Monthly Archives: February 2019
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!