Sketchbook #42

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

The end of April kind of snuck up on me, but here it is: time to check in with how I’m doing with my overall creative goals, and figure out what those goals are going forward.

My big goal, of course, was to finish up the third draft of The Black Sun. I’m technically still working on that, but I’m counting it as ‘done.’ The work is done; all that’s left is the final polish—tidying up a few typos and making sure the big edits didn’t introduce continuity errors, that sort of thing. I’ve done the read-through, and… I’m happy with it. I should be finished the polish in the next couple of days.

I’ve also been brainstorming the next projects. I’ve got a good basic plot and world for the next novel, and should be ready to start character work and outlining sometime in the next month. I’ve also got a vague plan for another thing, but… it’s very vague (as in, I still need to figure out the characters and plot). I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to get to that, but I’m mostly treating it as a side project right now, so there’s no rush.

The brainstorming for that side project also helped me clarify some of my plans for the second draft of Violet Lane. I haven’t started work on that, but that’s my big writing goal for May: to come up with a clear plan of attack for that draft, and to complete the outline.

(And I’m finally getting a handle on Scrivener. I still don’t like the file sizes, or the proprietary format, but I’m absolutely in love with the organizational features, and I’m slowly figuring out how to make the application work the way I want and need it to. I like it enough that I broke down and invested in the iOS version… and at $30 Canadian, it is an investment, so I’d better make good use of it.)

Overall, I’m happy with my writing progress this month. Normally, I’d take a break after reaching major milestones in two different projects, but… I don’t really want to. I want to keep this momentum going.

The next thing.

Writing

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be finishing up work on The Black Sun in a month or two. Really finishing—I’m sure there will be another flurry of work sometime in the future, but I’ve gone just about as far as I can go with this particular story right now. (I mean… assuming the next round of feedback is good.)

It’s kind of a terrifying prospect. I’ve been working on this story since the middle of 2017. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a single story for this long without abandoning it, but now I can’t quite remember what it was like when I wasn’t working on this story. (Technically, I’ve been working on Violet Lane longer—since 2016—and even finished a complete draft in early 2017, but I only really figured out what story I’m trying to tell with that in the last couple of months.)

For the first time in two years, I’m in a position where I can start thinking about writing something genuinely new.

Sketchbook #41

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

It’s the end of March! And, since it’s also the end of the first quarter of 2019, this feels like a particularly significant creative check-in. I’m trying to focus on 90-day goals this year, or at least breaking down my bigger goals into smaller milestones, and… well, the end of March is my first big deadline of the year.

Snapshot #122 | 10 Things for 10 March 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. talking… myself out of buying a fantastic red statement couch for the office… to replace the fantastic red statement chair I bought for the office, and deeply regretted approximately two months later.
2. looking… forward to Captain Marvel. (I’m going this evening, and I’m giddy.)
3. loving… some of the photos I’ve been taking this week. It’s been a very good few days.
4. shovelling… snow. Twice in one day. The second time, in the rain.
5. sleeping… in. Sort of. Technically. This is the one day a year that the cat lets me.
6. daydreaming… about travel. I’m having a serious wanderlust moment right now.
7. approaching… the end of this draft of Violet Lane, and I’m really loving it. And I’m on track to meet my end-of-month deadline. (Assuming the final setpiece doesn’t give me as much trouble as the midpoint did… but even if it does, I think I have time to figure it out.)
8. figuring… out how to make all the intense writing sessions I’ve been doing fit into the rest of my schedule.
9. troubleshooting… my sourdough starter. I’ve figured out why it wasn’t working; the next attempt should be a winner.
10. falling… down some really fun research rabbit holes.

Wall hanging to display enamel pins, by Reghan Skerry.

Sketchbook #40

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

In a lot of ways, February is when my real work starts—even in a good year, it takes me a few weeks to find my routines and start moving forward again with my writing, or photography, or… whatever.

This year, February has been a very good month.

My goals going in were to move forward with the photo-a-day project I started at the end of January, to find my rhythms in Violet Lane and The Black Sun again, and to start making time for the creative hobbies I want to explore over the course of the year. (I was also hoping to make up my mind about Scrivener, and to start moving forward on my big scary photography goal again.)

Sketchbook #39

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

When it comes to creativity, January and December are never great months for me. I spend December—what little isn’t taken up by holiday prep and recovery—in full planning mode, which is good, but it does turn into an excuse not to do the actual work. And January… despite my enthusiasm going in, it always takes me a bit of time to find my rhythms again. Add to that the one-two hit of the new year and my birthday, and I’m suddenly questioning everything.

That’s actually why I’m working on this post right now, when I’d already blocked out this time for writing fiction. I need to step back and take an objective look at some of this stuff, and talking it out here always seems to help me clarify my thoughts. (If you’re not here for my creative-process rambling, consider that your warning. I won’t feel bad if you skip this post.)

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Post-Mortem

Writing

It’s been a week since NaNoWriMo ended, and I haven’t looked at—haven’t even thought about—my draft since then.

That’s a good thing.

I’m not abandoning the story. I’m going to get back to work on it first thing Monday morning. But I needed a break, needed to get myself out of the weird headspace that the end of the month (or the entire month) had put me in. If I’d tried to start writing again before I’d had a chance to recover, the story would have suffered. It wouldn’t even matter if it was any good (even for a first draft), I wouldn’t have been able to separate the story from the stress of writing it, and I probably would’ve wound up hating it.

This break was absolutely necessary, even if it’s left me feeling a bit adrift all week.

And it’s given me a chance to look at my experience of NaNo objectively, and really think about what it taught me this year.

Sketchbook #38

Photography, Writing

… well, that was a month, wasn’t it?

Leaving aside NaNoWriMo for now (since I’ve been talking about it all month, and I’ll be talking about it even more on Friday; but if you do want a recap: the story has been fighting me, but I made it through), it… wasn’t too bad.

Not great, obviously. I didn’t get to work on a lot of things that I’d hoped to spend time on in November, like the next round of revisions on The Black Sun. Or photography.

But last month, I said that my mission for November was to sit down and think about what I really want to accomplish, in both writing and photography. Everything else aside, if I did that—or if I made significant progress with that—the month would be a good one. If you’ve been reading my reboot updates, you know by now that it hasn’t been easy; I haven’t really been in the mood for the necessary self-reflection, and I’ve been second-guessing myself a lot.

But I’m on the right track.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Winner Header

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 5

Writing

I was this close to giving up on NaNo yesterday.

I had just under six thousand words to go. No problem: I had two days, and I’ve been hitting over 3000 words/day for the past week.

… and then the power went out. Just as I was sitting down to start my first (and generally best) writing session of the day. The power company was estimating four p.m. before service was restored. That sort of thing is pretty much par for the course for me this month, but like I said last week: I was going to finish this thing. Connected the keyboard to the iPad, and got to work.

After an hour, I was pretty sure this whole thing was going to be a bust. The story’s been fighting me all month; I’ve spent more time figuring out how to make it work than I have writing, even though I started with a solid outline. All this work has been worth it (when I go back and make the changes I’m already planning, it’s going to be kind of amazing), but ugh. And the app I was using yesterday doesn’t have a word count, so I had no way of knowing how close I was to my target.

(By the way… I’ve asked this before, but since I’m still looking, I’ll put it out there again: if anyone knows of a good Dropbox-compatible text editor for iOS that doesn’t choke on novel-length files, I’d love to hear about it. Bonus points if it’s attractive and pleasant to use.)

Anyway, yeah: I got a solid hour in before I had to admit defeat. The power was out for another three hours, and that was more than enough time for me to start feeling like… this just wasn’t going to work. I didn’t know what was going to be worse: giving up with the finish line in sight, or making myself miserable trying to reach the finish line. (On the bright side: it wasn’t out all day! Or not quite.)

When I finally got everything synced up… it turns out that hour was one of my better ones this month: just shy of two thousand words.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying ugh, this month and this story. And that I’m exhausted, and I need to not think about this story—or writing at all—for a couple days.

And also: I did it.

I’ll be back with a more clear-eyed look at how the month went next Friday, and a full post-mortem of the draft… whenever I actually finish the thing. (Probably February or March.)

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 4

Writing

The other day, Terry Rossio tweeted something, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:

(If you’re on a reader that doesn’t show embedded tweets, here it is for posterity: “The key to writing productivity, maybe, is determine how many words can you do without feeling burned out? Better to do 200 words every day that seem easy, rather than 2000 words and need to recover, because you might not recover.”)

[EDIT: The day I posted this, Rossio went on to say some incredibly offensive and irresponsible things, also on Twitter. So: half-decent writer, but ignore everything else he has to say.]

That is the problem I’m having with NaNo this year, and the reason I’m thinking about maybe not doing it again next year: I’ve been writing at a pace that just isn’t sustainable for me. If I’d been able (or willing) to write every. single. day, I’d be fine, but… I can’t sustain that, either. I seem to be at my best writing around 2 hours or 2000 words a day—whichever comes first—and writing 4-5 days a week. More than that, and I start to risk burnout, and I don’t want to go down that road again.

If circumstances were perfect, 2000 words/5 days a week is enough to survive NaNo. They just haven’t been perfect this year. This is a me thing, rather than a NaNo thing. I’ve committed, so I will do everything in my power to see it through—even if it means pushing myself too hard, even though there are literally no consequences to not hitting 50,000 words.

There’s a week left. Do I take the loss?

I’ll push through. Looking at my previous graphs, I’m almost exactly where I was last year, and I survived that. I’ll try to get some writing done over the weekend—even a few hundred words will ease the pressure next week. And I won’t say for sure that this is my last year doing NaNo, but… it might be. I’ll see how I feel about it next year.

… and you’re probably wondering how the actual story is going, too. Right.

So far, I’m really happy with it. I’ve been trying to make this particular story work since my first (recent) attempt at NaNo in 2016, and for the first time… I think I’m on the right track.

I did hit my first real snag this week: my ensemble cast has to be in the same place at the same time very soon, but I’m having a hard time actually making it happen. I know what the problem is—I didn’t spend enough time building up why they need to go, and some of my cast aren’t well enough developed yet—but right now it just feels like the characters would rather just sit around in their separate groups and talk about how awful everything is.

Anyway! I’m doing what any good NaNo-er would do: making a note in the text to fix it later, and skipping straight to the good part. There will be death and destruction. Probably not an explosion, but I’m tempted to see if I can fit one in. Either way, it’ll be fun to write.

That should be enough to shake me out of this funk and push me through the next week.