Category Archives: Writing

Into December and Beyond

November is over, which means no more frantic writing for me (hopefully just normal writing as I try to develop the habit).

I finished my 50,000 words one day early, so I only wrote about 100 words on November 30th, just enough to finish wrapping up the story.

Now the question is, do I jump right in to editing, or do I return to the poor project I abandoned months ago? I might have some new motivation for that, since it was a kind of processing project for me for my own life, and some situations really aren’t the same as when I started (and abandoned) that project. Maybe it’ll take me in new directions.

Maybe I’ll do a combination of both. Write some, edit some, and do whatever feels more fun every day.

Plus, I do often have to challenge myself: what’s the point in editing a book if I’m not going to do anything with it? Because, to be honest, I’m not in a mental position to go out there and start pitching my books. And sure, I can always self-publish, and maybe that would be somewhat successful, but I’m just not quite feeling at that place yet. But maybe soon. I’ve got to cultivate my creative confidence a little more.

The final countdown

As we start the last week of November, I’m ahead of where I need to be on my daily count to complete my story.

However, I’ve found I’m running out of steam, and out of ideas. I feel like I’ve exhausted my source of pet peeves and weird stories (though I was just recently reminded of one, that little can probably get some good words out of).

As I’ve been writing, I’ve found myself a little torn about what I include. After all, this story is supposed to be taking place in hell. Can there really be kind little old ladies? But, I’m not going to worry too much about it right now. For now, it’s just for my own personal enjoyment and decompression. I can worry about the flack I might get for it much later down the road.

As I’m ahead of where I need to be, I’m finding myself thinking a lot about the end. Some of my stories have simply ended. Some have been pulling teeth just trying to get to the 50,000 goal. Since I’m not behind, I have the luxury of thinking ahead a little. I think I know how it’ll end, I’ve been mulling it over for a while. And if so, I think it’ll be fun, and funny.

So for now, it’s about finding the steam to power through another 7,000 or so more words, until I get to writing the end.

NaNoWriMo: Halfway

We’ve passed the halfway point in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve managed to keep on track pretty much every day (or make it up the next day if I miss it by a little).

As a first this year, I’ve actually attended write-ins with some other writers in the area. It’s incredible what a little bit of accountability can do for a person. Sitting writing with others is fun and motivating, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m competitive, so a 15-minute sprint to see who can write the most is exactly what I need to get the words flowing.

I decided this year to write a story I’ve been mulling over for a little while, called Hell’s Bookstore. I didn’t really do a whole lot of planning for this month. I basically just had a list of things I wanted to include (mostly drawn from real-life experiences, I do work in a bookstore, after all), and I’ve just been writing them in. Honestly, there’s not even an overarching plot, more like a collection of anecdotes from the bookselling life. Everything from silly questions to mixed up book titles, irrationally upset customers to sassy responses.

And yet it’s been very fun to write, and cathartic, too. I can’t lie, it’s a lot of making fun of things people say and do in the bookstore. But, when in the service industry, one has to cope however they can. And if this book were ever to see the light of day, it would be dedicated to all my fellow booksellers and retail workers.

Flying by the seat of my pants has been an interesting change of pace from all my latest projects. Everything else has been pretty well planned. Most of the time when I sit down to write this month, I’ve got no idea what’s going to come out. And yet somehow I’ve made it past the halfway point.

I’m not sure what exactly it is about November that just somehow makes it possible for me to stick with a project, but I’m always glad of it. Now if I can just find a way to carry it over into the rest of the year.

Starting fresh

I don’t know if it’s that I know tons of other people are doing the same thing during the month of November, or if it’s just sort of become a habit that’s hard to break, but National Novel Writing Month in November seems to be the constant kick in the pants I need to get writing.

I wish it would last through the rest of the year, but maybe being refreshed every November will someday lead to a more consistent writing schedule throughout the year. After all, I’ve been able to keep it up for a few months throughout the last few years…

This year I decided to finally write the satire fiction about an employee working in a bookstore. Except the bookstore has a unique service policy–be sassy, snarky, sarcastic, and irritate as many customers as possible.

This gives me a wealth of ideas to draw from when I’m feeling stuck, all I have to do is think of my own day at work, and I’m bound to come up with something. It’s a great outlet for all the responses I have to swallow to customer questions and comments like, “where’s the nonfiction section?” And “I’m looking for a book.”‘

My bookstore employees also get to do all the things people assume we do in my store–like make up prices, hide political books we don’t agree with, decide how to categorize books, and create company policy.

Right now, the story is basically a collection of made-up anecdotes, snapshots from a day in the life. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t have a huge overarching plot. And while it kind of bugs me, because who’s gonna want to read a whole novel like that? I’m also just letting it go. I’m writing. I’m having fun with it. It’s engaging me and helping me feel grounded and connected. And it’s pushing me to get involved a little in the local writing community.

So we’ll see what we end up with in three weeks. It may never see the light of day. It may just be a little something I share with other retail workers for a laugh. Maybe someday it’ll be published and popular.

Either way, the process doesn’t have to be perfect, just creative.

Pantser or planner: Outlines

Ever have those weeks where you just don’t know where all your time goes? I’ve had two in a row. I’ve probably only written 10 pages between the two weeks. It’s a little discouraging, being tired and fatigued and feeling like I have no time. But I’m choosing to be glad about what I did get to write, and let go of the rest.

For this project, I’ve gone back to my former habit of just flying by the seat of my pants. I have synopsis of the book, a general idea of what happens, and I just go.

I’ve completed a couple drafts this way, but only ever while participating in NaNoWriMo. Though, let the record reflect that I don’t think I’ve ever finished a draft when it wasn’t in some way related to NaNo, so…

I go back and forth between planning  and pantsing, as it’s called in the NaNo world. While it’s fun to blaze uncharted creative territory, I think the more I get into it, the more I realize I like to have the outline. I like to know I’ve thought it through. I can still explore the story as I write, but an outline forces me to sit down and really think about the story.

When I fly by the seat of my pants, I think I use it as an excuse to be a little lazy with my thinking. I have an idea, and I just flounder along with it until I run out of motivation, inspiration, and creativity.

I hosted an event at work earlier this month, and during a panel on creative process (the little snippet I got to hear) one of the panelists said if you’re feeding your artistic side, the muse will visit you. I found it very encouraging. As long as I’m investing in my creativity, it’s progress. Sometimes I think I just need to accept that thinking about my work is equally as important as actually writing it.

So, I’m curious about your writing habits. Do you plan a lot? Make it up as you go? Somewhere in between?

Goals (again)

In the last week or two, I’ve really been thinking about how I set writing goals for myself.

In the past, I’ve focused more on time. “I want to write for X minutes, x times a week.” But this last week, I set myself page counts instead. Three to five pages, depending on what my day looks like. And for the most part, I found that I could easily accomplish it, and I got more done than when I’d been setting myself timed goals (timed goals are really great if you want to do a lot of dramatic staring and/or thinking. Page goals, you’re stuck there til you’re done, so I find I buckle down to business better).

Page goals have also helped me move my story along. Instead of getting bogged down researching something that’s going on in my story, I just write around it and plan to return when the time comes for editing. Without Google at my fingertips, it’s easier for me to fudge and move on, instead of cheating and calling research time writing time.

The other bonus is that instead of paying attention to the time, I’m just writing. Tracking pages is easier (I suppose I could use a timer, but I’d still just be checking it for my progress), and I find that I usually write a little more, trying to wrap up an idea, lest I forget all about it before I come back to the story (happens every time).

So this last week I feel like I’ve made more progress. Not as much as if I’d outlined the story, but, I’ll take the win I have. I’m enjoying letting the story unfold on its own, showing me the pieces I’m really more interested in sharing.

This project started out as the story of a girl leading a double life–pretending to be extroverted when she’s really more introverted. And while that’s still a big piece, it’s definitely focusing less on the double life bit, and more on self-acceptance. She’s got a lot of people telling her she isn’t OK being who she is. And she believes it. But by the end of this story, she’s going to be confident in herself, and she’ll tell those people to stuff it. She won’t be afraid to walk away from the toxicity. And that’s the part I’m excited to get to.

What kinds of goals do you set for yourself? Word counts, page counts, timed? No goals at all? What habit it your benchmark for a successful day of writing?

The Pen Versus the Keyboard

I’ve been hand writing for the entirety of my project so far.

I had discovered that, when snatching a few minutes throughout the day, I’d have more success hand writing than trying to write on my phone (I’m easily distracted). However, for the full project, I’m wondering if I’m allowing myself to be a little lazy by hand writing.

Although my project is coming along, I find that I can sit down to write for an hour, and still only get two or three pages written. Without a word count, I don’t really know how it compare to typing, but it feels like I’m not making as much progress as I could be if I were typing.

Typing can also allow me to stop thinking and just let the story go, I think. Whereas when I’m writing, I find myself pausing a lot, not getting quite as deep into the story during a sitting. But then, that could also be because I’d gotten into the habit of outlining more and having a chapter by chapter guide to work with, whereas this project I’m just letting the story do it’s own thing.

I found myself debating if writing out the story in a notebook was really the best way to go. But when I did have time to write, I still physically wrote. So, for now, I guess I’ll keep going with that.

I didn’t carve out as much time this week as I intended to, and this coming week will be tricky with my work schedule, but I’m committed to making it work. I keep saying it’s important to me, but not making a point to set aside time. That’s something I intend to remedy, starting now.

No Quitting Allowed

Last week I set myself a goal to set aside specific time to write, to use a couple bigger time chunks and really make some progress.

I wrote for one hour one day, and some half hour chunks a couple times throughout the week. What I discovered (not really so shocking) is that when I commit to longer periods of writing, I get more involved in the story. When the story is moving along, and I’m on a roll, I don’t actually want to stop. That’s an exciting mindset to be in, and one that I’ve missed, without even realizing it.

I’ve been handwriting my story so far (when I’m stealing a few minutes at work, I’m more likely to focus when I’m literally writing), which definitely has slowed down progress a little. But I’m OK with that. I’ve considered switching back and forth, but I think I will do the whole draft in this notebook (or at least as much as I can before it’s full). Transcribing it will be an editing opportunity.

I didn’t mention it in my last post, but I chose to go with story idea number 1: the girl living a double life, extroverted to the outside world, but truly very introverted. Already, things have been changing a little. She’s maybe not so introverted as me, which is OK. Also, the double life thing might be more of a background story, as what takes prominence (or has so far) is not allowing yourself to be molded into who someone else wants you to be. I’m not very far in. She’s still just meeting her biological family and trying to fit herself in with them. So we’ll see where the story goes and what direction it takes.

I’m not doing any outlining. Right now, it’s more of a free writing exercise, allowing the ideas that feel important to me to show themselves as they will. As I said, already things look a little different than I’d imagined. But that’s part of the process I love. It makes the stories I write as enjoyable as reading a really engaging book–I have a few ideas where the story could go, but I won’t know until we get there.

This week is going to be a long week, but I’m going to make a point to lose myself more in the story. I can feel it’s important for me to get out. I’m not going to allow myself to give up on this one.

Setting new goals

I have a confession: I have a hard time making myself set aside time to write.

I love writing. I love uncovering the story, planning and outlining. But I have a hard time making myself sit down and put it on paper.

I think maybe in part because lately I’ve been using stories to process my life, which makes it less of an escape than I might be looking for.

It may also just be that I’m lazy, and writing is work. But I don’t want to think about that.

This week, I didn’t set aside a lot of time, just some stolen moments. This week my goal is to actually set aside time. At least two days this week, I’m going to sit for at least an hour and just write, see where the story goes.

I’m not doing a lot of planning or outlining. I’m trying the fly by the seat of my pants approach, to see if it taps into my creativity in a different way.

But, despite not getting as far as I wanted, I did make a start last week, and that’s what counts. Beginnings are hard. I always feel pressure to start with something incredible, but that never seems to happen. But I chose to dive right in, and the story is already compelling (to me).

So, here’s to this week and accomplishing goals.

Choosing life, choosing ideas

It’s strange to think it’s only been about two months since I last really engaged in writing. It seems like it’s been so much longer.

While I was trying to use writing as a ladder to climb my way out of some darkness, I really just sort of tumbled deeper in. I’m in a better headspace now, and each week I’m learning and growing more, and I’ve found myself actually wanting to start writing again.

I’ve been plotting out a couple of ideas at week, and I’m excited about both. I need to choose one to start writing, and this time I’m actually going to write until the story is done (a draft, at least. I’m trying to be realistic). I’ve found that I’m still very drawn to the same kinds of things I’ve been wrestling with myself–identity, purpose, feeling stuck and reckless, mental health. Both the ideas I have right now deal with a lot of these topics, but in quite different ways.

Idea no.1 is the story of a woman who essentially lives a double life. On the outside, she’s pretty outgoing and likes to party. But this is a persona she’s created because she thinks it’s who she needs to be to feel accepted. What people don’t see are the various ways she has to cope with the effects of living as someone she isn’t. Somehow, she will have to uncover and accept her true self, regardless of who others want her to be and build the life she wants.

Idea no.2 is almost a fleshing out of one of the short stories I published this summer, but with some significant changes. A young woman is feeling very stuck in her life, and impulsively volunteers to be part of a colonization mission to a nearby planet. Her boyfriend refuses to go with her, so she goes alone and finds that all the same problems–feeling stuck, feeling alone, lacking purpose and dreams–followed her through space. She’s forced to accept that in order to see real change, she has to take charge of her life, make choices and take action instead of letting life happen to her.

The common theme in both these ideas is that these women have to accept who they are and what their lives are in order to take charge and enact change (I’ve been learning a lot about this over the summer). These are stories of self-acceptance, strength, personal growth, and ultimately choosing life over existence.

The problem now is choosing which one to write first. When I get into the story of one, I think it’s surely the one I want to write… right up until I add some notes to the story of the other idea. Then I think surely that’s the one I want to write. So I’ll ask for a bit of input for you, my readers (let’s call it proof that you’re there, ok?): which story would you be most interested in?