On New Years Resolutions, and Writing Goals

I’m a sucker for new years resolutions. I usually make too many, and don’t always stick to them as well as I should, but I’ve always liked the fresh new start that comes with a new year. The idea that bad habits can be left behind, and better ones can be forged. And sure, I get the argument that New Years Resolutions can be viewed as useless, especially when you look at people who sign up for gym memberships, but never show up, but I think there’s a lot of value in setting goals, and taking time to refocus. You’re going to fall off the horse every now and then, but if you continue to make time to think about what you want, and plan how that can be achieved, you’re in a helluva better place then you were if you never paused to make the resolutions in the first place.

For example, if I had never sat down and said, “I’m going to make writing a daily habit” I probably wouldn’t have written anything at all. And instead, I’ve written and revised three whole novels that have taught me a lot about writing (even though they will never be published). And now, I find myself working on new projects, and new ideas that I hope to make strides on in 2017.

So, without further ado, here are my writing projects and resolutions for 2017!

Project #1- Red and Black
Red and Black is a superhero novel (the first in a planned series) that I put MANY hours into over the past year and a half. I’ve brought the book from a broken, partial rough draft (the result of a very strange, often disappointing/frustrating NaNoWriMo in 2014) to a full manuscript, workshopped it with my wonderful writing group, brought it through multiple rounds of revisions, and have now sent it off to no less than a half dozens first readers (two of whom have already gotten back to me with encouraging comments and helpful suggestions!). This year, I hope to bring Red and Black through its final revisions and begin sending it out to agents during the spring. From that point, its future will bet out of my hands, so I try not to stress about it too much (of course, I don’t always succeed).

Project #2- Black and Blue
Black and Blue is the sequel to Red and Black. I wrote it during a very successful NaNoWriMo this past November (not only did I manage to “win” NaNoWriMo, but I also finished the damn book before the month was up!). Since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve been working on my first round of revisions. And I must admit… it’s going surprisingly well. Normally this part of the revising process is hugely painful. Like, “Dear God! I’ve managed to regress as a writer without realizing it! Time to throw in the towel! Abort! Abort!” Of course, the book has flaws- in abundance- but I’ve been able to figure out how to fix most of them. Thinking back on the rough draft, I have a pretty good idea where this smooth sailing will start to get choppy, but I’m going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. I hope to spend most of my writing time in 2017 revising Black and Blue, then workshopping it with my oh-so-helpful writing group.

And if you’re thinking “gee, Nancy, isn’t working on a sequel to a book before it’s technically done, like, a really bad idea?” The answer is… probably, but right now this is the project I’m the most excited about, so I’m just going to embrace that. My books go through a lot of changes in my revision process. Maybe I’ll just have to make a few more then planned as a result of Red and Black’s final revisions.

I plan on accomplishing these goals through daily writing. I try to go for at least an hour every day, and that’s been going well so far. Some days, time gets away from me and I just can’t get that full hour, but I can get in a half hour, and make up the lost time down the line. To prevent burning out, I will be working on my writing in chunks of about 30k. Once I reach the end of a chunk, I’ll take a little time off from writing (maybe a few days, maybe a full week. It depends on how I’m feeling, and my other responsibilities). I’ve become a big believer in taking planned breaks (with set end dates, rather than just skipping days here and there) from writing, In fact, I’m thinking about writing a blog entry on it.

As for other writing-related goals, I do hope to get back to updating this much neglected blog more often, as well as continuing to contribute regularly to Speculative Chic. As a result, I’m going to try to update here about once a week. At Speculative Chic, I have my big monthly entry, but I also contribute to group posts. It may be tricky to find a balance between my writing, SpecChic, and this blog, but I suspect I’ll be able to figure it out with some trial and error.

Does anyone else have any writing-related resolutions? Are you a fan of New Year’s Resolutions too, or consider them to be a waste of time?

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My Current Projects- May 2014

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, so I figured it was time to do one again. Here are my current writing projects.

Actively Working On
Hero of Darkwood (Second Draft)- After spending a month away for it, I began the second draft of Hero of Darkwood today. This is the third book in the Lady Darkwood trilogy, and my big project for the year. The process has been a series of highs and lows. It’s thrilling to see a the book improve with every round of revision but as I get more and more rejection letters in for Lady of Darkwood (book 1 in the Lya Darkwood trilogy), I’m beginning to doubt whether this particular novel will ever truly see the light of day. Still, I keep on telling myself that even if this series is never published, the experience I’ve gotten from it is invaluable. Also, I really like the book, so that has to count for something.

Lying in Wait
The Dragon Guard- This is a sci-fi(ish) short story that’s shaped up over the past month. It takes place in a world that I had originally planned a novel for, but kind of wanted to play around with before I committed myself to such a long writing project. Figuring out what world building elements to include in the short story, versus the novel was very tricky and resulted in several false starts. Fortunately, once I figured out what I wanted to do, the writing process was much smoother.  Right now, it’s in the hands of a couple of my first readers, and then I’ll figure out for sure if I want to do anything with it.

Submission Phase
The Lya Darkwood Trilogy- As mentioned above, Lady of Darkwood is currently seeking an agent or publisher. It’s the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy that takes part in a secondary world. The trilogy is very concerned with the idea of power: the idea of the strong versus the weak, and the proper use of said power once you happen to acquire it. Also, flashy magic and romance-y stuff, because that’s always fun.

The Lady of the Watchtower- A retelling of Beauty and the Beast where the main characters is both the Beauty and the Beast. Hopefully, this will find a home somewhere. The fact that it’s a longer (a novelette verses a short story) work makes things kind of tricky. I’m learning with this one that it’s not the best idea to write anything over 7,000 words (in face, under 5,000 seems ideal) if you’re looking to sell it.

Publication Phase
The Fox- This story, in which I attempt to mix a traditional fantasy setting with urban fantasy sensibilities, will be coming out in July’s issue of The Lorelei Signal. Very excited about this one!

Gretel- Clearly, I’m a sucker for retold fairy tales, as this is a modern day retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Very different in tone from The Fox, which is interesting because I wrote the pair of stories around the same time. This will be coming out in less than two weeks with Luna Station Quarterly.

So those are my projects. Anyone else working on anything interesting?

Update on April Writing + May Goals

In April, I had one goal. Finish the first draft of Hero of Darkwood. And I did it! It still needs work, but it’s a much stronger that my rough draft. That version had some really major things wrong with it. After that, I lost a bit of my focus. I did end up submitting Lady of Darkwood to a couple small presses, but I was a little scatter brained about writing until I stumbled across a new idea for a short story. It doesn’t really have a title yet (the document is called “Faces” but I’m not sticking with that one), but after several false starts, I finished a rough draft on May 1st. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I’ll be doing with this one yet. It started as a way to explore a world I’m debating writing a novel in, so it features things like massive unnecessary info dumps. But, I really like the characters, so if I can sharpen it up to a decent draft I might send it out to my first readers to see if it’s worth submitting places.

This brings me to my goals for May!

1. Finish Revising “Faces” and submit to first readers.
2. Revise “The Lady in the Watchtower” and submit to new short story market.

The “Lady in the Watchtower” is a novelette that I’ve been sending out different magazines. Rejection letter number two came back with some very useful tips for revision, so I think I’ll spend a little more time on that before I send it out again. Beyond that, I have some other short story ideas kicking around I might work on. I just want to keep Hero of Darkwood on hold until June. I need some space if I’m going to be able to create an effective second draft.

Writing in 2014, by the numbers (so far)

So we’re closing in on 100 days into 2014, and because I keep these detailed spreadsheets, I thought I’d spend a little time blogging about how much time I’ve actually spent on writing this year. Why? Reasons. Important reasons, I tell you! There’s more to this than my weird obsession with random statistics.

So according to my spreadsheet in the past 96 days, I spent time writing on 80 of them. This isn’t perfect, but considering what a bad month March was for writing, it could be a lot worse.

As far as projects go, seventy-one days was spent working on Hero of Darkwood, my current big project. On four days, I spent time submitting Lady of Darkwood to agents. On eight days, I spent time on short fiction. If you are confused as to why these numbers do not add up to 80, it’s because there were a few days where I worked on more than one project.

As far as time goes, I’ve spent ninety-eight hours on Hero of Darkwood, six and half on submitting Lady of Darkwood to agents, and eight hours and forty-five minutes on short fiction.

So what do we learn from this? One, I’ve been putting a lot of time into the first revised draft of Hero. Two, I’ve been spending almost all of my time this year on revisions. Looking back to last year’s spreadsheet (don’t judge me! I like making spreadsheets), I had already finished the first draft of Leader of Darkwood (last year’s big project) and had moved on to other projects by the beginning of April. This is likely a reflection of the fact that Hero is about 20k longer than Leader, as well as last month’s poor writing time.

So what I learned from this is that my next project needs to be writing-based, and not revision based. Sure, I could get Hero done a lot faster if I started on draft two immediately, but that would be really pushing it. I’ll be able to handle Hero a lot better (and probably be able to revise a lot faster) if I take a month off of it.

Hope everyone’s had a productive writing (or revising) year so far.

March: A bad time for Writing (+ April Goals)

Ugh, I don’t even want to look at these right now because March was not a good writing month. Anyway, here were my goals for the month.

1. Get 25,000 words further into the revised first draft of Hero of Darkwood
2. Spend a week (7 hours of writing) on short fiction

Yeah, I didn’t manage to hit either of those milestones, which has left me pretty grumpy. Part of it was lack of time, my wedding is coming up soon, and I ended up working a bunch of extra hours in the latter half of the the month. For a while, the issue was also lack of motivation. Often, I really look forward to writing. At the least, it’s usually not something I mind doing. There were times this month when that was clearly not the case.

Fortunately, April looks to take care of two of those issues. My motivation is coming back, and I’m not working any extra hours. Yes, the wedding still has me busy, but most of the planning is done by now, so besides the days of the wedding rehearsal and wedding reception, finding some time to write shouldn’t be as problematic. As a result, I am setting myself one big goal for April.

1. Finish first draft of Hero of Darkwood

I have about 20k left to revise. I think I can get through that this month. Then I’ll figure out if I want to take a little break, or spend time on other projects. Then, I’ll make polishing the novel up to something worthy of my first readers over the summer. I have a feeling that because I had such a hard time with last month, that the chapters I revised will still need a lot of work, but that’s a problem for later!

Hopefully, someone had a better writing month then I did this March! Anyone doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month?

On Not Wanting to Write

I’ve worked two types of jobs in my life. I’ve had jobs that I hate. These are the jobs where I’ve dreaded getting up in the morning, and I’ve had to put a sticky note over the clock on my computer to keep myself from checking it every minute. There was one job that, more disturbingly, led to quite a few tear filled car rides because I was so upset with my life. On a few occasions, I somehow subconsciously made myself physically ill because the thought of going to work made me so miserable. I am currently working the second type of job. These types of jobs leave me feeling emotionally fulfilled. There are some days when I might want to spend a little longer in bed in the morning, but I usually don’t mind coming in. Some days, I even look forward to it. For the most part, writing falls into this second category. But just like with the best day jobs, there are some days when I just don’t want to write. Lately, I’ve been going through one of those phases.

When I come up against one of these “ugh I don’t want to write!” phases, there are three ways I can react. One, I can push myself through it. Sometimes, if I can just get about twenty minutes in, things will get easier from there. The second way is to switch to a different project where I’m required to exercise different writing muscles. So if I’m revising something, working on a rough draft of something else can be a pretty good idea. The third option is to take a couple days off and come back (at least, in theory) refreshed.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty bad at is knowing which method to use. Sometimes, writing doesn’t get any easier after that first twenty minutes, and you’ve done more harm then good. Sometimes, switching projects is equally frustrating, and you end up wasting precious writing time. And sometimes, taking a couple days off can easily snowball into a week, or month, or more. Suddenly, writing isn’t part of your life anymore. You’ve become one of those dreaded people that talk and think about writing, but never really do any of it.

Most of this month has consisted of playing this game. I tried all three options, eventually taking the last couple of days off from writing. Today, I managed to have a pretty decent day working on Hero of Darkwood, and I hope that indicates that I’ve made my way past this mini funk. A large part of me feels that I’ve wasted a huge amount of time over the past ten days, but there’s nothing much I can do about it now. I just wished that I was a little better at figuring out the best way of dealing with not wanting to write. I never really get writer’s block, but I do get into these mini funks multiple times a year. It would be great to know how to deal with them better. But I guess it’s just like a job. Even the best ones aren’t going to be perfect 100% of the time.

Monthly Writing Goals: February and March

Let’s see how I did on my monthly writing goals for February.

1. Add 20,000 words to the revised first draft of Hero of Darkwood
2. Update Query Letter
3. Submit Lady of Darkwood to 10 Agents/Publishers

Done, done, and done! I actually surpassed the first one, where I actually made it 26,000+ words into my revisions of Hero of Darkwood, which kind of surprised me, as I had to take more days off this month. But I had quite a few days when I was able to get a nice chunk of writing time in, so that helped a lot.

Now let’s go to my March goals,

1. Get 25,000 words further into the revised first draft of Hero of Darkwood
2. Spend a week (7 hours of writing) on short fiction

This, as you may notice, is less than I accomplished in the shorter month of February, but where as we’re getting close to my wedding date, and I’m working a bunch of extra hours next month, I feel the need to scale back my expectations back a little. I’m not a big fan of setting oneself up to fail. Instead, I try to focus on goals that are obtainable, but only with persistence.

Oh! And I also got some rather positive news today. I can’t share any of it until next week, but I can’t wait to post about it here. 🙂