The Great Pumpkin er,…Sort

I recently read and commented on Kim Smith’s author blog Is this book DOA? Five Ways to Know and it got me thinking. – love when that happens –

Is the Heyswood novel DOA? Two years ago, when I was tired of the manuscript I was working on and was about to start off with a new set of characters and new story idea, I realized I was working on my 13th manuscript and something clicked in my brain. This was not cool. To have too many unfinished manuscripts to be starting a new one, again.

The unsettling part wasn’t that there were so many, it was that they were ALL unfinished.

I pushed the loveseat against the wall, moved the kitty cabana to the window, fished out my camping sit-seat, and set-up my laptop in the living room. I turned Pandora on to a Brittany Spears station and poured myself an adult beverage. Then I proceeded to sort through every scrap of paper, notebook and computer file I had. It was a huge mess.

I sorted by book idea, craft notes and miscellaneous. The electronic files were the most difficult. Apparently, my nervous nature combined with believing if something bad can happen then it will probably happen to me and my write-aholic/burn out habitual cycle, created a poorly organized electronic filing system. There were a lot of duplicate files with minor changes on each version and the only way to know which was the most recent was by the last modified date. I shuffled everything into its corresponding Book Title folder and figured I’d deal with it the next time I start writing those stories.

What I gained from The Great Sort of 2012 was a snapshot of my writing to-date. I picked the story that had the most material and as I read through it, my passion to tell the story sparked. And here I am, two years later, still tinkering with it. Is it DOA?

No, I don’t think it is. Heyswood isn’t actually one book. At The Great Sort of 2012 it was Jane and Colin. Jane a widow, and Colin inheriting the dead husband’s title. But Colin was already a titled gentleman, he was Lord Trentworth, and Heyswood was a lesser title he was inheriting. Jane was staying at the country estate, carrying on her husband’s work of renting horses to local smugglers. Colin came to visit the property and the two most certainly did not get along. They were supposed to move to the London townhouse, but then I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story so that it would be acceptable to readers to overlook them living together in town. And I stalled. For months. It was quite sad actually.

But I was determined to stick with it. I refused to start a 14th story. But in many ways I did. The Heyswood novel as is it today is a totally different story. Now, it all happens in Town. Colin Shelby, a tradesman, inherits the Marquidom upon Lord Heyswood’s sudden and bloody death. Julia is traumatized by her husband’s death, she is living with relatives and chaperoning her cousin. There are no smugglers and the love is different, it is a quieter love.

Kim’s article offers helpful analysis. For the Heyswood novel:

  1. Yes, it physically, mentally and emotionally hurts to work on the book. But – I think in this case it is because physically, I am uncomfortable in my chair thanks to physical ailments I’ve been dealing with; mentally, I have a two year on/off relationship with this story, disillusionment gathers since I’ve re-envisioned it multiple times hoping that I’m making the story stronger while I hone my craft; and emotionally, writing scenes to bring emotion to the page is draining, especially when I’m digging through memories of strong emotions from personal experience.
  2. Yes – Just. Cannot. Do. It. – say hello to one side of my write-aholic/burnt out cycle.
  3. No. – I see the beauty.
  4. No. – I don’t have questions, I know what I need to do. (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, go.)
  5. Yes. But – while I know some of my tinkering is procrastination, part of it is genuinely editing the work. I like to study craft. When I’m having trouble getting out of burn out I often start re-reading craft books, inevitably I open the manuscript and magic happens, I’m a write-aholic again.

Read Kim’s article. What do you think about DOA books? Is there a spectrum, with a point of diminishing returns based on time investment? How long do I continue to work on the Heyswood novel until it has just been too long – and if I walk away from this book, will I ever complete a manuscript? How long do we hold out hope to hear a heartbeat before pronouncing a manuscript dead?

>Author’s liberty: I couldn’t resist. I have nostalgic memories about The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

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Active Pursuit = Messy

The time has arrived. The Emerald City Conference is this weekend.

For the last two months I’ve been in the panic stage of, — “Oh my gosh! This will never be ready for the Emerald City Conference! I should give up writing and just play video games and watch tv!”

So of course, I’ve watched both Seasons of Bates Hotel, and am halfway through the second season of Alphas. I’ve also made many new people in Sims 2, put together all the jigsaw puzzles I own and learned how to play Rivals of Catan. Although, I have gone through several drafts of what I plan to say during my pitch. Pitchfest is this Friday night and my pitch appointment is sometime Saturday morning.

The knee-jerk fear and anxiety is so much more than putting my best foot forward at the conference. The stress of having knee surgery, moving to another state, starting a new dayjob, and moving in with my boyfriend for the first time, are all highly stressful life events, and they all happened in the same two month span. Add my tendency to want order (err,…control and perfection) in my life and – wham – self-soothing takes center stage. Hello tv, videogames, and way too much caffeine.

>>>Note:  I almost wish someone would nominate me for the 3-Day, 3 Things You Are Grateful For Challenge I’ve seen floating amongst my extended family’s posts on Facebook because the Ikea delivery arrived on Monday, and I am so very grateful I made putting my new desk chair together a priority last night. Finally! My new writing space feels complete again.

The Heyswood novel continues in the revision and editing stages. I am done with revisions, just filling in holes due to the re-envisioned material, and adding layers and polish. And while I am not happy that the manuscript is still unfinished, I cannot take my inner-chastising seriously anymore. A lot of life just happened and I’m glad that I’ve again re-convinced myself to, again, recommit to my career goal of being a successful, multi-published Historical Regency author.

My first recommitment step is to be a charismatic fool at the conference to enhance my network to pave the way for amazing opportunities in the long-term. I don’t just write for fun anymore, I’m actively pursuing this goal.

Which brings us to Nanowrimo. It is creeping up on all of us. I want to participate, but I don’t want to write a jumble of 50k words just to hit a number count. Editing that jumble is a nightmare.

But for now the plan is: 1) to get enough sleep to be safe driving to and from the conference, 2) emerge on Sunday with fistfuls of author and publishing industry business cards, and 3) have a request for a partial of the Heyswood manuscript.

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Cat Lady?

A cat, a car and a suitcase.

Actually, it is a cat, a car and… two suitcases, two boxes, two backpacks and two bikes. All of which have been my sole possessions for the last three weeks. One more week and I will have my life back. Namely, my boyfriend and our belongings will move into the spacious, nearly empty, two-bedroom apartment that I’m currently in.

When I moved away for college I was excited. It quickly turned into loneliness and boredom. The same experience happened over the course of this multi-phased move. Thankfully I have Oliver to chase away both, but it doesn’t require my psychology degree for me to know that I talk to the cat WAY too much. Since “The Man” and I decided to move in together on this, our second out-of-state move, I think he knows what he’s getting into, but a little part of me wonders if he really knows.

<Note to self : Air-mattresses ARE better than the floor, but they are not as great as your mind imagines.>

<2nd Note to self: …especially after recent knee surgery. Remember this for the next time you move and think this scenario is a “great idea”. >

Meanwhile, on the writing front, I attended my first Greater Seattle RWA meeting this month. There were plenty of networking opportunities and I volunteered to moderate a session at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference.

My Raffle Goal for next meeting: To finish transitions between all of the scenes in the Heyswood novel.

Update: The Heyswood novel continues in the revision and editing stages. I’m pretty much done with revisions, just filling in holes due to the re-envisioned material, and adding layers and polish.

I’m in the panic stage of, — “oh my gosh! this will never be ready for the conference! i should give up writing and just play video games and watch tv! — But I’m pushing through it and working on the WIP anyway.

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Throwing in the towel aka revisions or fear

I’m not actually throwing in the towel. I honestly don’t think I ever will, but two days ago I hit a wall of hatred. I hated everything about the Heyswood novel. For three hours I thought I was a complete failure and that I should walk away from this novel, cancel my Oct 18th pitch appointment and start over with different characters and a new plot.

At the three hour mark I had an epiphany, partially thanks to Dennis Palumbo and his book “Writing from the Inside Out” (who’s name inevitably triggers the image of Peter Falk shuffling through my mind, cigar in hand, one hand folded across his waist as he’s about to reveal the truth or deliver a thought-provoking line of questions). Dennis’s book is all the cliche metaphors that breathe fresh air into a writer’s sometimes solitary world. He rescued the Heyswood novel with the idea that I was experiencing a sort of writer’s block, a self-protecting mechanism. Fear.

I’m afraid I won’t have a good enough manuscript ready for the pitch appointment. Afraid the agent won’t like it and won’t ask to see some or all of it. I’m afraid the pitch will go great, the agent will ask for the manuscript, and will reject it, or that she will love it and want to be my agent. That we’ll start the editing process and get the novel shopped around. I’m afraid no publishing houses will be interested, afraid one or more will be and I’ll be juggling getting used to living in a new city, starting a new full-time job (note update – I have received a job offer and accepted it.), doing my best to recover from knee surgery, and trying to do my best with edits and deadlines and still maintain the peace of mind to keep me stable to be effective.

After acknowledging all of the above, and more, freaking out to the people closest to my life and settling down from the exhaustion of it all, I started to reenvision the Heyswood novel. The actual work has already begun. I have a sharper eye as I tweak scenes and ruthlessly remake the novel. The panic has transformed to inspiration.

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Temporary, full-time writer

I am moving to Seattle in two months. My wonderful boyfriend will be paying our bills when we get there while I look for a new day-job. Which means I will temporarily be a full-time writer. I’m excited, but also nervous. I have ideas for structuring the time as a 9-5 workday. There is pressure to prove myself, to myself and to everyone who believes me to be a writer. We’re all waiting for when I have something published. As the months and years pass the pressure increases.

The Heyswood manuscript is on its 6th or 7th draft, I’ve lost count, and must be ready to submit by Seattle’s Conference on October 17.  I continue to edit for scene continuity, write missing/new scenes, and do fact-checking research. The flurry of life around the time of the move will interrupt my editing focus, but the subsequent two weeks of being a full-time writer before the conference will let me make up for it. How long I get to continue writing full-time after the conference is unknown. I need a steady paycheck until my student loans are paid off and writing starts bringing in money.

What tips/tricks do you have for making your days productive without burning out or procrastinating?

What does the structure of your day look like?


8-9am wake up, morning routine/ breakfast,

9:15am Scrivner open, begin writing

Write scene/XXX words, then 15 minute reward break

Research 20 minutes, edit next scene, then 15 minute reward break

Reward ideas

  • read/comment on a blog I follow
  • review tweets and tweet
  • play with cat
  • chores (these are oddly rewarding to me, lol)
  • take a 15 minute walk outside
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July Goals and Wierd Motivation

I struggle with consistent motivation. I get really excited and caught up in a project and then burn out on it. Motivation comes and goes. It’s probably like that for most people though.

Some of us who attend SLC Write-In’s on Thursdays have formed a Facebook group page (by invite only). It started out last year as our work-around for not getting the people we wanting in our Nanowrimo July Camp cabins. Since we already knew of each other through the SLC Writer’s group it was more fun to participate in our Faux Nano group. It creates authentic social expectations to keep on track and is an easy way to keep in touch outside of the official Thursday SLC Write-In’s.

We’re four days into the 2014 July Faux Nano Camp and while I’m off to a really good start I know each day will only get harder. My motivation is starting to hide under the bed covers, especially today. I’ve decided to revive the 15 minute focus technique I learned in The Book Factory class. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what motivates me and to identify rewards I believe in, and I discovered that the oddest things can be weirdly motivating.

Take for example this post. I told myself that for July I would write a post on Thursday’s while at the SLC Write-In. I skipped last night since I was in a good writing groove and didn’t want to interrupt it by packing up and relocating to the cafe. It just didn’t make sense to stop the good thing I had going. So today, I slept in (thank you day-job for giving me today as a paid holiday!). I got up knowing I have no excuse to not get my prescribed 8 page revisions done today, but I needed to eat breakfast, and feed the cat, and scoop the litter pan, and take a shower, and clean up the kitchen, and vacuum my bedroom floor, and and and and. AND write this post since I didn’t yesterday.

So as I took the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and plugged the cord into the wall I decided no. No I wouldn’t vacuum until after I’d written this post. I thought “you’re being silly, just vacuum and then sit down.” And then I thought, “No. Sit down, do the post now. Then vacuum.” And you know what I did? I sat down, my fingers flying over the keys to say something worthy of being read,… all so I can vacuum my bedroom.

What seemingly odd things motivate you?

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Write everyday. Really?

Hiatus complete. The plan was to not write while other areas of my life took center stage the last six weeks. Back then looking at everything that was coming my way I knew I couldn’t maintain a balance unless I stepped back from my writing. Thankfully I have plenty of cushion before the Greater Seattle Area Conference in mid-October to work on manuscript edits. I expected things to wind down by this week and planned to start prepping for July’s Camp Nano when this week came around. And here it is.

There is a lot of advice encouraging writers to write every day. To have a daily writing habit. There is also plenty of advice proclaiming that your process is good enough, whatever it is (caveat- as long as you get the job done using that process). I haven’t found a process yet, nothing consistent anyway. I’ve spent years reading craft books, absorbing the concepts, doing the prescribed exercises, and trying the processes published authors say work for them.

The only consistent thing about my writing journey is persistence. I take breaks. I get sideswiped and lose momentum. I do too much too fast and get burnt-out. I make plans, set expectations, and then I adjust them. That is my process. No matter what happens, I keep coming back. To write, to research, to edit, to play what-if games, to try. To do.

What is your process? Have you found one?

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