Determination, or How I Try To Get Out of a Funk

I have today, for the first time all April, hit my daily word count target. Huzzah!

Unfortunately, that still leaves me around 20k words behind my cumulative target. Looks like tonight will be more about writing than reading.

I don’t know if it’s still possible to even hit the 50k target I somewhat arrogantly set myself, but acknowledging that I may need to reinterpret my story plan did help along the way. Rediscovering my entirely incidental worldbuilding database (it’s so pretty…) also motivated me to get *something* written down. All I need to do now is word vomit all over the scenes I’ve identified as needing to be written.

Piece of cake, right?

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).

The Writing Train Has Finally Left The Station

Writing – finally, we have progress again!

Apparently, all I needed was a mental recharge and a visit from my sister to trigger a scene between sisters. 5k later, I’ve managed to write a daily amount which would see me comfortably through NaNoWriMo, which is plenty for a daily average and a good idea to maintain just for practising.

That or it was the genre swap (I’ve been reading Sci-Fi for a week instead of fluff) or the ridiculous amount of alcohol consumed over the weekend.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t care what it was; I feel like I have my mojo back!

It’s also nice to be able to write something I intended on doing… even if there is one (perfectly logical) diversion. It doesn’t even make later scenes change. It’s also allowed me to acknowledge a greater depth in one character. Good stuff, so far. Now to redirect this on time in April for Camp NaNo…

Back to the sci-fi binge – I need to stop being obsessive about things I find interesting. I breeze through everything available rather than pacing myself – though spending a week reading six books is pacing myself – then get a prolonged story hangover when I’m done. I’m just lucky in this case that there’s already a spinoff to get into, though I’m not convinced it’ll have the same impact.

It may freshen up my ‘you might like’ list though – moving it away from fluff.

It’s also, unfortunately, the time when the TV programmes I was watching before Christmas have started airing again. That means less reading time 😦

Overload

I’ve been busy at work, busy with sorting out my car, busy messing up dinner and then crying about it… Nothing seems to go right lately. I’m more than ready for my upcoming week off *snigger*.

The snigger, of course, is because it isn’t a week off from stress, only from going in to work. I will still have to drive my family around, I will still have to cook dinner (though admittedly we’re spending two nights away from home so I won’t have to do it then), and I will still have to remain on call for my job (which is a whole lot less glamorous than ‘doctor’ or ‘consultant’).

Why am I looking forward to it? I associate not having to go into the office, and even not having to wear office clothing, with relaxation and de-stressing. Probably a holdover from my school days, where non-uniform days were hailed as the pinnacle of any school term.

My writing has, yet again, not been progressing, though I’m edging towards what I think will be some quality writing time – we’ve finally taken on the task of getting the housework finished before we go away.

In the meantime, I’m adding continually to my over-long list of stories to write, largely in the low-intensity area of romance. The sheer number of situations I can envisage is something to be proud of; the main reason I haven’t been upping my fantasy count so much is that the setting has taken up the bulk of my creativity there.

I was pleasantly surprised this week when I was required to write something distinctly non-formal for an expo we’re doing: 100-word limit, no sales jargon, describe the company without being boring. I had loads of fun with that one!

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.

2016 Predictions

This year has been rife with changes for me; not least that I have stuck at doing several new things and actually succeeded at them.

For next year, there are a number of things I would like to predict will happen, in my life and in others’.

The first prediction is that I will get my son into swimming lessons (at last). He loves the water, always has, and is a wee terror if he doesn’t get the energy release from swimming of a weekend. It makes things interesting when we occasionally have family to visit, as he gets Very Excited when people are in the house (besides his parents, of course; we may as well be furniture).

The second prediction is that we will *not* go on our first family holiday. We’re kind of sort of trying to arrange one, but when my other half goes ‘I should just do this’ historically it hasn’t taken place.

The third prediction is that I will not publish a novel next year. It’s always something to aim for, but realistically I’m not there yet. NaNoWriMo this year helped, but I have a long way to go to 1,000,000 words. Especially with my sparse writing style.

The fourth prediction is that my job will give me at least as much stress as this year, if not considerably more. The promise of a payrise can’t compare to the hassle it’s going to bring as I am pushed into talking to *shudder* people. It’s mostly customers who garner that reaction in me; suppliers are easier to talk to for some reason.

The fifth prediction is that another change will come about in writing and publishing. I don’t know what it is, but the market is ripe for a change to loosen Amazon’s grip on the ebook market, and I fully expect to see it next year. Not that I have anything against Amazon; I just generally like to see people competing for my custom.

What are your predictions? Do you foresee a revolution in the way people read? A family Incident? The overturning of laws like VAT on ebooks? Let me know…

We’ll come back to this at the end of 2016 to see how realistic these predictions were, and hopefully it’ll turn out that some of them were true and others false (especially the stressy work one).

 

NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Update

I went home ill at lunchtime, and didn’t sneak in some cheeky writing. No, I went to bed and promptly to sleep. Currently struggling to stay awake long enough to eat dinner. I doubt I’ll be getting any more writing done today.

These colds seem to be hitting me a lot harder than they used to; I distinctly remember being able to dose up on painkillers and decongestants and basically forget I had any symptoms until they wore off. I dosed up this morning and still snuffled and sneezed my way through the day, replete with pounding headache. Either I’ve built up a tolerance or I’m getting less capable of handling the common cold. Either is a fairly worrying prospect.

As for the writing, my other half had the nerve to suggest that I would attempt to do some when I came home. I couldn’t concentrate on work, much less creative writing! What I didn’t truly realise until I began doing it in earnest is that writing takes a whole lot more effort than posting invoices and configuring software options. Writing is harder than my job by a fair margin.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow I’ll be able to stay up, go to work, and do some more wording in the evening; the prospect of not doing any is quite depressing, even though I’ve technically won NaNoWriMo. All I can say is that I’ve got into the habit now; the valve is open and I don’t want it to close.

The procrastiscarf has also been sorely neglected of late; I got about five rows done last night and that was the whole weekend. Further updates when I resume normal function…

 

Jobhunting and other things

Getting new ideas is, as usual, not an issue for me. They hit me in the middle of the night, on the drive to work, or with a snippet of overheard conversation.

Writing, now that’s a challenge. There’s the time required, the equipment required, and the motivation required to do it. All three coinciding is an occurrence of the frequency of Halley’s Comet. In order to combat this, I have tried keeping a notebook around at all times, but it’s not especially helpful. Tackling motivation is easy – all I have to do is remind myself of what I could achieve if I could only give up the day job. That has become highly motivational in recent weeks. The single most difficult thing is time – I drive to and from work, so I can’t do it then. I cook dinner and go swimming in my lunch break, so I can’t do it then. At weekends I need a rest from the hassle of my job, so I rarely find the time to do it then. What can I do?

Schedule it. I don’t mean put it in the calendar – I mean agree on a place and a regular time and go outside of my house and write at my destination. I’m thinking of becoming a pub-goer for this reason.

Not that I have the money. As I frequently whine, I don’t earn enough of it to put enough away to save. This has the nasty side-effect of keeping me in a job that isn’t going anywhere, as well as stagnating my skills.

The dilemma is easily solved; get a progressive, better-paid job. But here’s the catch: I haven’t got the qualifications or experience to gain the relevant experience in the fields I’m actually good at.

I applied for a graduate job at the weekend, neglecting to mention that I didn’t have a degree. I’m hoping for actual feedback, and not just ‘you were insufficiently qualified’. It will inform future forays into trying to get the kind of job I actually want, à la Bridget Jones. Then again, I could just be deluding myself that I’m more intelligent than my qualifications show. As a rule, within one meeting most people have decided that I’m smart.

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.