Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Write First = 50% Complete!

As stated to my coworking group on our monthly goal-setting call last month in February, my goal was "Write First" every day for March. Because the days that I don't get as much work completed on my novel are when I start on some other personal life task--finances, something for the kids, so forth--and never end up circling back.

February was a challenging month. I discovered something big needed to change with my novel and had to re-edit my first eight chapters. Painful!!!! But I got through it. 💪

I got distracted by potentially writing a short story to publish in an anthology in the midst of all that. I plotted it and wrote the first chapter--and had many calls with friends but ultimately decided not to proceed.

BUT writing is writing, and don't worry, that content will find its way in a different women's fiction quadrilogy that I will write later around my happy place: Charleston, South Carolina.

And here we are, coming up on March goal-setting on next Monday. I have to figure out what my new goals will be. But the ones I set for March? Guess what--they worked! Squee! I've been very focused, and I've finally hit 50% completion of my novel!

I am both so proud and relieved--and also like, oh shit, now I have to do the same amount of work again, but in less time! 😱😱😱 Because I have pitching deadlines, I want this first draft to be complete (if not edited) by then.

However, despite the currently projected 2,430 words I need to pump out every weekday to meet the current goal, I am optimistic. Why? Not because I output 3,131 words Monday or 2,387 yesterday. No, because I think my strengths are working for me!

I've spoken before about the great courses I've taken as part of The Better Faster Academy with Becca Syme. In it, you take the Gallup Strengthfinders test, and the coaches with this program essentially help you figure out how to leverage your strengths to be most effective.

I am a Patreon for the program, and one of the benefits I get at the level I contribute is monthly microcoaching. I had my session yesterday, and the coach basically said that my maximizer (#2 strength) and strategic (#3 strength) were doing their thing correctly. Everything has to be perfect for me early in the process, and I always feel that I can do more. But once I start approaching a deadline, it just has to be DONE, so those strengths kind of let up. What's good enough now may not be the same as what was good enough a couple of months ago, but that's perfectly okay and shows that those strengths are functioning well. 😂

And we talked about how I'm good with boundaries (#4 relator strength), so I've been good about saying okay, I've met my word count. I can take a break, go for a walk. Work-life balance and all.

But I was concerned that I should be riding the wave, the juice, while I have it and continue pumping out words because there will be days when I am less productive. And the coach pointed out that since I mentioned I have childcare constraints, and since I seem to maybe be a mood writer, I should probably ride it out.

Hahaha. So that's the understanding I'm at now. Here's for the big upcoming April push. Send me all the good vibes, please!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2022

What Else Can I Do? H/T Encanto

Y'all my kids have been singing Encanto on repeat. But I never dreamed it was going to help me with my creative endeavors.

Lo and behold, about 2 weeks ago, I was deep in research because I had paused my writing when I thought maybe, just maybe, I was bullshitting too much and depriving my reader. So I spent pretty much two months reading and highlighting textbooks on one of the main subjects (I know I'm aging myself a la Miranda in And Just Like That), and I realized I was going to have to make a significant pivot on the inciting conflict of my novel.

Unfortunately, I've already written 1/3rd of the first draft of the second version of my first book (le sigh...), and now I was going to have to edit with a heavy hand, the first four chapters, and with a lighter touch on the following four chapters after that, which I'd already drafted.

Considering I'm already rewriting from scratch a book I've already written once, it was more than a little disheartening of a discovery.

First, I had to figure out how to make this pivot. That's where my accountability partner comes in. God bless him, but he had been saying, and saying, and saying to me that if I ever needed to talk anything through, just to call him. No big deal. All casual like that. It has been a long hard road for me to learn to make that call and realize I can actually brainstorm with people.

I'd done it once this year with my mentor Lori, and she helped me greatly improve my black moment, and once with my good friend who went on the writing retreat with me Keely, when I was trying to solve I can't remember what. So this was the third time.

I don't know why this concept is so hard to get through the head of a #1 strength Self-Assurance person like myself, to call for help.

But I rang up Gabriel, and honestly, we went down a couple avenues, but finally together found the right answer, and in less than an hour! I now accept that when I hit a roadblock, external processing with a friend can save me literally DAYS of time sweating what turn my writing and plot need to take.

So great and dandy, and the next day I go to sit in front of the computer, and I froze up. The idea of editing again, when I'd been editing for YEARS made me sick. I was not excited. I was intimidated.

I knew I needed a song to help me get in the mood to tackle this obstacle. That was when this Encanto song, "What Else Can I Do?" popped into my head. You see, this character Isabel is perceived as the perfect sister, and is singing about how she has the magic power to make roses, but when she accidentally makes a cactus she is thrilled. The beginning lyrics of the song are:

"I just made something unexpected

Something sharp, something new

It's not symmetrical or perfect

But it's beautiful and it's mine

What else can I do?"

They just hit me so dead on. And I started editing, and I was loving it, and having fun!

My story had taken a turn I didn't expect, but I could feel how much better it was, how much better it would be, for me going through the pain of making this change.

So if you need this sort of change and inspiration--I highly recommend calling a friend and listening to this song. :) Here's the video of this part of the movie--enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2022

It's a New Year Baby

You'll probably see a bit less of me blogging or sending the newsletter, at least through April. I'm hyper-focused on minimizing distractions in my life and doing what matters most to me to achieve my goals. Or if I do post, I'll try to make it short and to-the-point, a quick update of where I'm at, what I'm doing, where I'm going.

Last year, my word of the year was "DEFY". I wanted most of all to defy my own expectations. I don't know if I did quite that but it was certainly a year of growth for me. This year, I've deemed it the year of "LESS". Here is what I've come up with:

The Year of Less

LESS social media/news/browsing/distractions
LESS alcohol & bad food
LESS buying things I don't need/spending money
LESS worrying about things that don't matter

MORE focus on my novel and reading
MORE enjoying the moment with my family
MORE moving my body and healthy foods
MORE spirituality/self-care/goal-setting

I realize that LESS and MORE look equal. But by cutting down on more of the former, I can do so much more of the latter. And that is the point. In my next blog post, I'll look to update my word count goals so I can hit my much more targeted writing deadlines.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

We Did It!

I am so happy with how our writing retreat in Kiawah Island, SC went. Not only did we get a lot of words and a lot of work done, but my writing friend Keely and I also had a relaxing and wonderful time!

First of all our travel magic (h/t to our friend Angele) was in full effect when we arrived, as they decided to give us the white wrangler to drive around despite that not being at all what I reserved.

Then, we swung by the amazing Angel Oak tree on our way -- this tree is estimated to be over 400-500 years old, possibly one of the oldest living things in the country! When you touch the bark--you can feel the energy. It's truly special.

Perfect way to start with some inspiration!

Then we did a little drive around tour of Kiawah Island, got into my condo, made some lunch, and then took a walk to the beach to get the energy flowing again and set our intentions for the trip.

We got after some writing when we returned, setting up on the screened in porch, which turned out to be our primary spot of word-smithing for the trip--shocker--and I got in a solid 2367 words before we had to get ready and head to dinner at the River Room. Not too shabby! We pretty much gorged ourselves there--it was the beginning of us spoiling ourselves for all our hard work. ;)

The next day, we made breakfast, then went for a bike ride around the island to see some of my favorite homes and again get our blood flowing, and saw a big old gator! There's something about those prehistoric predators...

We got some writing in afterwards... made some lunch, and did a virtual check-in with another writing friend Gabriel who we were missing... then it was off to the Sasanqua spa!

We didn't enjoy that at all, ha. Drove over to the beach, passing by some deer buddies who we saw constantly throughout the trip:

And enjoyed a lovely walk to wake us back up after supreme relaxation!

Returning to the condo, we got back to work, reinvigorated and our writers' bodies not feeling quite so pinched. My masseuse had literally called me out for my chest muscles being too tight from sitting at the computer ha! I was like, uh, that's what I'm here to do. But all in all, I netted another 3037 words on Friday, so no complaints from me!

Off to the B-Liner at the Beach Club we went, with my favorite waitress there Sara, and really it's one of my all time favorite restaurants, so there is no going wrong. We ate well, we drank well, and had so many good chats about our work and our lives.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and then it was off to beach yoga outside the Sanctuary and man was that special. And the warmth of the sun on our faces during savasana at the end, I really didn't want to get back up. Our instructor was fabulous and the zen was in full effect, so we didn't get more words in until after lunch at the Marsh House!

However, there I did get in an additional 1617 words in after lunch, before having a writer's revelation that I need to do a bit more research on a specific topic, because I was beginning to feel like I was BS'ing my way through it, LOL. But that's okay. So that's where I left off with my writing, and that's what I have to get into this week.

We ended the trip by sitting out on the beach for golden hour, which was entirely out of control gorgeous and peaceful and perfect, and then enjoyed some shrimp and grits at Jasmine's Porch, which you kind of have to have while in Kiawah, SC. Lastly, we enjoyed LoveHard on Netflix, which was an adorable romantic Christmas flick--which we highly recommend!

Sunday morning I dropped off Keely, and got in one final really inspirational moment... kayaking with the dolphins!

All in all, pre-trip I was at 23% complete with my novel, with 19,648 words written. After our trip, I'm now at 31% complete, with 26,669 words written. Whoop whoop!

I don't know if I can still get this book done by the end of year, but damn it I'm making good progress, and it's only a matter of time!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Night B4 My Mini-Writing Retreat!

I am so excited I'm leaving tomorrow for a mini-writing retreat with another writing friend, staying for a long weekend in my rental condo in Kiawah Island, SC!!! Woo-Hoo!!!

I was real productive the first 3 days of last week, with the last day even achieving close to 4000 words! That was huge for me.

But then I had a special family member coming in town Friday, so had to prep Thursday, and then took the time off to enjoy being with her. Dropped her off at the airport this morning, and this day has consisted of packing and switching out my girls' clothes for the winter... and cleaning the house as it was in dire need. We'll see how well the hubs can keep it up by himself (relatively) with our two girls and pup, LOL!

When we bought this place in Kiawah "our happy place" early pandemic summer 2020, I projected, dreamed, of using it quarterly for writing retreat weekends. It's taken over a year, but FINALLY I'm getting to use it that way. I truly hope that I can make it a more regular occurrence in coming years. And I can't wait to see how much I can push myself to get done in one weekend.

So here's where I left off--23% complete, at 19,648 words. I'll report back after the weekend!

*Happy to give credit for all memes featured on this page--could not figure out original creators!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Pulling Teeth & No Nonsense


Writing for me lately has been like pulling teeth. I've been told time and time again that you can't wait for your muse. See that time I saw my fave Nora Roberts talk at the Washington Post. You just have to practice BICHOK aka "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard."

I know this; I practice this. But even when I write 1000 words in 45 minutes, it doesn't feel like it's flowing for me in the past couple of weeks. I THINK or HOPE it's because I'm a better writer now. The first time I wrote my book in 2013, I pumped out 50K words during the infamous Nanowrimo in November. And man my hands just flew across the keyboard. It all came so easily.

Now I agonize over every decision. Is there enough conflict? Are the characters following their growth arcs? Are they showing attraction to one another too soon for my current primary trope? Don't forget the setting and the weather. Make sure the opposing hero/heroine is in the room in some way, they need to be together more. More white space in my dialogue, people don't talk like my brain. What physical intimacy level should they be at now? OMG, I am going to make myself crazy.

With knowledge is power. Hopefully, my writing is sooo much better. But at the same time, I can't write with the freedom I once did. My brain is in the way.

Regardless, my accountability partner and I had our weekly call this morning, and talked about how we were going to "get after it" in November. That we wanted to co-commit to a specific writing time. I created a document that captured all the guidelines we are agreeing to follow in the upcoming month and named it "No Nonsense November". What I have to remember is:

I mean, given, the whole reason I'm rewriting a book that I already wrote once, and edited into a Frankenstein version, is because it needs to be better. But I've maximized (my #2 strength) the hell out of this book for the past year, and so at some point I have to let something be "good enough".

So anyhow, here's my updated progress chart. Keeping on with the transparency. I'll just try to share a few times through November how it's going! And also I have a little writing weekend planned with a fave writing friend at my fave place (I watch this whenever I need to transport myself to some peace), so hopefully I'll take a big chunk out then!

Slow and steady wins the race? 😉

*Happy to give credit for all memes featured on this page--could not figure out original creators!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Writing is Freaking Me Out

I'm writing, and it's freaking me out. I've spent so many years working on this novel. And then so many months this year, reworking the plot and thinking through every angle. And editing the crap out of the new Chapter 1 to make sure I don't make mistakes throughout. And now I'm finally really diving into rewriting this novel, and it's happening and flowing, not easily but in a way that I approve of and it's terrifying and exhilarating me.

Yesterday, I was really happy with the words I wrote, though slowly. Today, I feel like the pacing is too slow. Lots of words, but dragging things out to get to the point. But I'm not going to worry about it. Just get it out. I can always tighten up later right? (Did I mention I hate editing my own stuff?)

It's cool though, I'm making progress and I'm moving forward, each day a little more. I was at the immersive Van Gogh exhibit last week with a writer friend and one of the quotes was about how sketches are seeds from which a painting grows, and I was like, aha! My plotting are seeds from which I'll write words and add color!

It made me feel so much better, because the plotting, at least for me, is crucial--and yet you don't feel like you're moving anywhere, which is frustrating for someone who has high Achiever strengths.

My more recent goal was to finish this first novel by Halloween. However, I have a better understanding of how many hours I'm getting in per week, and my pace, and so I entered it all in to -- a great site for those looking to calculate how long it will take to finish your novel, and I've come to realize Thanksgiving seems more realistic now. It's still aggressive, but I think doable. Pray for me, haha.

According to my current goal of 86,500 words in 64 days, I'm at about 6% complete right now. And then once I get there I'll have to edit at some point. Ughhh. We'll get there when we get there. My current mantra I keep repeating to myself, "Progress not perfection."

Yesterday, I heard about the new "ultra white" paint, which I researched heavily and have already worked in to the story about my green roof architect.

Today I looked up how to format text messages in your novel. It is hard to make it aesthetically appealing and have easy readability.

I also accidentally found out that "edging" has a double entendre and so definitely used it as such. 😂

In non-writing news, I dyed my hair red this week, so that was fun, and makes me feel like I have extra fire 🔥 to make things happen!