I know I promised you a post last week on my Writing and how it took a shit kicking last year. I kind of put that off, because I was having a minor panic attack about buying a house. Getting pre-approved for a 335 000 mortgage doesn’t necessarily mean that is a price we want to pay and or spend on a house. I talked it out with Cowboy, and we have a better idea of what we like and what we want to pay money for and what we are willing to sacrifice on. Soo huzzah for that.
But last year, and my writing. I wrote 70k on Paris Above. At 70K you would think I was done the novel. I’m not. Nowhere near. I feel a bit like Edison and the light bulb. I have discovered many possible ways in which this novel does not work. Surprisingly I am okay with this.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – let’s start with some backstory:
There was a time when I was excited about writing but didn’t know how to push myself. I went online and read some advice from various authors I admired on their blogs and it came down to finding my writing community. I found NaNoWriMo. The first year was all magic and sunshine and shooting stars. My writing needed work but I adored the community aspect. So much so that I tried to hold onto it afterwards by creating the Monday Night Writers. We met every Monday afterwards for 2 years. 2 years I led this group. Sure we were organized chaos at best, but this was still my baby, you know?
After my first NaNoWriMo, I also joined a critic group, which I have affectionately nick named the UW. They had already been established but they invited me into the fold. They met once a week too – on Wednesdays. Then we fluctuated to Thursdays for a while, while fluctuating locations. There has been a lot of flux, but all flux in the good kind of way to try and make this group work.
I also decided because I loved NaNoWriMo so much I wanted to give back to that community. I ML for 2 years on Script Frenzy, before finally dropping it as 2 months away from the Novel was too big a commitment to heard novelists into writing a script. Though I will say Script Frenzy was a good experience in learning about a different sort of writing style. I also ML’ed for 2 years for NaNoWriMo. That is also 2 months of my time taken up with an event. One month for planning and another for execution and pep management. I wasn’t giving my novel the full attention it deserved.
That is a lot of commitments in a girl’s life. Perhaps it would be fine if writing was only ever going to be a hobby for me. Maybe as a hobby it was too much too? What I do know is at one point I was looking at 4 months a year to putting on events and 2 nights every week for meetings. I also work full time. I have a house to clean, food to make, dogs to walk, gym to go to to stay healthy and fit, and other hobbies I really love. I pretty much was burnt out already.
Then last year happened. Last year punched me in the gut hard. I kept trying to pick myself up and push myself and make everything better and move on like normal. I didn’t want to admit defeat. Last year was hard in the way that I questioned my choices regarding writing. Writing is hard. Would it have been easier to have given up that dream? But then I had a hard time imagining the rest of my life. Who would I be without the writing dream? Would I just go home every night and watch TV and knit? Sure I love doing those things, but I also like the idea of a larger dream. A creatively fulfilled life. Not a mundane wash rinse, repeat kind of life. I just couldn’t give up the dream of writing as a long term life goal. But the questions was, what can I do right now about it?
I always kind of thought that I could be one of those people who when the going got tough I could hide from the rest of the world in my writing, the same way I used to find solace in a good book growing up. Last year proved to me that wasn’t the case. Yes I wrote 70K last year on Paris. But that was largely due to the guilt of having a critic group I reported to regularly. That guilt kept me trying to keep those pieces of me held together, when sometimes I wasn’t sure I could. There were days where I forced myself to meetings and it was the right thing to do because being around like minded people was good for my soul. I know I wasn’t the best writer group member last year. But having them let me hold onto that dream a little tighter when I might have considered giving it up. I couldn’t imagine these people not in my life.
A change needed to be made though. I couldn’t keep going like I was. When I went back to work (yes part of the year of suck was being laid off last year) I dropped the Monday Night writers group. This was something I had been thinking about before but could still pull off making a decision on while being unemployed. Going back to work though I was still super fragile, and after a few weeks I knew I didn’t have the energy to devote to this group anymore. I handed off responsibility completely and haven’t been back. I can’t. It’s hard to explain, but I needed a clean break from that commitment.
There is still guilt associated with that decision. I don’t want the people to think it was them. They are awesome. In fact I want to get together for a once a month dinner social. We could talk books and writing like we used to, but without the pretense of pretending to write either. I loved the social aspects of that group and our dynamic; I just couldn’t do the commitment anymore.
After NaNoWriMo this year (which I pretty much dropped out of in the middle of it due to a death in the family – the final punch in the gut for last year), I thought about not ML’ing again. I mentioned it to some friends and was told to think about it. In the new year, I made the decision to drop ML-ing. My favorite year of NaNoWriMo was the first year. The year of magic as a participant. The year where anything was possible. I didn’t have to go to every write in, I could go to the ones I wanted to and appealed to me. As an ML I felt obligated to go to everything I planned. I also felt because I was trying to give so much to the writers and make it a positive experience for them I wasn’t giving enough to me and my novel and it wasn’t a positive experience for me. Once I made that decision and declared it to all the appropriate people it was like another pressure valve being released.
Lastly, my critic group has decided to drop down to a bi-weekly schedule – probably with much prodding on my behalf. We have also backed away from mandatory monthly critics for the moment as we all focus on our novels. Strangely a part of me misses them on a regular basis. I miss the structure it forced me to have on my writing life. It forced me to show up with words written. Two weeks in between and I need to learn how to be a lot more in control of my writing life now.
My issue tends to be that I let everything else come before writing. What it boils down to is that writing is hard. It’s easier to clean the house and feel like I got something done than to worry and gnaw over a chapter for several hours and only get 500 words. On a time management scale it’s hard to justify some days.
There are some things I want to try and implement this year. It will be hard because this year we are buying a house. This is a huge positive for me! But at the same time I know me. I will want to make that house perfect! I will want to devote all of my time towards making the house as perfect as I can now, so I can just settle in and relax.
I want to do a once a month writing intense weekend. One where I clean my house on Thursday and hunker down Friday to Sunday night and write. Breaking maybe only for dog walking and maybe a Saturday night social. Maybe only for dog maintenance.
But I also don’t want to only write on those writing intense weekends. I want to have my writer brain turned on all the time. Working in my previous department I had learnt how to turn it off. That was the worst thing I ever did to myself. Now figuring out how to kick start that back up again has been really scary and my creative princess tends to run at the first sighting of fire. I need to break down goals to be small and manageable chunks – preferably daily, but maybe every second day. Every day I write 200 words on a scene. Small and manageable – enough to let me feel accomplished!
I want to learn how to move past Chapter 3 and not keep going back to perfect the beginings. My plan for this is to write chapter summaries after each chapter. And highlighting the bits that bother me. This will let me ponder on possible solutions while still moving forward. Also if I find the solution – I can write it out point form in the outline and then highlight in a different color to go in and edit it later.
I need to break down my novel into chunks and set solid time goals on them. 1/3 – 1/2 complete by end of April. Assess at the beginning of May how much is done by that time and what my commitments will be for May and continue breaking it down like that.
Mostly thought what I want is to have fun with writing again. Some of the most succesful writers in the YA industry have written the type of novels I would have loved as a teen – wish fullfillment novels. The girl is the super hero and made of awesome and win and beats all the bad guys! Yes please. I need to get that fun back into my writing and play with it! I write YA. That is my market. I need to remember what I loved so much back then and really tap into that. I have been reading YA a lot too, so don’t fret that I am unaware of the market. Check out my Goodreads and you’ll see that 99% of what I read is YA only. That other 1% is there optimistically for me picking up some of the awesome fantasy I still have yet to read on my shelves. I need to tap into 16 year old Julia more and have fun and not be afraid to go there with my writing. The market has changed a lot too and it growing and evolving. But mostly – have fun. If I ‘m not, how is my reader?
What I learnt from last year is that I need to be honest with myself. I need to recognize what is in my way and figure out how to deal with it? Is it really in my way or am I letting it be in my way? I don’t want to be a single goal person though either and I also know that I need to leave room in my plan for flexibility. Last year if anything taught me about cutting back. We can’t all be superwomen. We can’t do it all. Despite our best intentions we are only human, and we need down time too. We don’t run on ambition and dreams only, we need food and sleep and other things to make us well rounded and worth reading.
Writing is still my life goal. But I am learning to be more realistic, more flexible, and hopefully more consistently productive. It’s not a short game kind of sport. It’s about the long game. I need to set myself up for long term success.