Creature of Habit

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth; it just feels like it.

I have learned that I am absolutely a creature of habit when it comes to my writing. I need large blocks of time during which to focus, even if I don’t spend the whole span directly working on whatever’s on my plate that day. So when “circumstances beyond my control” (CBMCs) interfere, I can kiss my productivity goodbye.

Recently, for example, I took some time off to go to a convention. It was great fun, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. However, the fact that I’m an introvert meant that spending five days away from home among crowds of people, adding near-daily posts to my other blog expended all my energies (creative and otherwise) without the opportunity to recharge.

Then I came home to a sick kid. Before she even got back to school, we had (very welcome) company. By the time things got back to a more normal schedule this week, then, I was a bit of a mess.

But then I could return to my habits. I recharged. I relaxed. And I made progress.

At the end of last year, I made a plan about where I wanted my revisions to be by the end of this month. I’m nowhere near that mark, thanks a multitude of CBMCs these last two months. But I’m moving ahead again—the end of this Round of Revisions is in sight.

My new, interstitial chapter was remarkably well received by my CPs, given this is the first time the chapter’s been workshopped, and the following chapter is even closer to ready. I finally feel like I’m getting traction again for the first time this year. So keep your fingers crossed for me; a single month of normalcy could get me nearly there.

~draft dance~

Woo hoo! I just finished Draft Zero of Chapter Interstitial! It’s ugly and clunky and barely makes sense, but it’s a draft! Halle-effin-lujah!

~does happy dance~

The #MSWL Blues

According to my sources (that would be a Twitter hashtag), in about three weeks’ time, there will be another #MSWL Twitter event. For those unfamiliar with it, the letters stand for ManuScript Wish List, and from time to time, agents and editors will designate a day to tweet details of what they would like to show up their slush piles (though some tweet whenever they feel the urge, throughout the year).

Writers who follow the hashtag throughout the day can see if anyone is looking for the kind of manuscript (ms) they’re writing, and the tweeting agents and editors have a much higher probability of snagging a ms that hits their sweet spot. Everybody wins! Unless, like me, you’re not ready to query.

For those of us who haven’t quite got our mss up to snuff, #MSWL day can be agonizing. On the one hand, how can you look away—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You’ll want to know who that agent or editor is so you can query when the ms is polished! On the other hand, how can you watch—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You can’t query that agent or editor until your ms is polished!

It’s not like I have any illusions about my current ms. Much as I like my story, I’ve no idea if it will actually appeal to an audience wider than my closest friends and family. And all sorts of folks will tell you they had to write something like a dozen novels (and query ten of them) before even getting an agent, let alone a book deal. So I know the odds of getting this sucker onto the shelves are about as good as those of winning the lottery. But I want desperately to try anyway.

So come 26 February (the next “official” #MSWL day), I’ll be watching the tweets roll in, pondering my own simple, single-item manuscript wish list: get it finished!

Winter Slog

Mother Nature hates me.

Every time I think I’m about to get some time to myself again, another “polar vortex” bears down on us and makes the local environment so deadly the school district (wisely) decides to cancel classes, and I have my kiddos at home. This wreaks havoc on my concentration.

And just as there is ramp-up time to get yourself in a groove after you’ve spent time perusing social media (or whatever other procrastination techniques you prefer), I’ve found I have ramp-up time on a larger, daily scale, as well. I’m still not back into a “school’s in session” frame of mind; I’ve not been there since mid-December.

Experienced writers often tell aspiring writers that the only rule is to write! Sit down every day and get on with it. That’s the only way to succeed. Well, at this rate, I’m doomed to failure. I simply have not been able to carve out a sufficient block of time to get into that key headspace more than once or twice a week—and very small blocks they are, at that!

Yet I take perverse comfort in posts such as Kameron Hurley’s recent treatise on persistence. Do I write daily? No. Am I making consistent progress on my manuscript? No. Do I keep coming back to it? Yes. So maybe it will take me untold years to get this thing up to snuff (ye gods & little fishes, I hope not…), but I will finish it. And then I’ll move onto something else. And that something else will be better. And so will the next thing, and the next, and the next.

So I’m off, back to the Word Mines. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s really no place I’d rather be.

Chapter Interstitial

Writing conditions have not improved much since my last post. It’s been very difficult to carve out any sort of workable block of time in which to sit down and get on with it. I’ve managed to get some older pieces revised (again) and passed on to my CPs for comments, though, so that’s a step in the right direction.

The big deal about moving past those chapters for the moment is that I’m now free to refocus on the climax of the story. My final three chapters, such as they are, need polish on the mechanics (kill all the weak verbs!), and some PlotSpackle™ and sanding to make them match the changes made in the rest of the manuscript to date. My major challenge, though, comes in that quiet spot in between.

You see, I’m in need of an additional chapter; too much has been left unsaid. When all the build-up comes to a head at the end of that last chunk my CPs are reviewing, the reader will hopefully be eager to flip the page and find out how my protagonist takes this new revelation and runs with it. Unfortunately, on the next page she’s already executing A Plan without the reader having been let in on everything she knows.

Obviously, I need to write “Chapter Interstitial.”

What makes the composition of this chapter such a challenge for me is that it’s being created in a manner totally new and alien to my normal modus operandi. Having created the original draft in true NaNoWriMo “pantser” tradition (that is, I didn’t plot it out ahead of time, but just wrote by the seat of my pants), and revised from existing text, only adding or subtracting scenes as discussion with my CPs indicated it was necessary, I feel completely unprepared to write an entire chapter that needs to include specific information and plot points. It’s rather unnerving.

So this week, I’ve not yet done much in the way of actual writing, but I’ve begun expanding my notes. I’ve listed what else the reader needs to witness before barreling into the following chapter, from character motivations to background details to the foundations of that Plan. I’ve even done a little arranging where I think each part should appear relative to the others. Pretty much everything I need is there now—I just need to write it.

If I keep telling myself that, it’ll happen, right?