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NaNoWriMo 2017 Aftermath

It is December first, and NaNoWriMo is over. Now we are all celebrating our victories, or licking our wounds. I am doing both.

For the second time in nine years I’ve failed NaNoWriMo, but boy did I come close. 4365 words from my goal, and I just could not go on. My brain, and my fingers, just gave out. I had been pushing all day long, and I managed to write 7284 words in one day, but I just couldn’t get those last four thousand words.

This was an incredible month, and I learned more about myself, and my novel, than I would have any other time. I threw away chapters, and rewrote a whole synopsis. I got stuck on the novel and went over to write some short stories for the day. I gave up on the original idea I thought I’d write because it just didn’t work. And I got that much closer to finishing book two and three of the new series.

Why did I fail? Well, I had a slow start. I fell into my stride about half way through the month, and finally found what I needed to say. That drove the story forward, and the words piled up. Had I found that story, and my perseverance, a couple weeks sooner I wouldn’t have had that epic writing day at the end.

However, that day writing 7k words was pretty exciting. That shows me that it’s possible, and if I keep pushing myself, and my endurance, some day I might be able to do writing days like that regularly.

I can make excuses about being distracted by life, children getting the flu, and feeling down the first week of this month, but ultimately they are all excuses. The truth is we all have those things happen. Life is not fair, life does not care if you’re trying to write every night. It simply is, and sometimes you have a bad day and you have to write anyway.

So I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, and you, and show exactly why I failed this years writing challenge.

First, for me I know that if I don’t write for a few days it is really difficult for me to keep writing. If I take a week off it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things. If something stressful is going on it’s that much worse.

So here is a chart showing how many words I’ve written every year for the last five years.

I have one month left in 2017, and I am 83,000 words behind my worst year out of the last five. And 48,000 of those words were written in one month. THAT, dear reader, is why I lost NaNoWriMo. Not because the kids were sick and we had to take them to the hospital. Not because I lost the story. Not because I had a couple bad days, or didn’t get enough sleep. It’s because I haven’t written that much this year anyway.

It’s not easy to look at this chart. Writing has been an incredibly important thing for me for as long as I can remember, and it’s upsetting to see how little care I put into my writing this year. Yes, I’ve written 65,000 words just on my new series, but that’s half as much as I wrote on the Witch’s Curse books each year when I was working to get them finished. And the question is why? Why did I give up? Why didn’t I push myself? Why did I choose video games over writing? Or a movie? Or a craft?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot these days. What do I want out of my life? Out of day job? Out of my writing? And I think that’s why I’ve been writing less. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to focus on, because I wasn’t sure if it could get me the one thing I wanted more than anything.

Gregg, my boyfriend, started his own business this year. He works harder than ever, but he’s happier then he’s ever been. And he’s his own boss. No one to be accountable to accept himself (and maybe his audience) and….well no management to look over his shoulder, count the beans, and make sure he’s “doing his job right.” He’s accountable to himself, his art, and fans he’s gathering. And he’s so happy!

That’s what I want for myself, I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Writing seems to be the thing that I’m best at, but I’m still pretty horrible at marketing. I know that because I’ve tried a LOT of marketing this year with maybe okay results. But we live, we learn, and we try something new, right?

The world is a strange place. We have adages like “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and “fake it till you make it” but no one tells you that someone has to weed the yard. Someone has to fix the plumbing. Someone has to pick up the trash. They probably didn’t want that for their life’s work either, but there they are. Supporting their family and doing a job so they can have a home, and set the table every night. But when you believe those adages and you aren’t doing what you love as a job you start to feel like you’re not good enough. And so here I was, feeling like I wasn’t good enough. Wondering if I should just give up and let writing be a hobby, like video games or crafts, instead of just working my butt of for the next novel, and trying to make a living on it.

And the truth is I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever be able to make enough so that I can stop working for someone else. I don’t know if I will ever get a book out that strikes a cord with readers. I don’t know…if I’m good enough. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. I love to write, and I’m going to keep doing it.

So, this NaNoWriMo I learned to stop wallowing in my own self pity, and wondering what if, and just enjoy writing the story again.

And that’s what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow. Today was a day for reflection.

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in On Writing

 

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Switching Mindsets

I just found out today that I won’t be starting my new job for another three weeks. There was a little complication because I moved here from a small county that is very slow to process things, so the new job is waiting for the background check to come back from said county and say “no, she was never arrested here.” Well, I’ve never been arrested so I’m not worried about that, it’s just going to take a little longer.

So I have three weeks home…waiting. And Gregg, the helpful person that he is, said “No, you have three weeks to write. Prove to yourself you can do this full time.”

You know how some things look good on paper, but then  you actually attempt them and things don’t quite look the same as you thought they would? That’s what I went through today. But the thing that looks different isn’t something I had considered before.

First of all, Gregg is absolutely right. I have three weeks to write my heart out and prove to myself that I can do the writing part of being an author. Finishing things, and getting the ready to edit. In three weeks with nothing but writing to do I should be able to double my words. Right? And I know, it doesn’t actually work like that, but if I never try I’ll never improve.

Second, I have the story. I have the plot. I have the characters. That’s not a problem, and I’ve written more on this story than I have on previous ones, so there is president here.

Third, my phone is broken. With no job, and no phone to distract me I should have more time… SHOULD.

And oddly it isn’t the idea of writing, finishing story lines, or producing books that has me worried. I know I can do that, and I’m fairly confident I can do it faster if I just put my nose to the grindstone and do it.

No, what worries me is the pay. Since my divorce I’ve been the person who paid the bills. Rent, electric, water, etc. All the bills are in my name, and I am responsible for them. In the last couple of years Gregg moved in, and he’s helped considerably by paying for groceries, getting gas, tires, and giving me money for rent. But I pay the majority of the bills in the house. We both also set aside savings toward our eventual house, but the bills are mine.

I have preferred it this way. A large hardship in my marriage was related to finances, I had no control over it then. He made the money while I was a stay home mom, so I had no say over anything. Part of my worries that if I let myself get into a situation where a man is paying my bills again I will lose control and end up broke… again. Never mind that this is false logic since Gregg is incredibly smart with money, and we both have nest eggs in case something ever happened. Logic has nothing to do with it. My brain has been programmed to worry about giving up control like that, and yet here I am.

I’m sure I’ll eventually make money from the books I write. I already make a little. I just don’t know how long it will be before I make enough to sustain a household, so the idea of giving up a steady job with good pay and benefits just doesn’t make me comfortable.

It’s a mindset shift. If I ever want to make it as an author and stop working for someone else then I have to buy into the idea that it’s possible. That I don’t need a corporation to pay my bills. Which is crazy since I’ve been saying for years that people who can’t find a job should make a job. Saying it and jumping off into the deep end to do it is two different things though.

I’ll be going back to my regularly scheduled pay checks. I’m not ready to give them up yet. But maybe Gregg is right, and this is my opportunity to give it a go, even if it’s just for three weeks.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2016 in On Writing

 

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My love/hate affair with reviews

“As an author…” Don’t you just hate it when someone starts the conversation as “As X I believe Y.” It sets them apart, says “I’m X and you aren’t therefore you don’t understand in the same way I do.”

Except that we all have those moments. Because I am a mother I see things in certain ways. Because I am an author I see another faucet of the world. A girlfriend, a divorcee, a survivor of abuse, a high school graduate. All of those things are things that I have done, as have many thousands of other people. So as one of them I do have a different perspective then someone who isn’t.

It’s still a bothersome way to start a conversation. And yet I almost did here.

Anyway, back on subject. I’ve been thinking about reviews a lot lately. NOT reviews of my book, as you might have guessed, but reviews from my day job. Some of you might know that I am a manager at a little store. Our corporation has “asked” us to get reviews from the customers. This means we hand out cards that say “give us a review on Google or Yelp to let others know how you like us,” or something to that effect.

For every fifty cards you give out you might get one review. This causes problems in a little store like mine where I only see two to three people a day. I ask, I hand out cards, and I just barely manage to get their quota of two reviews a month most months.

Then I have to go through the whole conversation of “Why aren’t you doing better?” Sigh.

So when I come home and I deal with my writing and it comes time to ask for reviews…there is a love/hate struggle of epic proportions going on inside of me.

First of all, I LOVE reviews on my books. I’ve only gotten a couple of bad ones, and so many great ones. I’ve read every single one and they just make me happy. Happy that someone took the time to read it. Happy that someone bothered to write a review. Happy that people ACTUALLY LIKED my book.

But the asking…the asking for reviews sucks and I hate it. I hate to feel like I’m imposing myself on others.

“Reviews are the life blood of authors” as the email I just got this morning from another author friend reminded me.

Then you go to Target, or the local boutique, or the car wash and are bombarded by people asking for reviews. Then you get these postcards of “review us please” filling up your pockets.

reviewAs an author I love reviews. As a consumer I am slightly annoyed with every store asking for them. And as a manager at a little shop I feel guilty asking for them, and frustrated that I can’t make the quota.

I still do it. I do my job, put a smile on my face, hand them the card and say “Please give us a review to let others know how helpful we’ve been.” Then I ask the next person, and the next, rarely expecting a review because so few people actually do.

And that’s the crux of the problem. The new internet revolves around reviews, but only a small fraction of us actually do them. I know I don’t do them very often. I just added a ton of books to my Goodreads library and only reviewed a handful of them.

Your book reading choices are being influenced by a fraction of the reading population. Did you know that? If 1000 people download the book, and 100 people read it, but only only ten actually give it a review that is a really small portion of the people who own it actually saying anything about it. That means if you care about reviews only a small portion of people, those who review everything, or those who had significant interaction with (good or bad) are influencing your decision on which product to buy.

And there are good reasons to review, and good reasons not to. For me, I prefer to review books that I really ABSOLUTELY loved so that others will know how much I loved it and might also read it. But I’ve read a lot of books and reviewing them all would take a very long time.

I don’t know if there is a point to any of this. Review my book? Yes, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read my book. But I don’t want to seem pushy either. So read it, enjoy it, and if you want to then let me know about it. I’d love to hear from you, even if you hated it.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Commentary

 

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When Hobbies become Jobs

I started writing a blog post and I realized I had a whole other thing on my mind, so I needed to write about that.

I’ve been following the Self Publishing Podcast for a while now. Long enough to watch Garrett go from fan, to writer with a day job, to full time writer, to writing full time and making a full living. It’s been an interesting thing to see. And Garrett is my friend, so I might be privy to things that aren’t necessarily on the podcasts we do.

What’s more, he isn’t the only author I’ve watched go through this transition. It’s a long hard road to go through. I’m hoping that I’ll start down that road myself soon.

At the moment my day job doesn’t interfere with my writing. I write mostly at night, and jot down a few notes every day at work. It works well. Part of me is actually afraid that if I quit my job I will lose my momentum to write.

Today was my day off. You’d think on a day off I could write more. But instead I played games, watched some youtube, and created some more resin charms. I did my hobbies, in other words, instead of what I am increasingly seeing as my “job”. Not working at the storage place, but rather writing my novels.

Many of us have this idea that if we could just do our hobby for a living we would always love our job and it wouldn’t be work. Maybe for some people that’s true, but there is also a great deal of work to go into it. And if you are self publishing, or creating your own store, then you have even more work. Marketing, packaging, analyzing, distribution.. you name it. It’s work.

It doesn’t make it less rewarding. Writing a novel is infinity easier on my body than digging a ditch, or power washing a gas station parking lot (both things I’ve done.) But writing a novel can be tough. Sometimes it’s emotionally draining to write emotional scenes. Some days you just want to give up when the words don’t come. Sometimes you’re frustrated because it seems like your words are falling on deaf ears. Maybe it doesn’t hurt you physically, but it can break you emotionally.

When writing started to become my career path instead of just a hobby I started taking up other hobbies to replace it. Crafting, gaming on twitch, reading more. Things I’ve always enjoyed, but things that require less brain power to accomplish. Sometimes you just need a break.

making your hobby into your career isn’t a magic button. It does not make you instantly happy, though I bet it’s an amazing feeling to tell your boss you quit (something I won’t be doing for another year or three.) It’s probably wonderful to be free of corporate pressures to produce, sell, achieve. But you’re replacing it with your own pressure to produce, sell, and achieve.

The real difference, the thing I want more then anything, is that instead of working for some nameless corporation that doesn’t give two nickels about you personally, for a job you aren’t even sure will be there next year or next week, you are working for yourself. When things get bad you have no one to blame but you. When you don’t work no one will complain but you (and maybe your readers.)

Making your hobby into a job is still a job. But it’s your job. Your business. You control it. If that sounds great then go for it. Otherwise… maybe don’t quit your day job.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in On Writing

 

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