Beginning Revisions

My nano novel this year was more of a novella at 35K words. However I’ve decided not to give up on it. Just like revising and submitting Hindsight will only make me a better writer, revising Heroes in Name will also make me a better writer. The biggest problem I have is revision. I’ve done a partial revision on With Teeth, back when it was called something else and have since decided to rewrite it rather than revise it because most of the draft was crap and I wanted to go in a different direction.

I had been planning on doing the same with Heroes, thinking that a complete rewrite would be the only way to make it good enough. However today I took another look at it and there are gems hidden throughout. Not sparkly gems, they still need some polish, but I can keep the basic plot of more than half the written scenes. Of course to make it a novel, I’ll have to add several, over 50 new scenes, which shouldn’t be too difficult once I get a grasp on it.

So how did I figure this out? By going scene by scene and writing a brief sentence describing the main action of each scene. Then I went scene by scene and marked what scenes are basically keepable as is, which scenes need work but can be kept and which scenes make no sense now. Overall, between in tact scenes and workable scenes, I have about 43. The beginning  needs a bit of work and the ending needs to be fleshed out and I need a whole lot of middle, but there is something there that tickles me, that makes me want to delve back in.

So new goal. Revise Heroes in Name, at least one full revision in 2014. I’d like to get it out to Beta readers sometime this year and so that is my stretch goal.

I’m not done examining what I already have. Following Holly Lisle’s How to Revise a Novel, I’m now working on figuring out the plot that I got and the conflicts that I’ve started to develop.

New Years Resolutions

I am terrible at goals.  I make such lofty promises to myself and then I fail, making me more miserable. However without any goals at all, I don’t accomplish anything. So the obvious solution is to make realistic goals. That’s my new years resolution this year as well, to make realistic goals.

It’s hard for me to make a goal that lasts all year but I’ve tried for this year to have a single goal of having one novel finished by the end of the year. And by finished I mean either queried out or self-published, depending on the route I choose for that book. I haven’t even decided what book that is going to  be but that’s another blog post.

My stretch goal or as you could call it my impossible goal, is to write 500,000 new words this year. This can include fiction drafts both novels and shorter pieces, blog posts, critiques, etc. Whatever I feel like counting as new words. I don’t know how many words I’ve written in 2013. I completed a novella that was 35,000 words and a short story that topped out at 20,000 words. However I’ve written more than that this year, other short stories that were never finished, partial revisions and a full revision on that 20K short story, bringing it down to 6k right now.

Speaking of Hindsight, it is currently with readers in the critters program that I am a part of. I’ve already gotten 3 critiques and the story was posted on Wednesday so that’s exciting. The critiques are very useful for things that are not clear to the reader but also very kind and include praises for what they liked. I’m trying to focus on the correction pieces though. I had put up the first scene at Absolute Write and got mauled. I’ve since rewritten the scene (the rewritten scene is the draft that the critters got) but it’s still far from perfect. I haven’t got the guts to repost it to absolute write yet and I’m not sure I will. Not because of fear (though I am afraid) but because I’m not sure where I’m going with that story. I don’t know how much I’m going to fix it. I know I should. I should just get over my hesitation, revise again based on feedback and send that sucker out. It’s going to get rejected but hey. That’s the writer’s life.

So now that I’ve talked myself into it, my new added goal for 2014 is to submit Hindsight to multiple short story markets to get a sea of rejections. Who knows. Maybe someone will love it.

Now not all my goals have to be writing based. I have some ideas on what I want to focus on this year in regards to my health, both mental and physical. It’s just hard to quantify.

What are your thoughts on new years resolutions? Are you like me, making them every year just to see them fail? Do you find resolutions foolish? What resolutions do you have this year?

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up

During a conversation with my husband, he admitted that he didn’t have a dream, or at least he didn’t know of one, that he still didn’t know what he wanted in life. The thought of not having something to strive for, something to reach for, depressed me. He assured me that he was far from alone. That at 27 plenty of people had no idea what career they wanted. But it wasn’t about careers to me, it was about dreams, even the impossible or improbable. How can you not know what you want in life?

But truthfully, while I know what I dream, what I want my life to be, which is writing, writing and more writing, I couldn’t tell you what I’d want to do with my life if I can’t write. So is there just a disconnect between us, both of us thinking different definitions to the question of dreams or am I just the dreamer in the relationship and he’s the doer, bring home the money so I can follow my unpaid dream while we share the responsibility of raising two little ones, a dream I think we share, to give them lives full of love and laughter and education and responsibility and civic duty and obedience and worship and on and on. But we can’t live through our children and I don’t think either of us wants that.

So now I want to help him find his dream, find what he wants to strive for, to give him the freedom to pursue what some might call impossible. For he has given me the gift of understanding and loving for me to pursue what fulfills me without expectation. And that is why my husband is the greatest man and I love him dearly. And no, I’m not letting him go.

Setting Realistic Expectations

One thing therapy has taught me is that I have unrealistic expectations of myself. And then when I don’t make a goal, I take it out on myself. And I never make my goals because they are too far out of my reach. I’ve instituted making realistic expectations when it comes to housework. I prioritize now and I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get everything done. This way I get some things done, am satisfied with myself and finish off the rest at a later time. Though to be honest there is no such thing as being done with housework. Before I would make a lofty list, stall out on the first item and then go eat some ice cream and play video games, nothing getting done.

So while I have accomplished some in setting realistic expectations, I still struggle with it for my writing. It being the last month of the year, I’ve been goal setting for 2014 and man my goals are awesome. I’ll list my writing goals below:

1. Finish the rough draft, the revision and submit the queries of With Teeth.

2. Finish the revision and submit the queries for Heroes in Name.

3. Write and submit 52 flash fiction stories (one per week)

4. Write and submit 12 short stories (one per month)

5. Finish the rough drafts of Bad Apple and Duty, Love, Honor.

Anyone else tired after all of that? For some people the above is entirely possible. For me, it may even be possible, if I forsake my kids, my responsibilities and any other activity but writing. It isn’t very realistic of me. So I have a couple of choices in how I handle my goals. I can set the high goal and be happy that I accomplished anything that I do or I can make my goals much more reasonable. I’m going with reasonable.

1. Finish first draft of something

2. Revise a novel and submit queries

But these are “simple”. I know I can do it so I’m going to also make some stretch goals, aka goals that are just a little bit out of reach. Goals that I probably won’t make but that I will accomplish much in trying to reach them. I’ve decided not to plan out which projects I’m going to work on and let my muse have a little bit more room rather than being boxed in.

My stretch goal for 2014 is to write 1 million words. This can be first draft, blog posts, rewrites, anything. I want to reach 1 million words written in a year. Breaking this goal down, I am aiming for 20k words written a week or about 3k a day.

So when making goals for yourself, how do you go about it? And what are your goals for 2014?

Pratical Time Management

I can waste hours talking about time management but at that point it is more about procrastination than truly using my time wisely. So I thought I’d back up the theoretical with some practical, how I personally manage my time.

I’m not nearly as time starved as others out there. I have the luxury of working from home. But rather than having a block of time to work, I have to find the time in between house keeping, running after a three year old, chauffeuring a five year old to school and supplementing his education at home. Add in time with my husband after an exhausting day for the both of us and unless I am being intentional with my time I go to bed each night too late to wake up to early to have done anything work related.

My time during the day is certainly not wasted. I enjoy the time with my children and I know it is important to keep a healthy and clean house, however if I’m not intentional I find myself wasting the moments of quiet (relative quiet, it is never truly quiet with a 3 year old) on facebook and reddit.

The first time I open my lap top, I no longer fire up firefox and check my email. I immediately open scrivener and get to work. There will be interruptions, there always are but I’d rather tell my child, one more minute while I finish this sentence than one more minute while mommy finishes this meme. Its all about priority. If something is important to you, whether it’s work or pleasure, make it the first thing you do when time allows. So how does a day for me look?

Any time there is a lull, when I know I have at least five minutes to check my email or play a facebook game, I work on most important project at the time. I continue to work on this project, in between inevitable interruptions until I meet my word or page goal (depending on if it’s new work or editing). I work down my list until I have it finished for the day. The priority of the list is dependent on deadlines on whether I’m editing or drafting first. Once that is done, any other free time is spent on social media building brand. This is where I get to check my email, play on facebook and chat with friends. I get to call this work even though it’s far more fun and rewarding.

I spend the relative quiet of driving my son to school twice a day to work on plot problems and think. Driving is a great time to get lost in your own thoughts, just be careful. On longer rides, I find listening to podcasts or audio books a great use of my time.

I also spend most of my evenings before bed reading. Reading is second only to actually writing in importance to being a working writer. The downside to my nightly sessions are if I’m at a really good part, I don’t want to stop which equals zombie me in the morning.

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors

A good article on what we should be thinking about before we self-publish by social media maven Kristen Lamb.

When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors.

Time Management for the Time Starved

There are never enough hours in the day for anyone. Our lives are full of work, family, friends, hobbies, sleep, food, responsibilities, more sleep, more food, more responsibilities, etc. I struggle to balance the all day, every day work of keeping a household and wrangling two little ones. And while I have access to more stolen moments being home than if I was clocking a nine to five, finding more than fifteen minutes of silence and solitude is a challenge. Even after the kiddos are asleep, the husband needs some of my time as well lest our marriage dies.

So how do we find time for all of those activities that matter to us? The first step in time management is the simple realization that it isn’t about finding time, but rather about prioritizing our time. This is what separates the hobbyist from the professional in any creative endeavor. A hobbyist will create when he has the time, rather than carving time specifically. A professional not only carves out specific time but does it on a regular basis.

If only it were as simple as that though. Not only do we need to have the time to create, we need to have enough time. I tend to underestimate how much time I need for any one activity. It becomes more complicated when I don’t consider all the time requirements of a project. When I’m writing, I don’t just need the time it takes to put words on paper, I need time to think, to plan, to become absorbed.

I especially find it difficult to plan ahead the actual time. Even if I know how long I need, I never know when that time will come. Having a three year old and a five year old who never wake up at the same time or go to bed at the same time every day, planning to write before or after they are in bed are a challenge that can often times be squashed with a little bad luck.

I never know when during the day that I will have a whole uninterrupted hour to get my word count in. I simply have to be ready to pounce on the opportunity and be flexible enough to go with whatever interruptions may occur. This means I have to be active in making choices during the day.

For example, both kids are currently in the bedroom with their father, absorbed in whatever it is that they are doing. I don’t know how long it will be before one or both of them decide that mommy is more interesting right now than daddy, but at this very moment I have both the time and the quiet I need to work. And it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that I’m working and need quiet. They are too young to not be selfish. Before I started typing this post, I had a brief moment where I realized the opportunity I had. Now I could have gone online, checked my email, checked twitter, or even started up Mass Effect. But I knew that I prioritized my writing above those things and took advantage.

But that often isn’t enough. Many times I will have the time and yet have no idea what to say. Instead I find the minutes ticking away as I stare at the blank page and as more time disappears into the ether, the more frantic and stressed I become because I know that I have only mere minutes before the blessed silence is broken. Now I have wasted that time and still have nothing to show for it.

This is where knowing exactly what you need is important. I know that I will need some time to think, to grow the words in my head before my fingers can tell the story. Thinking can come at any moment, though the best ones are when I’m engaged in an otherwise mindless task such as laundry or dishes. Housework, while I loathe it, is a writers second best friend (after the computer). It needs to be done so it gives you a built in time to live in your mind, to explore story problems, brainstorm blog ideas, and play with characters and plot. Just don’t assume that whatever you think of will still be there in the stolen moments to come. I always keep a small notebook nearby so when epiphanies strike, I can scribble enough down that it will jog my memory later. Showers work great as well and if you are really worried that the ideas will die before you can write them down, invest in those bath markers they sell to kids and just write it on the tile.