohmigosh. I am SO BEHIND in updating! What can I say – life happened. Ain’t that always the way?
Since I’ve been a bad blogger, I’m going to make up for it with a cover reveal. Finally, I won’t have to squee over this beauty in private anymore! Woohoo!
Are you sure?
Isn’t it pretty?? The folks at Deranged Doctor Design are awesome!
A Wand a Day is a little darker, a little more outdoorsy (yay, Colorado Rockies!), and involves…well, I’ll let you guess which fairy tale princess-geek Tessa has to help to a happily ever after. ❤
(And if you can’t wait, go play my interactive story featuring a new side character from A Wand a Day: So You Want to Be a Fairy Godmother!)
I hope you enjoy this little sneak peek at what Tessa is up to in Book 2. 😀 😀 😀
I’m sitting here, trying to work up the courage to write. It’s just Reluctant Godmother #2; certainly not scary-hard (though it is my first sequel, and that gives me mental discomfort). I’ve done my plotting work, so even though this particular scene is kind of up-in-the-air still, I know where I am and where I’m going. I wrote last week, and everything worked perfectly.
Yet here I sit, scared to start again. I can’t even make myself click over to Scrivener to look at the file. My stomach feels like river rapids – churning fast and chaotic around hard knots. My neck is tight. My shoulders already ache, partially from physical therapy yesterday and partially because I’m not on the right level with my desk. I’ve already added more air to the yoga ball that is my chair six times and I don’t want to keep fighting with it. I don’t want to fight with anything right now, when all my attention is taken by the fear.
What if it happens again?
I was sitting here three and a half months ago when I got light-headed and felt like I was going to pass out. Here, at this computer, in this corner, on this ball. For two weeks, every time I tried to write, the same thing happened. And then I came down with something that resembled a month-long stomach bug, and for which I still have no answers. For three months, I’ve seen doctor after doctor. Visited the ER more times than I can remember. Fought through raging torrents of anxiety and panic attacks as I felt like I was coming apart at the mental/emotional/physical seams. I let them run test after test and take vial after vial of blood.
I’m anemic now. Vitamin D deficient. I’m staring down future thyroid removal, possible problems getting pregnant when I want to, and yesterday they told me my blood pressure issues have caused my heart to start growing too thick. Important things to know, absolutely. I’m 36, which feels like too young for all that, but is also young enough to do something about it. To get out in front of it. I’m armed with newfound resilience, knowledge, and an understanding of my own weaknesses I didn’t have before.
But it all started here, on this ball, writing this story.
I don’t want to go through it again. I’m tensing against that light-headedness and the stomach pains that came after it before I even open the file.
How can I be a writer if I can’t write?
That question has plagued me for three months. The self-doubt that came with it was crushing. Enough to give up my goals. To cast aside the decade-plus of working toward them. It doesn’t matter how much willpower, dedication, or tenacity I summon up if my body just can’t do it. My bank account is empty, so there’s no making up for it with a new desk, chair, or some other contraption. The only resources I have at my disposal are contained in the same 10×10 room I’ve barely left these long, exhausting three months.
Still, I fought it. I sent the beginning of my side project to the muse it belongs to. That was terrifying in a completely different way–not least because I hadn’t ever actually told him he was my muse. Putting that envelope in the mail was a huge deal. I wish I could say I thrummed with fiery courage coursing through my veins…but I can’t. Instead, I spent the next three days feeling vaguely queasy and the size of Thumbelina.
And then one day, I was too weary to keep fighting. For three weeks, I questioned everything. Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to keep chasing something that causes me so much anxiety? Do I want to sit at the keys, day after day, doing the same thing for the same ineffectual purpose, losing a little bit more of my confidence and self-belief with every book release? Did I want to figure out how to be able to sit there that long at all? I let go of all the intentions, all the hopes, all the desires. I really didn’t know if I was going to pick them up again. I still don’t.
But here I am again, trying.
Showing up at the keys.
Terrified, but here. Again.
Because that is something I’m coming to understand about writers. Possibly about all artists in general…
We are like phoenixes. We burn, bright and shining, until we burn ourselves out. Maybe from working too hard or trying too long. Maybe from getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe from dreaming too big or putting too much of ourselves into our works. We flame out.
But those who believe, those with the courage and the desire and the need, brush off the ashes and try again.
I don’t know when I will finish RG2. Or how I’ll manage it. I don’t know what in the world I’m going to do with the limp strings of a career that’s never been fruitful.
But I do know that I’m here, sitting on this ball, writing this post.
No light-headedness. No stomach pains.
And for today, that’s enough.
I keep trying – and failing – to write this silly book. I’ve never written a sequel before, so it’s new territory for me. Exciting, yes, but also daunting. The glorious rush of discovery as I flesh out the basics of the world and my main characters isn’t here. Instead, I’m faced with adding to the existing world, deepening character backgrounds, and complicating relationships. It’s…weird. Not bad…just…different. These are untried muscles I must learn to use on the fly.kimd of like being thrown out of a comfy nest and facing the on-rushing ground…
I finally managed to sit down and force myself to get the basic flow of the plot down. It looks like this:
Still kind of a mess. The middle green section there is pretty much a lot of placeholders for actual scenes. Full of vagueries like “Rejects Summer” and “Fights magic with magic.” This was a problem with the first one, too. One of these days, I need to learn to nail down my scenes at this stage. But this is not that day! Then again, if I knew what magic she was going to do….well, that would just spoil the surprise for myself, wouldn’t it? And then where would the fun be?
I would say I’ve been hard at work on Reluctant Godmother #2, but that would be a lie. I’ve had too much crowding my brain this month to get much of anything done. But a little progress is still progress, so to celebrate crossing the 1/4 mark (please let it be the 1/4 mark…), here’s a (raw and unedited) sneak peek of what Tessa’s getting herself into this time!
Forests are dangerous places.
With one hand on my cameras and the other stabilizing my bag, I quick-timed it as fast as I dared back up the deer path.
I was just crossing a clearing, my eyes focused straight ahead, when something tall caught my eye off to my right, at the long end of the clearing. Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look.
It took me several seconds to make sense of what I was seeing. Partially because a blustery gust of approaching winter dried out my eyes, forcing me to blink to moisten and warm them. When I could see clearly, the rest of my confusion came from the incongruity of it all. It wasn’t a snake; it was a dress. And not just any dress. A ball gown. The puffy kind with tulle and chiffon and a breast-supporting bodice that hugged a slender, perfect hourglass figure. The woman’s skin seemed to glow with life, and I could feel the intensity of her blue eyes from thirty feet away. She lifted one delicate, petite hand and waved.
Alarm bells rang inside my head as my own hand rose to return the gesture of its own accord. My feet had stopped moving. My heart rate slowed. I could feel my whole body relax around me, even while my brain worked furiously to understand what was happening.
“Help me,” she called, though there was no urgency in her voice. “Please help me.”
Hell no! said my brain. Be right there! said my feet.
She moved toward me with a slow grace that made me feel like I was watching a Japanese horror flick. Strike that; that I was starring in a Japanese horror flick. People back home would be shouting at me to stop being an idiot, and I didn’t blame them. I was shouting at myself as fear rolled up my gullet like smoke signals from my stomach gremlin. Stop! Desist! Resist!
And just like that, I did.
My camera bag fell off my shoulder, landing on a rock with a metallic crunch. I winced and crouched beside it, gathering it up and prepping to bolt.
“Wait,” the woman-thing said, the creepy, dream-like quality in her voice vanishing. “You’re a woman?”
The pressure on my body, that dragging, drawing feeling that made me feel like I was a boat in a current with no sail or paddle, fell away. I peered at her cautiously, tilting my head in case she had a face like death. I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t horror walking. Nor was she as beautiful as she had seemed from afar. Up close, she was just…a woman. Like me.
Before I could move or say anything, she added, “In that coat I thought you were a burly lumberjack or something.” She crossed her arms over her bodice, her perfect figure now too-thin, her ribcage knobby beneath the stays.
I looked down at myself and muttered, “Oh. Awesome.”
She sniffed at me, her nose scenting the air like a hungry puppy. “You even smell like a man. Why is that?”
“Uh…beats me…” I slung my bag over my shoulder again and stood. “Who are you?” I wanted to ask what she was, but I felt like that might be unnecessarily rude and it seemed better not to piss off a woman who could make herself simultaneously angelic and creepy.
“Who, me?” She batted her eyelashes at me and tossed her hair. The movement showed me how limp the blonde locks really were. “I am Rohana, youth’s mistress. Lover of men and bringer of beauty. Who are you that look so mundane and yet can resist my call?”
“Tess,” I answered, dropping the ‘a’ for no definable reason. “Photographer.”
Her blue eyes – pale and watery now – widened as she clapped her knobbly hands together. “Ooh, is that one of those, those digitalis cameras? I love those! Mundanes are so clever. Here, this is my best side.” She fluffed her hair, placed her hand behind her head, and blew a kiss at me.
At the same moment, Mueller’s voice echoed through the trees. “Tessa? Where the hell are you?”
“Ooh!” Rohana squealed. “That’s why you smell like a man! You brought me one.” She sniffed at the air as the wind gusted again, leaving us downwind of where I thought Mueller’s voice originated. A sensual shiver coursed through her. “And he’s a virile one.
A second shiver. “You really shouldn’t have. It’s not even my birthday. Be a dear and call him here?” She giggled, and just like that, she was a fair maiden again, ready to head to a ball.
She began to glide across the clearing again. Apparently mannish thing that I was, I had no such facade to maintain. I surged to my feet, pressing my gear to my body tightly to enable me to run as fast as I dared on uneven ground. “Mueller!” I shouted, hearing my voice echo across the clearing. “Run!”
“Run to me, Mueller!” the echo shouted back. Except it wasn’t the echo. It was Rohana. With my voice. “Help me!”
I heard him crashing through the trees. Though I had no idea what sort of magical creature this woman was, I knew enough about fairytales to know a woman who could make herself beautiful at will gliding through the forest in a fancy dress was dangerous. I threw myself into her path, putting myself between her and my approaching friend.
“Wait!” I yelped. My hands fumbled with my cameras, selecting one at random. I lifted it to my eye just as she snarled, “No, not that one! The other one.”
Through the viewer of the antique camera, Rohana wasn’t beautiful. She wasn’t horrific, either. She was just…old. Like, insanely old. Like, walking, talking mummified princess old. The skin of her face was a mass of wrinkles held in place by what I could only guess were cobwebs. The skull beneath was well-defined, her high cheekbones protruding beneath sunken eyes and eyelids that drooped. Her mouth gaped, dark and terrifying, in a death smile. Beneath the tattered, dirty, ancient gown, her skeleton was just as obvious. She glided merely because her muscles could barely function.
Click went my camera.
The clearing erupted in a blood-curdling scream from that terrible mouth. “I said, not that one! Now I will have to kill you. Quickly, before your man gets here.” She advanced on me, her bones shaking precariously. “But don’t worry, sweetie. I’ll use your vitality to make sure he’s happy as he dies.” A tongue like a desiccated worm ran over her shriveled lips. “He’ll die of love. You, on the other hand…”
Her mouth formed an ‘o’ as she advanced on me. I retreated a step. Then another, lowering the camera with the slowness of shock and dread coursing through my own muscles. The plush, berry-red lips were open, her eyes locked on my mouth as she extended her delicate hands, reaching for me. To kiss me. To suck the life out of me.
I was going to write a big post about its challenges and rewards, but I’ll save that for another day. Right now, I’m too excited to do more than celebrate. I mean, this book was only 3.5 months later than anticipated–I’m getting better! ;D
Tessa Hargitay’s life has all the makings of a perfect fairytale: A woman out of hope and out of luck; a perfect, blood-red rose; the return of a childhood crush as a handsome, charming prince-of-a-man.
Except for Tessa, it’s not your run-of-the-mill happily ever after. In fact, it’s not a fairytale ending at all. With one unwary signature, she finds herself caught up on the other side of the tale–the side full of responsibility and dire consequences, and none of the rewards.
Tricked into becoming a fairy godmother, she has one shot to save the people of Denver (and her mom) from a coma-inducing sleeping curse. Unfortunately, her mentor has vanished, the Fairy Folk are too wrapped up in red tape to be of use, and her only ally is a growly machine tech who’s as human as she is. With no training and only vague sayings to guide her, it’s a prickly briar path Tessa isn’t entirely sure she wants to take.
But then, if there’s anyone who could get Cinderella to Comic Con on time, it’s gotta be a geek with a magic wand, right?