Shiny New Distractions

I made a massive booboo this week – I broke my laptop. Just the screen, so if I could be bothered I could probably fix it, but I reckon it’s past the point of being worth it. Bring on the new laptop!

New toy excitement aside, it massively derailed my 2k per day plans – I managed to hit that word count from Monday to Saturday last week, then my rugby (Scotland in the 6nations) love resulted in a defunct device.

I don’t anticipate hitting my word target today either, but as my laptop arrives tomorrow I’m hoping to make it then. After that, it’s getting back on the horse and slogging away until spewing words out is a force of habit.

At that point, I will be that much closer to:

  1. a complete draft of another novel (most of what I’ve written has been for the same story)
  2. being able to keep writing even when I don’t feel like it
  3. figuring out how to manage writing while working

Back to the shiny: I have an opportunity here to alter my routine, to maintain my writing every single day in such a way as to reach my dreams. In April I’ll be undertaking Camp NaNoWriMo with a different story (I doubt I’ll *ever* run out of stories to be writing), so that may require some redirection.

The other thing of note is the pronounced tendency I have to write based on the style I’ve most recently read. The space fleet opera I’ve been bingeing on lately has clearly influenced both my most recent ideas (fully expected) and the writing I’ve been doing (less expected but welcome as its influence has largely pertained to tactics so far).

Whoops

I’ve somehow fallen into the position of being tired all the time and extremely busy when I do have the energy to deal with things. I haven’t properly written anything since Christmas, and I feel terrible about that. I seem to be emerging from the other side of a minor episode of SAD, so now is the time to take my life back in my own hands.

All my typical excuses (bar the fatigue, that probably won’t go until I’m drinking again) are now exhausted, so I need to get off my backside, sit down at my laptop, and get to typing. Irony fully intended.

The loose plan for what to write is one of my fantasy projects – not the NaNoWriMo one and not the one earmarked for Camp NaNoWriMo – then in February (of course) knock out some steamy romance, which is always a good fallback when I’m in a low mood.

The Soul Is Willing…

…but the flesh is weak. Addled by caffeine and too much alcohol, the odd burn from cooking and a dependency on sugar. I do go swimming though. Honest.

I haven’t done much writing at all since hitting the 50k mark for NaNoWriMo – on the 18th of November. I rested on my laurels, which was a silly thing to do, and now I’m paying the price. I had thought that the seat-of-the-pants nature of my project for NaNo was the reason I stuttered and stopped a couple of times. In an attempt to prevent this happening in subsequent efforts, I plotted out the novel.

Then I plotted out a few more. Not next-in-the-series, just other stories I haven’t written yet. What I learnt? I have yet to find the method for planning novels which actually suits me. I also have a hard time with the terminology.

‘Conflict’ is one that crops up rather frequently – in my head it still means a war or at least a fight of some magnitude. That novel-plotters mean something more like ‘at cross-purposes’ doesn’t escape me, but it feels rather contrived to insert opposition when in your head there wasn’t any.

I suspect I’m getting the wrong end of the stick, and that I’m also a little too romance-and-fluff-focused. I personally don’t mind, but I have a feeling the point is to get some tension into the story. It’s only a story if something happens which didn’t before, and it’s only interesting if things keep happening. I love a good action scene, though other people’s can bore me (I get that it’s hypocritical, but it’s also reading as a writer, so thbpbpbpbpbpt), but I genuinely don’t like too much in the way of opposition to something.

Perhaps that’s naive and perhaps I should stop thinking that way, but I reserve the right to keep reading things with a happy ending whenever I want.

Another facet of novel-planning which seems designed to scupper me is talking about characters’ motivations. Are they supposed to have deep, driving causes? Can’t someone genuinely be along for the ride, living in the moment? Do we really care about the childhood tragedy which orphaned the hero and sent him on an otherwise predestined path?

I hate that kind of thing. Plenty of people have had perfectly nice childhoods and gone on to do both wonderful and terrible things. Then again, the books I read tend not to be centred on normal families. Why not, I ask you? I would attempt to talk about ‘low fantasy’ (as opposed to high fantasy), but that’s already a thing and it isn’t about the average Joanne. There seems to be a real dearth of main characters forming meaningful relationships with people (especially parents) in my preferred genres. It’s sad.

Despite the little rant above, I actually do like reading fantasy – you get a really experimental take on systems of government, the limits of humanity, and the effects of powerful people throughout history. What I wish I saw more is how all that really cool high-level stuff affects the villager in their cottage, or the bartender at the inn.

I’ve seen it written more than once that if you really want to read a particular story, you should write it. That is what I will do. Starting with the situation closest to my own – young family.

If it turns autobiographical, poke me.

Reminiscing

I stumbled onto my Tumblr blog recently, and was pleased to discover that I was just as coherent when writing about a finicky toddler who wouldn’t sleep in his own bed as I am now writing about him reading and asking intelligent questions. Not that I’ve done much of that in the last month, what with my obsession with novelling.

Another cause for reminiscence, though with less impact, was the discovery that I could now get an app for my [Android] phone which I haven’t used since my six-month foray into iOS back when I had the aforementioned toddler. It’s Path, by the way. I’m poking around what I posted, marvelling at the short hair and how little I did back then. There is an excellent picture of me though:

wpid-wp-1448377864139.jpg[It’s a witch!]

There’s also the looming spectre of my previous company – we’re just tying up the final loose ends of our corporate divorce. It’s depressing how adversarial we are now…

Back to the Schedule

Discipline. That’s clearly going to be the key for December. After my embarrassing lack of discipline in November – spending basically all my money with two weeks to go ’til payday – I’m in need of a bit of cutting back.

Somewhat ironically, I am going to be doing lots of baking and gift-buying – but there’s no need to go overboard. I don’t have a ridiculously large gift list, and most people will be happier with something personal than something kerspensive. Should be a doddle – once I’ve worked out what I’m getting who, anyway.

Then there’s the discipline of sitting down and writing every day. I woke up with my alarm this morning, at five to six. What I ought to have done was get up and do an hour’s writing. What I actually did was have a half-hour lie-in, read for twenty minutes and then got up at almost seven.  Given the house is now clean and tidy, I don’t really have an excuse for not plonking myself in the dining room or on the sofa, and booting up the laptop.

The final thing is discipline with alcohol. I’m well aware that temptation will be lurking around every corner, so I’m going to do my best not to indulge more than the minimum. The easiest way to do this will be not to go out or to remain the designated driver; an easy feat given I’m hardly a social butterfly and we haven’t actually arranged an employee Christmas do.

In summary, discipline for December. There’s always scope for improvement, as well as room for slippage. I don’t expect to be perfect, but building some discipline into my days should help in many areas.

NaNoWriMo – Day 01

I wrote 5k today – yay!

All I have to do now is maintain my daily target – easier said than done on weekdays – and I’ll be in with a chance of writing this novel. Of course, 50k isn’t nearly enough – I’ll need at least double, if not triple, that number of words for this novel, but it’s more progress than I’ve managed on anything else to date.

I’ve also discovered hitherto unknown reserves of verbosity – the 5k I wrote today is not exactly a large portion of my story. I could just about see one plot point covered, if that. I suspect I’m going to be spending quite a few very late nights on this over the coming weeks – and I may not cease at the end of November. Perhaps I should be targeting 150k by the end of January – though whether that’s even possible is yet to be discussed.

Fingers crossed for me – and good luck if you’re doing it too!

Official Word Count Today: 5,007

Cumulative Word Count: 5,007

The Plan Comes Together

My colleague has given his notice at work, after only two weeks of jobhunting. I’m happy for him, but also sad that I’m not in the same kind of demand. Luckily, several things have gone my way this week, though one or two things haven’t.

I have signed up for a gym, with pool, and have visited it twice. I have written several thousand words on a story without having intended to do so, and I have finally thrown off the bug that has gripped me for two weeks. On the other hand, I’ve been stuck with getting swimming lessons for my little horror.

The gym first – I’ve never been a member before, and I was frankly amazed at the wealth of things on offer. It’s quite a substantial monthly amount, but as long as I go every day as I’ve mentally vowed to do, it’s easily worth the money. The couple of swims I’ve taken were an excellent starter – I felt absolutely amazing afterwards, and I could feel my heart rate increasing from the first.

I’ve signed up for a class on Monday, my first taste of Spin. If it doesn’t kill me, I’ll probably feel wretched afterwards, but everything I’ve been told says that I will eventually notice an improvement. In addition to this, I’m hoping to get more familiar with some of the actual gym equipment, like the cycling machines.

The writing is undoubtedly my favourite thing about this week. I was typing up something I’d handwritten, moving from one story into another, and the writing just kept coming. I ended up doing more than 5000 words in one evening – a massive achievement for me.

Throwing off the bug had an immediate effect at work, and my energy has mostly come back as well. Now if only I can sort out the problem with my contacts, I’ll be golden!

Coding is going apace, though at times it’s more of a crawl. I really need some kind of mid-level tutorial, rather than the beginner ones which seem to be the only thing available. I am already very well-versed in what variables, arrays and for loops are, thank you very much. What I really want at the moment is to divine the PHP I need to save a file from my litte JS word counter.

Then there’s the incredibly and unexpectedly difficult task of sourcing swimming lessons for the five-year-old. No-one seems to have any spaces except where they want to charge about £10 per lesson – utterly ridiculous. I’m still waiting to hear back from some people, but it’s not looking good. I have a sneaky feeling I’ll either be signing him up for something outside of Derby or waiting ’til after Christmas – both of which are dim prospects. In the meantime, I’ll just keep taking him to the pool at my gym, and hope he doesn’t get too bored.

Though he did suddenly do the breaststroke, so maybe he’ll learn what he needs the old fashioned way – by watching his parents.

Adding More Detail to the Dream

Thinking more about making the dream a reality – of being a full-time writer – has occupied a little more of my time this week than normal. I have thought about the amount I need to be writing to get there in the first place, and the way I’m going to manage the work when I do make it my profession. What I have yet to determine is the point at which I know I’m making enough to go full-time as a writer.

The amount of writing I do on any given day is… variable, at best. I have seen numerous articles, etc. on building up the word count, by practise and by motivation. I know the motivation I would like to use; it’s the practice element I’m struggling with with which I’m struggling. Getting 500 words written in a day is becoming an achievement, something I’m not really happy with at the moment; on the other hand, that’s 500 words more than I was doing before.

What is probably the biggest impediment is the lack of a set time of day or location in which to write. If I could only force myself to allocate a set period, I get the distinct impression I’d be more productive. Take this blog: I’ve promised myself (and anyone who actually reads this) that I will post once a week, on a Wednesday. WordPress is lovely and lets me schedule posts so I can write when I’m inspired and then forget about it until I have a miniature panic attack over being late with it. For reference, I get that way about being late for anything.

As regards writing once it’s the day job, I’ve been paying attention to the writings of those who have arrived before me. It seems likely that I’m going to have as variable an output as I do now, so the plan for now is simply, get into the habit.

Then it’s down to brass tacks. Ideally, I’d be making from writing the money I am now, but that is probably aiming too high. The minimum I would actually need to be making is enough to cover my existing costs (car loan, paying off credit cards, etc.), as I won’t have any childcare expenditure once I can choose my own hours. At least, that’s the theory.

In summary, and with much less flair than my thousand-word-epic from last week: I want to be a professional writer, and I really can’t wait until my dream comes true 😀

Why I need more writing time

Everyone starts out writing while doing something else with at least some of their time – we have to eat even before we’re published. I have never been especially strong on what I wanted to do for a living, but I was always certain I wanted it to meet certain conditions.

The first of these is that I would work from home. I get the odd opportunity to do that now, but it’s frustratingly slow trying to access systems via VPN which weren’t exactly speedy in the office. I dream of a day when I can have an office space at home, and work to my heart’s content without interruptions from people demanding my time – or information I’ve already given them twice. It’s not about workwear, I can deal with that, it’s about freedom.

Which leads me to the second thing. I want to work for myself. My sister already does that, moving between freelancing her horsecare skills and subcontracting as an HGV driver. It makes her more money than my 8-30-to-5-30 office hell, with a lot more flexibility. I’m still unsure of whether I would want to run a company or just work for myself, but I have a feeling I’ll be trying both before I choose a side of that fence.

The third thing is that I want to feel excited about my work. I’ve never wanted to be so into my job I have no room for hobbies, but I would love to be in the kind of thing that kept me interested rather than searching for ways around my workload. Admittedly, if I’d pursued accountancy qualification I might have that by now, but the fact of the matter is that I fell into that as a way to earn better money in a better job than I had after going back to work following maternity.

You look at the snippets about ‘mumpreneurs’, and I have to say I’m envious. I’m not crafty or professionally qualified, so I’ve no idea what I would have done, but the prospect of working around childcare is a very inviting one. When I started work after having my son, I made about £10 a month after paying for nursery – and he was only there three days a week. I was so frustrated with looking after a baby all day with no adult conversation, that I leapt into work without thinking it through. My next job, which was considerably nicer, made me much happier – but then I moved. I moved from the Isle of Man to Derby, following my other half (I really wish there was a better way to refer to him, but ‘boyfriend’ sounds like we’ve just got together and ‘partner’ sounds like a business agreement). The resulting job change was again the first job I could get after three months of solid childcare. While it was interesting at points, I found it highly frustrating most of the time. When that job changed when the company split into two, I found my role much the same. And I’m still waiting for something to really get my teeth into.

Which brings me back to writing. I want to write when I’m best at it. I know I’m a grown-up, at least in part, but the prospect of writing rather than relaxing after a day of battling idiots and mind-numbing meetings is just beyond me. I get my very best work done during working hours, as you’d expect, and writing is therefore off the menu except at weekends. The issue with this is that the weekend is the only real time I get to spend with my son. I’m lucky in that my mother heroically takes him for the summer holidays – I get a weekly phone call and lots of photos – but the impetus to use my weekends to write isn’t there, especially when we want to do child-free things.

So what can I do? Short of making a drastic change like going part-time (if only I’d be allowed to do it) or changing jobs altogether, I’m stuck for now. I will continue to write in the bursts of time between work and home life, using my lunch breaks and the odd day off. Fingers crossed I can make enough progress in that time to justify the effort. My big goal is to earn a living from writing, enough to give up the stress of an office and do what I’m good at. For that, I will need to practise my writing (the million-word rule proving more than a little intimidating for someone who favours brevity over description) and suffer the indignities of being a regular human being trying to get by.

Working On It

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I realised that being a popstar was an unlikely career path. I’ve always lived in my head, spending large amounts of time in worlds of my own making. Should be a natural progression, right? Yes and no.

To start, I have yet to truly learn the craft. I know it’s going to take time, and I’m going to be dissatisfied with what I get out of my efforts even when I’ve mastered the art of writing (aim high).

The good part of this is that I *am* actively working on it, even if that means slow progress for now since I’m employed full-time. I work towards the day when I can earn a living from writing – that’s the endgame. I don’t have a preconceived idea of what that’s going to look like, I only know that the point at which I can give my notice and cease to work for someone else will be the point at which I achieve success.

In the meantime, I have to pretend that I want a career in an office. I suppose it’s good practise for when I write characters engaging in deception.

Drat, I now need to go off and write a bunch of stuff about one my characters. Ciao!