the only place left to go is up

So — a 2019 recap is in order. The second week of February isn’t too late for that, right? Right.

I was not active on here. I should have been, but if I’ve learned anything from the last year, beating myself up over not doing something is the best way to ensure I continue to not do it. So there’s that: it is what it is, and we learn, and we move on.

I got a new day job. A step up from the old one, and a step closer to where I want to be.

I picked up some new/old skills. I learned how to fight with a rapier and a dagger in addition to a longsword, and I relearned how to crochet, and I sewed my first big clothing project. (A brocade jacket, which I’m pretty proud of. I should post pictures.)

I lost fifteen pounds. I blame that on rapier class, mostly, which can be blamed on Alexandre Dumas, because I read The Three Musketeers and just had to learn.

I got more active with tabletop rpgs. Even started my first ever campaign as a DM, which has been an amazing experience.

And I wrote.

I didn’t publish anything. Not original fiction, and not fanfiction. My AO3 account has been dusty and silent for over a year now, and, well … you know how my Amazon page has been.

But even if I never published a word of it, I still wrote. I polished off an entire 40k first draft of a novella. And here and there — halfheartedly, but still better than nothing at all — I worked on a partial draft of the fourth Iron Gentry book, adding just under 20,000 words to the draft in 2019. Most of these were written before I got the new day job; and the majority of the novella draft was written in a caffeine-fueled marathon that lasted for three days, clocking a total of 28,617 words in that time.

Not exactly sustainable. Add a day job to the equation, and … yeah. No. Definitely not.

(No, NaNoWriMo did not happen in 2019. Partially because day job, and partially because I got sick twice.)

But 60k words in a year isn’t anything to sneeze at. That’s a novella and a half, and it’s more than I wrote in the year 2018, if I remember correctly.

But in addition to that, I also wrote just under 225k of personal projects with a friend, most of which was based on The Three Musketeers.

Yeah, Dumas is definitely the criminal mastermind here, not me.

Will any of that ever be shared with the public? Probably not. It was damn fun, and I have a good time rereading it, but it wasn’t written with the intention to be consumed by anybody except myself and the friend I wrote it with.

… which I think goes a long way toward explaining just why I was so prolific with that, but not with the original fiction, or even the fanfic I pop on AO3. It’s a hell of a lot less pressure to goof around with a friend where no one else can see than it is to try to make something worth putting out to the public, to say nothing of putting a price tag on it.

The other main explanation is that because it was a personal project, a series of ongoing conversations with a friend about a book (and a movie, or multiple movies) that I love, in the year 2019 we wrote pretty consistently from the middle of March all the way through December 31. We did it in our free time, in stolen minutes during lunch breaks and in the morning before work, after work, long stints on the weekends. I haven’t tracked it on a graph, and I’m sure we had a few dry spells, but if we didn’t average writing 5 days out of 7, I’ll eat my tablet stylus.

It wasn’t a job. It was a hobby: it was fun, and I looked forward to doing it, and I did it whenever I could.

A third, smaller and sillier explanation is that formatting factors into it more than I’d thought. There’s this darn thing called smart quotes, and when I’m plunking along in the message system I use with my friend, smart quotes don’t register and it doesn’t matter what device I’m typing on. Whereas in Google Docs — my go-to for writing original and fan fiction on-the-go — on my laptop, smart quotes populate; but on my mobile devices, neither love nor money could convince those little Android keyboards to give me smart quotes.

Google Docs used to let my tablet do them, but it updated in the middle of last year and now… yeah. Nope.

This is why there’s a saying that goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

(See, I told you it was silly.)

In any case, altogether that’s nearly 300,000 words that I wrote in 2019. The equivalent of four novellas, or three nice-sized books, or one doorstop.

There’s a number of lessons to be learned here.

  • Get past the block of “oh man this has to be perfect on the first try,” so stuff can actually get written. Give myself permission for it to be silly and florid and dramatic, and to goof off with it a bit.
  • Getting excited, looking forward to it, leads to doing it whenever possible. Make it as easy as possible to do.
  • If something else is blocking me, find a way around it. Writing longhand seems like a good solution here, since I don’t have to worry about mobile devices formatting all my quotes the wrong way.
    • Related to the “make it easy” bullet — bring a notebook and pen with me everywhere I go, so I can write wherever I go. Not just my personal journal, but a writing one.
  • Reward my brain for writing, instead of beating it up when I don’t. Joy Demorra over at @thebibliosphere has a writing log that’s part of a rewards system for her daily routine, which is basically tracking the daily word count by putting a shiny sticker in her journal for every X amount of words. Does it have the same basic function as one of those NaNo tracker graphs, or my Writeometer app? Yes. But oooh boy, my crow brain is a lot happier about shiny stickers than it is about graphs.
    • At the same time, don’t fix what ain’t broke. The journal is for tracking total daily word count; Writeometer is best for tracking progress in a specific project. So I’ll probably end up using both.
  • Last but not least: when all of these conditions are being met? When I’m enthusiastic, when I’m giving myself permission to go off the rails, when I’m writing every minute that I can and not worried about formatting? I actually write a hell of a lot.

And that’s pretty reassuring.

So 2019 wasn’t a total bust after all — and hey, it can only get better from here.

alexa, play “the boys are back in town”

That there is a joke, because I will never own an Alexa, because the Internet of Things scares the living daylights out of me.

— Anyway.

The thing about the internet is you can start a sentence with “the thing about” with absolute confidence, and sound like you actually know what you’re talking about, as though you’re an expert.

I am not an expert.

I mean, clearly, considering my last post was from (*checks blog*) March. Yikes.

Procrastinator? Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

There are a few factors into this. One, the day-job-search which turned into the new-job-navigation (five-month-mark at the end of October, woo!). Two, the attempt to Konmari my living space, which has had middling success thus far. Three, the re-engagement in my local European martial arts club, which I had dropped last fall and only got back into this summer. Four, jumping headfirst into more tabletop rpgs with some long-distance buddies, including my own pseudo-homebrew LOTR campaign. Also, this month I picked up sewing as a hobby, and actually made a pretty cool  brocade jacket on the first try, if I do say so myself.

Life goes on. I’m not going out dancing every night, but I am busier than I was this time last year.

But the fact of the matter is that these things don’t excuse my absence on this blog. If nothing else, I could have at least spared a few minutes here and there to write “I ain’t dead”.

And if I’d taken a few minutes here and there to work on my novel drafts every day, then — well — see my previous post in March about writing being like brushing your teeth.

Writing-wise, I am full of cavities right now.

And then you look at the pile of Things To Do, which seems to get bigger every minute, and then (if you’re me, at least) you balk, and then you decide to ignore it, because in the moment that’s easier. That’s a problem for Future Me is practically a slogan of mine by now.

It’s not a good way of doing business. I can’t write this on my taxes next year, that’s for sure, unless something miraculous happens in the next (*checks calendar*) two and a half months.

Yikes.

It feels disingenuous to tell you now that I’m gonna work hard to be better, when I’ve made those promises before and not kept them. It feels disingenuous to say I’m going to try to post a weekly update, and write SOMETHING every day.

But the alternative is to do nothing at all, and I’m done with that.

I want to be better. So I am going to try — actively try — to be better.

And hey, NaNoWriMo is coming up soon. What better time to start holding myself accountable again?

writing is like brushing your teeth

or: get ready for an overly-explained metaphor that you’ll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to read.

My new laptop has been up and running again for just over a week now, and in that time I have written nearly 28,000 words — today I’m hoping to cap it off at a neat 35,000. On Goodreads the other week I mentioned that using the Writeometer app is a good way of making writing fun, because the neat little bar graph and line graph show my progress (and the bright green graphics certainly make it nice, and the little inspirational writing quotes on the main app page are super cute).

But what it also does is it keeps me honest in not only how much I write, but how long it takes me to do it. What it comes down to — and I can’t claim that it makes sense, all I know is that that’s how it works — is that if I don’t time myself to write as much as I possibly can within 20 minutes, and do so multiple times a day, then I waffle around a bit and at most I’ll write 5,000 words.

The week before my old laptop died, I clocked almost 12,000 words, none of those using timed sessions.

Between yesterday and the day before, I clocked nearly twice that amount. By timing myself, 20 minutes at a time, for nine hours yesterday and six hours the day before.

Now, that wasn’t all in one go each day. I had to get coffee and eat food and take out the recycling and water the plants and get the mail and sleep. And what I found is that I naturally fell into a rhythm of 4 sessions in a row, then getting up and stretching my legs and running errands as needed, then getting back in the saddle.

And waking up this morning, I knew very well that doing marathons like that isn’t sustainable: because my wrist hurt, and because my eyes felt like they’d been dried with a blow torch. I normally spend my days staring at a computer screen, but not quite in such a concentrated manner, and dang if it doesn’t make a physical difference.

So: writing is like brushing your teeth. If you’re anything like I was as a teenager (and college student), and you forget to brush for days at a time until finally about a week later you realize your teeth are absolutely covered in gross slimy fur, then when you finally do brush your teeth (taking five minutes to excavate and floss and all the rest) your teeth feel so shiny and slick and clean that you wonder why you don’t do this every day.

I do brush my teeth regularly these days. And (knock on wood) I haven’t gotten a cavity yet. But the procrastination to the point of discomfort, and then the mad rush to do a week’s worth of time in a matter of hours, is the exact same whether you’re brushing your teeth or whether you’re writing.

And frankly, it’s healthier to write 3,000 words a day for eight days than it is to write 24,000 words in the space of 48 hours.

The long and the short of it is that by the end of the day today, the rough draft of my first romance novella will be going up for edits — and by the end of next week (given a more reasonable pace rather than a marathon), so will the fourth Iron Gentry novel.

update roundup

or: the Case of the Over-Caffeinated Laptop.

First off, an extremely belated happy 2019! LTUE was two weeks ago now, and the con crud has run its due course. I have several sparkly new ideas to either turn into new projects or add to existing projects, and a whole bunch of new reading material. Shoutout to Natalie Whipple, whose book The Vengeance Code is first up on my to-reads, and who had some great insights in the “Pantsing: Making the Most of Draft 0” panel.

In terms of actual writing, the fourth Iron Gentry book is still on Draft 0. For the last few months – well, basically, up until a week ago – it had been extremely slow going. Then all of a sudden, something in my brain went click and I was averaging nearly 1700 words a day (the same as a NaNo daily word count). Everything coming up roses, all was well, one of those days I clocked over 5000 words –

– Then yesterday the great coffee spill of 2019 occurred.

Reader, I wept. I bawled like a little baby. That laptop has everything on it, not just my writing, and there was only one viable USB port left on it – and the last time I backed it up was back in September.

If nothing else, this has hammered in the lesson that I really, really ought to do weekly hard drive backups.

According to the various tech support sites, for liquid in the keyboard the device is supposed to air out for 96 hours before you should even try to revive it. So for the next three days, it’s mobile devices only. Thank God for tablets, right? I would hate to be typing this up on my smartphone.

If everything goes well, I should be back in business Monday evening. At which point it’s full steam ahead, and aiming (ideally) for a mid-April release.

I’ve decided, in the interim, to work on some projects that I can’t sell for money (aka fanfiction). That way I can try to keep the high productivity going and maybe even turn it into a habit. It makes sense to me to have links to all of my writing in the same place, too, not just some of it – so as I update fanfic, I’m going to post links to them on here as well.

A Harry Potter/Les Misérables crossover fanfic is a very different subgenre of fantasy than Iron Gentry, considering the time period if nothing else. And I find that my writing style changes a little between original stuff and fanworks. (For one thing, I would never dream of selling something written in the present tense. But that might just be me.) But it’s really fun as a hobby, honestly; and fanfic lets me do crazy whackdoodle crossovers that I can’t use to turn a profit, too. And since original flash fic isn’t working out for me as well as I’d hoped, fanfic seems like the best way for me to get free writing samples out there.

Wish me luck on my laptop – and see you soon!