Monthly Archives: December 2015

December 2015 Update

I keep making a plan to update my website more frequently…or at the very least, more regularly. Somehow, it never quite comes together. Maybe in 2016…

Right now, I’m thrilled to be coming out of my first NaNoWriMo win. The first time I tried was about ten years ago, and I’ve signed up almost every year since then with the same outcome: Somewhere in week 2, I forgot I was doing it. This is my problem with many, many things in life, as I’m guessing it is for a lot of people. After all, they say it takes upwards of three weeks to make something a habit. Getting to three weeks, then, has to be pretty tough or there wouldn’t be a zillion books and blogs and professionals out there designed to help us build strong habits.

For me, November was the third month in a row of appreciably increasing my monthly word count, so 50k was bound to happen eventually. Still, it felt like tripping over a threshold. Yes, I’ve hit 50k in a month previously. Last December when I was writing the first half of Eternally Born, I know I hit it even though I didn’t keep track. But last month, I was keeping track. And for some reason that feels like it made all the difference. It feels like I’m going to do something with it this time.

It’s now been a year since I started publishing The Eternals, too, and two since I published my first novella, One For All. I have yet to make either of those go where I’d planned – my serial is only half done, still waiting for the first arc to be completed, and 13 Colonies is patiently awaiting the next novella in the series. Part of me…okay, all of me…really wishes I could have done more with that time. But I also realize that life happens, plans fall apart, and what matters is that I’m still writing, still planning, still moving forward. It’s not the most successful career yet, but dang if I don’t get a gold star for perseverance!

I gave myself three months to focus solely on writing. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I’m going to close out the year with over 200,000 words. That’s its own milestone – there may have been a year I wrote 150k when I was first trying to get published, but that was a long time ago. So I’m pretty excited about that, too! If I’d been working on other projects or focusing on completing them, that would be two full novels, more or less. As it is, it’s half a serial and three-quarters of two novels. Oops.

Now that I’ve had those three months, though, I have other things that need my attention. As we turn over into 2016, I’m trying to do better than I did those last two years. Rather than trying to work harder, I’m working smarter. The last two years proved to me that January and February are bad months for my creativity. They’re usually bad months for me in general, full of bad mojo, illness, and anxiety. They tend to be the worst months of the year, in fact. So much so that I have an ironclad prohibition against making major decisions between Christmas and the second week of March. This year, instead of trying to power through it, I’m going to back off and let myself coast. I’ll be hitting the gym to build up some nice, anxiety-busting endorphins. Still writing, but on a smaller scale with simpler goals.

So, that said, I’m trying hard to finish at least one of my current projects before the year is out. I was really hoping to get my serial finished this month, too, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. 😦

The one that makes me happiest is first on the docket, a contemporary fantasy filled with awkwardness and laughter. I’ve never made myself laugh so much while writing. In fact, I might even go so far as to call this book funny, which heretofore I never believed I could do. It’s a creativity-stretcher for that reason, but it’s also a lot of fun. Tentatively, I’m calling it “Wand For Hire.” It’s the story of a thirty-something who, completely out of luck, takes a temp job that lands her in the middle of a corporate war in the magic world…and finds that she’s signed herself into becoming a fairy godmother. It’s full of sexual innuendo, thanks to her gutter-brained sidekick, and I’ve never done silly like this. It’s fun!

The other is the first in a series that was supposed to walk the line between romantica and solid fantasy. It was supposed to be romantic, each book about a woman who falls in love with a dragon, and together they will all go save the world. Straight-forward, simple. Except those two concepts are not generally synonymous with the way I write. 😛 I knew somewhere around the second sentence out of my fingers that it was going to be something different. The writing was lyrical epic fantasy, the kind of book I loved so very much as a teenager. You know, back before grimdark turned everything all twisted and despairing. And the more I wrote, the more I discovered that the relationships that mattered most were not the women and their dragons – though those are definitely important – but the women and their sisters, their mothers, their families. It took me a good 70,000 words before I realized I was writing a lovely blend of women’s fiction and epic fantasy (and that I had inadvertently written two books into one, and lost 20k from my first book word count to book 2. I have a real problem with that…). It got hard to keep writing after that. One, because I suddenly needed to find the book’s plot without the subplot that was actually the central plot of book 2. And two, because it suddenly carried weight it hadn’t as a simple romance. It meant something. I needed to come at it from a different perspective, and that…well, it wasn’t difficult to do as much as it was to accept. Sometimes, I’m awfully stubborn…

So, those are my current projects. I’m hoping to finish both of them by the end of January, but all my plans fall apart in January so I don’t expect to get anything done until March. Ideally, I would like to release a new 13 Colonies novella for Valentine’s Day, too, and then release every two or three months until I have the room in my schedule to write the novels. Perseverance, baby. It’s all about perseverance. 🙂

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To Fun or Not to Fun

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of indie authors touting the notion that writing should be fun…and if it’s not, get out, because you’re in the wrong business.

Every time I hear it, it’s like a fairy falling lifeless to the ground when someone doesn’t believe. Before I go any further, let me say this:

If you want to be a writer, never let anyone tell you to stop.

I majored in Anthropology in college with the intent of becoming an archaeologist. I had my whole life mapped out around that core career. And then junior year, I had a professor advise us all to get out and find something new to do because technology was going to make us obsolete within ten years. I trusted his experience, relied on his authority in the field, and took his advice. It’s been eleven years, and archaeologists still exist. They still dig, still study, still catalogue. The field didn’t fail because of technology, it diversified. Had I gotten into it back then, I’d have been ahead of the curve. As it was, I left school for a while to figure out what else to do with my life and didn’t get my degree for another six years. I gave up my chance to do what I loved because I listened to someone who was supposed to know what he was talking about, and I kick myself every time I see a new archaeological discovery in the news. Because there are things I can’t do at 35 nearly as well as I could have done them at 25, not least because I have a family to care for.

If you want something for yourself, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t doubt that you can do it, that you have the right personality or interest base. Make it work for you. Find what you bring to it and diversify. Because what they’re really saying is, “You can’t do what I think you want to do/what I do.” But chances are pretty good that you don’t want to do whatever it is they see ahead of you; you probably want to do what YOU see, and that’s almost never the same thing. That goes doubly for creative pursuits.

Okay. Important message out of the way.

This particular bit of bad advice has been driving me crazy for months, largely because I’m not the kind of author who always has fun when she’s writing. ‘Cause you know what? I don’t write a lot of “fun” stories. The first novel I started with the intent to finish, back in high school, was about a half-elf who lost his family and became reliant upon a strong mentor figure who was secretly using him for his own dark ends. The first novel I actually finished was about a teenager whose siblings essentially sold her to a sadist to finance a revolution. Heck, the book I’m working on right now is amazingly fun to write, full of awkward moments and sexual innuendo, but it still has painful elements that have made writing it an emotionally unfun experience.

Writing doesn’t have to be fun. Even fun books don’t have to be fun all the time.

At least once during every book I’ve ever written, I get so angry at it that I want to tear it into tiny bits with my bare hands, chuck it in a fire to watch it sizzle and burn, and then gather up the ashes to craft something else I can destroy. It’s part of my writing process. I used to follow a traditionally published author who said whenever she hit that moment, her family would respond with, “So you’re on the right track, then!” Because it was also part of her process, and she only ever hit it when the book was coming together well.

Personally, the best fun I have with a story is if it’s challenging. If it makes me work, makes me question how I’m writing it or why I’m writing it; if it makes me realize something about myself or the ideas I want to convey; if it’s hard, that’s when I love it most. I think a lot of writers equate “fun” with “easy,” like it can only be fun if you’re blowing through scenes like Bonnie and Clyde blew through banks and emerging from most sessions with an adrenaline high. Frankly, if that’s the only part of writing you experience, I think you’re missing out. But that’s just me; I’m in it because it’s who I am, not just what I do. YMMV (and should).

Basically, it all boils down to this: All writers are different. All books are different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Find your niche, find your passion, find your process, and then cheer on everyone else.

And if you’re the one giving advice, don’t be the reason someone looks back ten years from now and regrets the choices they made. Uplift each other. Change up your perspective.

Diversify!