The not-so wise words of Adrienne Lecter

Category: author life (Page 2 of 3)

Day 17 & 18 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 28,333 / 30.000
Actual words: 0
Overall words: 43,006

Took the weekend off, pretty much (might add Sunday, too). Two hours in dental appointment hell was enough. Friday / Saturday we were watching the new Punisher series on Netflix, now on Sunday the last season of Longmire. Already November might become my most productive month of the year, won’t hurt to recharge the creative well in the middle, take a breath, and dive back in on Monday.

A few words about inspiration, and why Netflix did everything right with the Punisher.

I haven’t read the comics so I can’t say how accurate they were in portraying Frank Castle, but I’ve seen the two movies, and loved him in the 2nd Daredevil season. I’ve so far enjoyed all of the Netflix Marvel shows, even Iron Fist (although the bungled a lot there). My favorites are still the first Daredevil season, Jessica Jones, and the Defenders. I may have a huge crush on Mrs. Semi-Functioning Alcoholic. I might even lose the shows more than the movies, although the last Thor movie was amazeballs. The shows are great because they have more time to develop and explore the characters, and that’s where the Punisher was strongest, for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was great in DD2 already, but now we really got to dive into his head, see through his eyes, taste his frustration that was so visceral that, really, his dreams were the worst for me. The whole first episode was the perfect way to set the stage, and they really hit the street running from there. Could it have been done in 10 rather than 13 episodes? Sure, but I feel like it was the right decision to take the time for some extra side plots.

The show’s getting crucified in the media over here because, oh noes, how dare anyone still produce anything with a strong, hard, unforgiving male lead? I wonder if they saw all the episodes because there’s so much more to Castle, and his friendship with Micro, than just the general premise. Sure, they threw some nice punches to both the left and right, without getting overly moralizing, which would have ruined the narrative. I also feel like stressing that I had a few moments while watching where I went all, “Oh, no, I just wrote that!! People will think I’m ripping off the show with my next book!” (Well, not really, but having gotten inspired). I also feel like most of you will appreciate the show for what it is, and what they did with it.  Great characters. Great narrative. Also, the fact that one reviewer decried that there was no real villain is IMHO a string point for the show. It was neither black nor white but all about the gray in between. and that’s where I feel characters truly shine. Not-so-good people doing shitty things that then conflict with their moral code and kick off a cascade of shit that they then have to deal with, and that pushed them so beyond their limits that they cannot win, because even revenge won’t make up for what they lost? Yes, please!

In short, watching the Punisher was very inspiring for me.

See, the thing about inspiration is, it’s not a concrete thing like, say, food. Among any sort of creatives, there this idea of “refilling the creative well,” that you can’t create something from nothing. Goes hand in hand with the fact that a lot of writers, after finishing a novel and pouring everything they have into it, they feel empty. Sometimes I’m able to avoid that stage but it hits me eventually, or catches up with me (finishing the novel is okay, but usually, publishing it where it hits me). So I gotta refill, like everyone else. Reading books is a great way to do that, only that often, I just can’t because my mind won’t stay on task long enough when I’m this empty. I’ve recently heard another writer say she goes on “artist dates” with herself, like visiting a museum or art gallery. Don’t get me wrong, I like museums, but I’m generally not very inspired by them. that likely says a lot about me, and what I’m made up from. But watching a great movie, or TV show, or maybe even a documentary might spawn an entire new series in my head. Or a character. A setting. It might reinforce my decisions about how to handle a plot point, or make me realize that I went in a wrong direction with something.

So while that might seem contraindicative to some, I refuse to feel bad about spending a good portion of my evenings and weekends in front of the TV. Plus, I’m a storyteller. Pacing is important to any story, and movies and TV shows do pacing really well if they’re worth watching. We writers can all learn a thing or two from that. Sure, reading books is great for learning how to write well, but they’re not the only option.

Day 16 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 26,666
Actual words: 2,929
Overall words: 43,006

Had a good run through the day, but didn’t get anything done in the evening. Then 2 hours at the dentist this morning, I damn well deserve to binge on the Punisher tonight! Yay! Might not be much of an update tomorrow.

Day 15 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 25,000
Actual words: 2,822
Overall words: 40,077

Stayed up late last night to break the 100k words on GF#8 – so worth it! Also to get so many positive comments in the facebook group. I can’t tell you how much of a morale booster that 5-second effort from a reader can be to a writer. At least it is for me. I mean, of course I have my sale numbers, KU page read stats, review numbers (if amazon doesn’t randomly dock them. I’ve been lucky so far, I think?) – but it’s different to have a face (or funny avatar) to put it all in perspective when I get to interact directly with you guys. Really means the world to me! I’m getting all sentimental here… and I’m severely sleep-deprived because the cat wouldn’t let me have the two extra hours of sleep in the morning. Evil black cats are evil!

Writing went okay yesterday, and shy of 3k I can’t complain but I wish it was more. I really want to finish this book soon! Also so I can make the release estimate and have it out before the end of the year. Swam for 1.5 hours yesterday and that wiped me out a little. But hey, the 100k mark is surpassed, the rest should go quickly. Usually does. If anyone’s wondering about my mental state, I think I’ve stabilized to “normal” overall, Saturday was a fluke, thankfully! I mean, I would love to have the book done in under five days, but it’s nice to feel “okay” rather than any of the extremes for a bit. Also did some number crunching last night (October sales report was ready on amazon), year’s not half bad! I didn’t have the mega phenomenal numbers of 2016 but that year, I released three books in five months and the series was just taking off, that momentum is harder to recreate when you’re writing the long tail of the series. But for a 10 months break and two releases it’s been more than simply “okay”, which is amazing! Amazon pays royalties two months after the month in which they were accrued, so I pretty much know now what my fiscal year 2017 looks like. Pretty damn proud of myself for getting back in the saddle, and hopefully you’ll get that 3rd book of the year before 2018! The last two releases were certainly amazing!

I had a longer post planned but had to talk for an hour on the phone (I know, the horror!) so I’ll get to writing now and ramble on once the book is done. I know, that will leave you all heart broken!

Day 14 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 23,333
Actual words: 2,049
Overall words: 37,255

A mixed bag of a day overall. The morning was phenomenal that I spent with my fellow writer and friend, her second book is out today! Yay! And the first is free right now, so if you love urban fantasy / paranormal romance, give her a leg up and download it. After some quality socializing (and talking shop. We’re not artistes, we’re writers who see their intellectual property as business. I can’t talk for her, but I generally see myself for as an entertainer, anyway). Went to get lunch afterwards, duck with veggie rice, at my favorite restaurant, wrote a bit there–and then fell into a deep, dark emotional hole. Crawled back home and snuggled in bed with the evil black cat, felt pretty wiped–until at around 8pm I get a second wind and wrote another 1.1k words to at least reach the NaNoWriMo requirement. Skipped out of a marketing webinar for that, but might catch the replay tonight where I can skip ahead to the good parts. You wouldn’t believe how much crap is getting sold to us Indie publishers to get the job done, although this one was a good one for once. Still. I don’t have $750 lying around to invest in a marketing course that might or might not help me sell more books. But next time I can’t write, I might set out and do some heavy duty marketing research. Let’s hope the muse keeps kissing me because I really don’t want to do that!

Home sweet home, I’m in the office again today, weather is nice but cold outside. The fridge is here! As is the new lamp. I can now enjoy refrigerated goods that I can not just eat, but also see while I’m eating them! Welcome to the 21st century.

Today is the halfway point of NaNoWriMo, and so far I have to say, I’m doing better than I was afraid but I’m still behind my absolutely fantastic plan. Pretty happy with the progress so far. If it wasn’t for Netflix releasing Punisher and Longmire this weekend, I might even finish the book by Sunday. I need inspiration, and there are few things I hunger for like binge watching quality TV, so I might take the weekend off from 12 hour writing sprees. Might still get some words in, and probably some exercise, too, but 2-3 days delay won’t make a difference. But damn, 37k words in 14 days and I still feel like I’m not producing enough. That’s not a healthy mindset, even if I’m doing it to catch up on time lost. Still, I’m on track for top 3 most productive months of the year, and at 60k (which sounds very reasonable) it will be the most productive. Can we do NaNoWriMo ever month, please?

Anyway, I have lots of greatness to write and zombies to kill! Interspersed with some salad and swimming, because this is my life now! I was offered “comfort salad” yesterday. I’m allowed to by a little cynical.

Day 13 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 21,667
Actual words: 3,038
Overall words: 35,206

I’m writing this at night as tomorrow morning I’m meeting with a writer friend of mine (still squeeing every time I say this!). If you want to check out her books, she writes urban fantasy / paranormal romance, and her second book is out on Wednesday! Book #1 White, #2 Black! She even got mentioned in the Chicago Tribune because of some really amazing background stuff going on. Hashtag famous people I know. Why I mention this? Well, because I’m having a phenomenal antisocial streak right now and why not share that with semi random people on the internet?

The thing is, when I feel really down, I often hide from the world. I can’t even stand to work from my office because I can’t stand the idea of running into anyone, or not being able to crawl into bed at home. I can take my laptop with me to bed, so might even get some writing done. But no people! What’s happening right now is different. I don’t like to interact with people. So sorry if you’re one of the people I regularly talk to, or are waiting for a comment or email response. I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. Someone at the gym, who I coincidentally spent my last two long training sessions with at the pool, said “bye” when she left the changing room ahead of me today. I barely managed to croak out a reply. It’s really that bad. I try to explain this to people who I regularly interact with but I feel like most don’t get just how bad this can get. I feel good right now. Normal good, not 120% extra good, but I’m def. not depressed at the moment. I write, a lot. So no real apparent cause for turning into a true Viennese, right? Well, with moderate grumpy levels. We can be way worse than this.

Why? Why is my mind behaving like this?

I have two explanations. One is mental (ha!), the other writing related.

Let’s look at the writing related one first. The book will be running long, but I’m in the second half now where a lot of action happens, and I love writing these parts. I really do. I feel like I’m submerged in the creative flow right now. I recently got the question again how much I am like Bree. Right now I often like I AM her. My mind won’t shut up when I step away from the computer. Either I write, or I intensely think through what I will be writing next. It’s a stop-and-go but non-stop, kinda. Yes, that’s also a hypomania thing, but I always get that at the ending of a book. It’s like the story needs to be finished. I couldn’t stop now if I tried. Might still be a week or two until I actually finish, but it’s happening right now. And when my mind is pretty much locked inside a fiction character’s mind, there’s not much outside socializing for Adrienne going on, now, is there?

The other explanation is something that occurred to me as I was walking back from the gym today to get some more writing done before leaving for home. I’ve spent the last months in a bad state, where I pretty much spent entire days loathing myself. For being stupid, for being lazy, for finding excuses, for not even trying, for writing shit stories, for not writing better stories, for not writing in a genre that sells better, for not being happier about my stories–you name it. The darkest side of depression is that a lot of people really dig deep into hating themselves, and they are way harsher than they’d be with anyone else. Guess what that accomplishes? They feel even worse. But I pulled through and now that’s behind me (well, most of it) and I’m much more enthusiastic about what I do and feel good about it. I’ve put myself through the emotional meat grinder, and now I need a little time with myself. You know, to pat myself on the back, forgive myself, hug myself, feel good about feeling better, maybe be a little proud I made it through moderately okay, things like that. I think that time’s really needed, and deserved. Right now there’s no space inside of me for anyone else, or their concerns. So while I would like to be there for others, reach out, connect, catch up… I can’t do that yet. Maybe in a day or two. Maybe next week. When I’m ready, I will be happy to. But not now.

Now, I need to be selfish, and get this fucking book out of my head before Bree is driving me insane!

Day 12 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 20,000
Actual words: 1,984
Overall words: 32,168

Slow  start for me today as I didn’t get much sleep. Ended up going to bed at 11pm like the good little writer that I am, but then couldn’t sleep. So I read a chapter in Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, seeing as the show caught up with my re-reading progress from… two years ago? Anyway, reminded me again why I love reading her books (because they are amazing) and why I stopped reading them at the time: because they screw with my writing voice. Not many books do, but I’ve had the same issue with Gale Carriger’s books. Brilliantly written, but maybe because the voices of the books are so different, something in me kind of starts imitating that. You know, you and I, we wouldn’t know each other if I didn’t spend the last 20 years of my life inhaling English language everything, and imitation creates perfection (or at least moderately entertaining genre fiction). Anyway, still couldn’t sleep so I got up at midnight and did an hour of going up and down my living room and kitchen, loud music blasting in my ears, in the dark, this time avoiding kicking either of my cats. It happens. At 1am or so I finally went to bed, and now I’m bleary eyed and only half awake.

Doing some extra plotting was good. Weekend writing went well (4k in 2 days) but not exceptionally well. I was having a bit of a stop-and-go with the conversations, had a change of heart about some details that I’d only recently thought of, so it was more noodling through the words than blasting through the chapters. It happens. Plus weekend, and I cherish the time I spend with my guy (until I go off in his face that I can’t stand his clingy omnipresence anymore, but hopping into the car and driving to the gym helps). He’s about 1/5 done reading the book and keeps telling me what he always tells me: “So far I like it!” Of course I love that he likes it (he insists he really digs my books and doesn’t read them as an obligation), but I think it’s obvious how feedback like that, across 7.2 books, can drive a writer insane.

I also spent 4 hours (I think) playing Skyrim, and then ended up so sick to my stomach that I had to spend an hour in bed. Yes, I get motion sickness from playing video games! And the IMAX 3D logo thingie. Thankfully no issues with the movies, but I needed about 2 weeks to get used to my mac when I got it. Damn you, retina display! Crappy low-resolution displays, like the one I have in my office to plug into my laptop, are so much more easy on the eye. And the stomach. So all that taken together meant I only wrote for two hours, and it draaaagged. But I will finish that scene today, and then… then the fun part begins! Well, the next fun part. This book was already a lot of fun to write in places. This is where you, as the reader, should start getting concerned.

Day 11 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 18,333
Actual words: 2,018
Overall words: 30,184

So, I usually type these posts on the mornings after the day, but for several reasons, the first half I do on Saturday evening; the rest is Sunday morning. As I write this, I haven’t actually written anything yet, and it’s already 8pm, about time I get some words done. What I have done today, besides catch up on TV, is swimming for two hours. Consecutive, and I wasn’t just paddling around. I really pushed myself, and then just kept on going… listening to podcasts, not some upbeat music that kept me going. That I went to the gym in itself is remarkably, been 4x this week so I really could have stayed home. But after last month’s downtime, I decided that I won’t be using the old “I’d rather work than work out” excuse, because I need to take care of myself first to be able to keep doing what I love. So I swam, for 2 hours, and felt really good about it. Only the second time I ever did this. Later realized that it might not have been the brightest idea when I wash shaking so hard that I almost couldn’t put on my underwear, and still had a 30 min drive home, though the rain, around the woods of Vienna, where a deer running across the street almost smashed into the car in front of me.

Anyway, why am I telling you this, except to brag (just a little bit. To some people I just want to say, hey, I look like a manatee, might as well swim like one, too!)? As I was driving, and musing my way through this blog post to come, I wanted to say something like, doing fine right now, which is awesome. You saw my mind in a bad place a few days ago, this is me doing better, yay! While really, I just wanted to write… so I figured I should add, see, this is “normal” for me, not the start of a hypomanic phase… when I’m so full of energy that I swim for two hours and feel like I could write through the night… yeah. You guessed it. Need a few more days like this but today was def. NOT a normal day! Plus, I feel amazing! Like, really, really good. I’m happy, shit that keeps going on around me doesn’t bother me (compared to my mind sinking into it to the point where it’s an endless cycle of misery and self-loathing. Today I’m like, nah, not going this, moving on, got bigger fish to fry!). I wish I should take a biochemical imprint of my mind from today, label it “preset awesome,” and reload it when I feel myself slipping once more. Because this? This, right now, is just… awesome. I know I overuse that word and it makes me sound way dumber than I am, but I feel awesome. I also feel like the book I’m writing is really good and you all will love it, I don’t care that it might have pacing issues… actually, I don’t think it has pacing issues. Because after how Affliction ended, I’m sure you want to know what happens 2 hours later. And the next day. And a week down the line. So what, I could cut the first 35k or 7 chapters and start the book the way I had intended it to, but really, I was writing those words when I was in my last super productive phase, they flowed, and when I did the first proofread, they didn’t drag. Who complains about an extra 100-140 pages (that are interesting. And awesome!) that you get with the rest of the book, for free? In KU more pages mean more money, so it’s not bad for me, on the contrary. And for the USD 3.99 that the book retails, I feel like you deserve a little extra without having to download the novella from my website. And OMG my mind is DEF. running in more than normal speed, which I feel because after 2 hours of swimming, my fingers are still a little weird and my back muscles def. hurt, so yay! Don’t care. Have fiction to write and people to kill. Soon.

Life is beautiful right now. And amazing. And I’m happy, which after the last weeks I really needed. I’m also happy because the book is progressing well, I’m taking care of myself and even feeding myself well, and we found a good solution for our next summer vacation after not being 100% happy with what we did the last 2 years. Was great, was mostly born out of me going from broke to not-so-broke-anymore, but it’s time for a change. Also slept for 8 hours last night, that was nice, even though I woke up with a killer headache. And while the ghost of my last depressive episode is still very fresh on my mind (and in my Bullet Journal. I even stopped doing a monthly tracker for my exercise because it was so depressing to go that almost completely blank. And my word count was abysmal. Yes, I don’t need to catalogue my mood to know I’ve had a few bad weeks, I can simply look at what has been going on.) After seeing the last dregs of that, welcome to the swing side of the insanity that my brain produces. And why so many people who are bipolar don’t want to take mood stabilizers. Depression is hell. And if that’s all you get, please, go get help, because nobody deserves to suffer like this. But what I’m on right now? I don’t want to lose this. I want to keep holding on to this all the time. In fact, everyone should have some of this, every single day in their amazing lives!! Getting a little concerned about the racing thoughts here, maybe I should lay off the Pepsi max, but I only have 1.5 bottles left so that will have taken care of itself by tomorrow. Very important I told you that, I’m sure your life is so much richer knowing this. Welcome to my brain on hypomania. I’m so glad I’m type 2, because full-blown mania really must be feeling like you’re going insane. I just feel really energetic, like a dog right before a walk, barking, jumping, running circles, ready to be OUT!! Time to get off the blog and into crushing that daily word count (while my guy starts reading the first 17 chapters of said book to let me know if I’m right in that the beginning is good, and this is not just my “I’m large than life awesome!” brain weirdness telling me shit again and making me incapable of judging what I write. Everyone should have an alpha reader like that, particularly if they can’t trust their own judgment half of the time.)

And now for the Sunday part:

(side note: Still feeling good, and didn’t get much sleep yet jumped out of bed at 7am. Seems like I’m all caught up on my sleep backlog.)

Because I’ve been promising it in the past and haven’t delivered it yet, and it came up in the facebook group: A few words about the process of writing a book. Grab some coffee or tea, this is going to be a longer post (writing it while doing some nice Sunday morning TV binging. Hey, I need to watch TV as it’s inspiring. Seriously. I know, best job in the world, right?)

Concept and outline: hours to decades
The very beginning of any story, and the part that’s the least precise. I’ve outlined stories in days, like the short story in the recent anthology. I’ve started writing on an epic fantasy story when I was 13 (up until graduating from high school), and I’m still turning that over and over in my head to one day be able to do it justice. Not sure I will ever get to that. Maybe once my backlist makes enough so I don’t need a release every few months to be able to pay the bills. There’s no rhyme or reason to this part of the process as it just happens in my mind. I’m always plotting one story or another up there. Brushing my teeth, waiting for the train (and often, the consecutive train ride as well), you name it. It’s the part that feels the most natural to me, and what’s impossible to explain, really. I do the most thinking of the recent project that I’m writing, but sometimes, I love to switch it up. Only takes me about an hour or so if I make bigger changes to rearrange an entire book. It happens!

Writing the book: 1-4 months, usually – 35-40%
This is the part you know I do, or I presume that’s the case, but the actual writing part takes up less than 50% of my time, with some light rewrites. That’s pretty much me spewing out words that should form a cohesive story. Transcribing the movie that I’ve built in my head and fine-tuned to the point where I can write it. Plus some additions, minus some points that are redundant. I write in a linear fashion, so if I change something, it usually affects only the parts not yet written.

Proofreading & editing: 25%
I write a moderately clean first draft, with maybe 1-5 things that need changing on each page. Some of the cleanup I do right in my Scrivener file, but I find more issues when I print it out, in 8 pt. font, 1.5 spaced, on paper, and then go over it with colored markers. Never red because that reminds me too much of school, I favor light blues, or recently, orange ink. I also proofread and edit on my iPad. Once the draft is cleaned up, it goes to my editor (two rounds) and beta readers. That part takes about a month. After all those rounds of making changes, I use the text-to-speech tool of my mac to read the entire book to me again. That’s painful, but is awesome for finding homonyms and things the reading mind, even in editing mode, skips over. All in all, I probably go through the text somewhere between six to ten times. That’s not that I’m more or less a pro, have deadlines, trust in my writing, and know what I’m doing. It used to be way worse. My first first novel had four entire drafts and three completely different versions. Now it’s usually one version with only very few variations.
I spend at least 2 weeks just editing, one after the draft is done, and one directly before publications. Least favorite part of the process. I try to do some of it while I’m still writing, just to make that a little more bearable.
Once the audiobook is ready, I need about 2-5 days to listen through it all so I can tell my narrator/producer if there are any changes to be made so I can approve it. Depending on how things are, that means an entire week.

Post-production, layout, stats, accounting: 10%
Books might look like just text, but really, you need to format them. You need a cover, and even if you don’t do that yourself, you spend hours going back and forth with your cover artist. You need to check your stats and track something, at the very least your expenses. All that can eat hours at a time, maybe even days. I’m running a business, I can’t just play all the time. It takes me a few hours to do the ebook formatting, about 3x as much for the paperback. I really like doing that, and usually watch YouTube on the side to keep my brain from powering down.

Marketing, social media, research: 20-25%
I don’t count hanging out with you guys on facebook in the group, or writing these blog posts. That’s my free time. I’m not a heavy marketer, but even so, there are things that need to be done. Even more so, I need to know what works for others, so I spend a substantial time listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and being active in writer forums. The podcasts I now listen to while I swim, so that was six hours this week. Usually it’s around 2-4 (I sometimes hop into the pool without wanting to be bothered by anything). Marketing needs to be tailored to each individual author, series, and book, so even if I get a good idea what someone else did, I still need to test, implement changes, crunch numbers, you name it. I spent over half a year learning how to self-publish before I uploaded my very first book to Amazon, and I still need to put hours into that process each month. You can’t just take a word file, slap on an MS Paint marquee cover, and expect it to sell.

Not giving up: what remains up to 100%
Not much, but sometimes, simply restraining your ambitions and not giving up when something doesn’t work out is work as well.

To sum this all up, I LOVE being a writer. I strongly believe it’s what I’m meant to do. I love this job, but in the end, it IS a job, not just a hobby or something I spend a lot of time with. I work somewhere between 50-70 hours a week, and that’s not counting a lot of extra stuff like reading books on craft, or doing story-related research. That’s kind of part of the writing process. I don’t do all of it every day; there are weeks where I just write, and do minimal other stuff, but accounting, stat tracking, and lining up promos is something I can’t really ignore for long or it will bite me in the ass. I now have systems that work for me, and I try to keep it all afloat so I don’t get bogged down in anything for long that isn’t writing. Like editing. Which I hate, with the vengeance of a thousand hells. But I won’t release a book that’s not the best it can be, and that takes time, so even with all the outside help I now get, I still need to put in those two weeks minimum. I refuse to be one of the writers that hurl out books that are “just good enough,” and accept a 10-20% docking in ratings for all the mistakes that could be avoided with a little more time spent weeding them out. Are there still errors in my books? Yes, and they drive me insane, but there’s no real way to get them all out. Also, I refuse to do lengthier rewrites of already published novels because you’ve read them. You might love exactly the part I’d cull down, and I never want to disappoint you like that. My time is better spent making the next book better than the ones that came before, so that’s what I do. I go back and correct typos if someone tells me about them, and I don’t forget. Which can be an issue sometimes, but I usually correct my master files the day I get a notice, and eventually, that shows up in the published versions as well.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you from becoming a writer yourself. Actually, now is a great time to be a writer, or start being one. A decade ago, all you could do was hope that an agent and publisher would take a chance on you, which always is a years-long process. Now you can teach yourself how to do all the many things you need to do to publish a book, work with freelancers to do the things you cannot do yourself (everyone needs an editor / proofreader. You cannot do a complete self-edit. At the very least, you need someone who tells you if your vision actually works, even if you managed to get the grammar perfect on your own. Which you likely won’t because the brain reads what it knows is there, not what you actually typed) and then release it into the world. All you need then is luck, and the right marketing tools so people will find your book. It doesn’t happen on its own, sadly, although Amazon helps a lot once the algos see that you try to grease them. Then it’s up to the readers to love it, share it, or ignore it. For a single book, all the extra work really isn’t worth it, but right now I have 14 books out there that have vastly different sale numbers but are doing a good job keeping me in business. I definitely plan on adding a shitton more in the next decades. Because this is what I love, and I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living, but it sure isn’t just a passion, or something I do when it strikes my fancy. It may not be a nine-ti-five job, but it requires that I do the work, put in the hours, and get shit done. Some weeks that’s more writing. Some weeks that’s trying to find out how to best position my books on the market and pull in new readers. Some weeks that’s creating brand new worlds in my head. It’s the ideal job for me because it allows me to schedule my own downtimes and work around things that I cannot exactly influence. There’s always something I can do, even if I can’t write. Because writing is only part of what I do, even if it’s the part I love the most. So if you see a writer spending a lot of time on social media, don’t tell them to quit because they should be writing. Chances are, they are hungering for all the human interaction they didn’t get because they just spent ten consecutive hours churning out words. Or they do it while they watch movies for research. Or to make sure their audience is happy and slobbering for the next book. Being a writer is more like a lifestyle than a job, really. Best thing in the world!

Day 10 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 16,667
Actual words: 1,850
Overall words: 28,166

It was a short writing day, ending up just under 1.5 hours as I had to order that fridge. Yes, the fridge is an important part of this week! Should get here next week so I can now keep my milk almost right next to my desk. #priorities. It will also help with keeping lunch food fresh, which is the real reason I’m getting it, but the “it’s all about the coffee!” excuse fits better to us writerly caffeine addicts.

Day was short because we spent the afternoon and evening at the spa / thermal bath. We had a coupon. You wouldn’t believe how much of my travel and vacation time is justified with “we had a coupon.” For a time, it was the only way to afford things, now it’s become a part of justifying taking time off. Like, “look, it’s so cheap, it would be a crime not to buy the coupon at 50% off!”, and then of course we have to use it, because we can’t let it go to waste. Booking online counts as coupons, right?!

Anyway, I digress. I printed out the last six chapters I’d written but because I snored my way through part of the time I didn’t sweat in the sauna or soak in the hot pool, I only got around five pages proofread. Which is more than I’ve managed in the past. And technically, it wasn’t supposed to be a productive work afternoon. We had planned to go there two weeks ago but with my mind still curled up in itself we postponed the trip, as in the past I’ve seen that if I’m not well, being forced to “relax” for 7-10 hours just makes it even worse, while it’s a prime recharging opportunity when I’m doing okay. I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t finish writing the scene I was smack in the middle off when we had to leave at noon, but I’ll get to that today. No biggie. And I did beat the daily NaNo required words, just wish I could have continued my 5+k streak.

Brief “discussion” topic: How to write a novel – pantser vs. plotter
If you haven’t heard those terms yet, there are two main camps most writers flock into–those that write intricate outlines, sometimes up to 100 pages for a 300 page novel, and those that do no outlining whatsoever and write “by the seat of their pants.”
I’ve for a long time considered myself not a plotter as I don’t write my outlines down. But I’m definitely not a pantser. I need to know where my story is going, and once I know, I fill out as many details as possible in my head before I sit down and write it. So, yeah, I’m a plotter, 99%. But really, it doesn’t matter how you write, only that you write and finish a novel that, to the reader, is a good, cohesive story. I flounder the moment I lose my outline. Most often when I’m blocked and it’s not because my mind is running haywire, it’s because something with the outline is amiss. Often, what looked good in my head, when translated, makes no sense–contradiction, timeline issues, or just plain “Character X would never do that!” moments. While I do outline, I often have fuzzy parts in between the crystal clear scenes, and that’s where it’s easy to get lost.
Or, as happened this very week, as I write, out of nowhere, something happens that wasn’t planned. A three-sentence conversation turns into a chapter-long verbal battle, big reveals jump onto the stage out of nowhere, fixed details become fluid and realign–and it all makes way more sense in the end than I had planned before. Not all, but some of the “oh, this why Y and Z happened” moments in my books were written this way. I didn’t plan them, but of course I know a lot more background information about the world, and what happened off-plot, than I can write. Plus, my subconscious knows 1000x as much. And, sometimes, when I know that at the 80% point of the story this and that will come to the light and I need to foreshadow things now, my subconscious pulls the trigger and either drags up the supposed main plot out into the open, or comes up with something even better. Feel free to guess what turning points in the story surprised me in the past books, and which were planned years in advance.

I love when things like that happen, because usually, they are very important, good scenes that add a lot to the background of the characters and keep the story fresh, but they do tend to drive me insane, because then I need to reshape the path that was almost set in stone already. Writing, however you do it, is always pure creativity. But I’m not someone who relies on spurts of creativity, and sometimes, they really mess with me and the story. Then again, my first draft doesn’t really need editing (as in, add scenes or entire plot lines, cut half of the chapters) but mostly proofreading to make sure details are okay, and those damn typos and misused words are corrected. I know several writers who say their first draft is barely the skeleton of the book, entirely unfit for public consumption, and the real creative work lies in their second and third pass as they add the details and put it all in the right order. I think because I basically transcribe the movie I’ve put together before I write, my process is always linear, and comes with few variations. But that’s only one way to write a novel, and there are thousand other way to do so. Just so you know why I despair when someone tells me that it should all be spontaneous and creative. Nope, not my MO. This is how almost main characters get killed.

Day 9 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 15,000
Actual words: 5,745
Overall words: 26,316

Only a quick update today as I need to WRITE! And I have a short work day, as some Fridays, and while I might get some more words done in the late evening, I won’t be writing much this afternoon. Printing out the last 5 or 6 chapters to edit them, though, so technically, still working.

Two 5+k days makes a happy writer! See, this is how books are written! Well, by me at least. As I don’t publish six of them a year, you can easily see I can’t keep that speed up all the time, but I’m trying to make the best of it. I think I’ll be blasting right through to the very end of the book, which, depending on how long it will be, will either be a really long one, or maybe two. I don’t know. I hate to split them but at 150k / 600 pages it’s starting to get a liiiittle long fort the paperbacks. By the way, 250 words are one paperback page, if you wonder how we calculate that stuff.

Didn’t do much yesterday except write, swim, and look for a small fridge for my office online. And maybe a microwave. My office space comes with a shared kitchen but I like to be on my own, in my little writer cave here. Office, that something you want to know more about? Fishing for topics for these posts, shamelessly.

Day 8 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 13,333
Actual words: 7,690
Overall words: 20,571

Booyah! Take that, measly word count! Just kidding, of course I love every single word I can add to my daily tally. And I really don’t want to jinx it. But this is the kind of day I live for. Where, from getting up in the morning to falling asleep at night, I’m in the “zone,” and words just tumble onto the page to form one beautiful, cohesive creative mess. Whenever I sit down to write, I aim for 3,000 words. 5k is where I’m happy. Almost 7.7k, now that’s a really good day!

Writing was easy yesterday, also because of what I was writing. Some scenes are just easier than others. Conflict, action, that usually flows well. Maybe I should explain exactly how I write for that to make a little more sense.

You’ve probably heard me mention that before. The story that you get to read is the transcript of the movie that’s playing in my head. Whenever I have some downtime (commuting, sitting on the toilet, cutting veggies for dinner, but best when I’m walking with loud music blaring in my ears to drown everything else out and let me focus even more on the story and characters) I’m locked inside my head, working on one story or another. Sometimes it’s a completely new part that unfolds as if you’d spill water down a mountain, raw and uncontrolled. Sometimes it’s going over the same scene over and over and over again to fine-tune dialog, work out details, maybe add a bit here or subtract it there to round it out or create extra context that wasn’t there before. I don’t do that to absolutely everything I write–each book still has passages that I do improv-style, where there was only a vague sense before that this or that has to happen to connect the fleshed-out parts. It’s usually the connections between important shit, and where random new ideas just spring up and throw my entire concept under the bus! Love when that happens! It certainly keeps things interesting, and me as the storyteller on my toes. But over 90% of what I write is pre-plotted and chewed-apart many times over before I sit down and write it.

I don’t write in one six-hour long session. Well, sometimes I do, but that has to be a part that’s perfectly plotted, no variation possible, and usually the end of a book when I just need to check boxes and tie it all together. That’s hell on my hands and back. Usually, I try to get some movement in at least every two hours. That’s why working from a coffee shop is great, two hours is about as long as I can sit, sip a coffee, and write before I need to get up and find the restroom. Might as well pack up and walk to the next location, preferably at least five songs and 30 mins away. Sometimes I end up walking for over an hour as well. When I’m at home or in my office, I tend to walk up and down, which ends with kicked cats at night and snagged headphone cables on kitchen counters. Oh, the sacrifices I have to make for my work!

There’s just one thing I can’t, and that is plot while I exercise. One might think that swimming lanes for over an hour would be perfect to get lost in one’s mind, but alas, no. It works for blog posts (and other rants inside my head that never make it out of there) but not for fiction. That’s why I got myself a waterproof MP3 player and now listen to podcasts, because ranting for an hour while I should physically focus on either ramping up speed and making all those muscles work, or relax and stretch them out as I go through the motions, not soooo healthy for the mind.

Writing almost 7.7k words in a day means I’m working the entire day, with breaks, of course. I love doing that, but of course, that’s not always possible. No appointments, no distractions, often not even phone calls or answering emails. Those are pretty much my urban hermit days that I happily spend inside my head, letting some of those images translate into words. It feels amazing to be so productive and creative. Like, this is what I’m meant to do, 24/7. This is what my perfect life would look like if I could sustain it for more than a few days at a time, if even that. And just consider how many books I could publish if I’d only need 15 or so back-to-back to finish a book! Add a perfect quick week of editing and post-production each, and I’d be a happy camper.

Because of the way my mind works, I’ve considered dictation in the past. It’s all the rage now, and some old pro writers have been doing it for decades. Might try it again, but saying “comma,” and “full stop. New paragraph. Open quite. Fuck yourself. Exclamation mark. Close quote,” does throw a wrench into that flow of creativity that I need to be in when I write like that. Maybe I should just try it without punctuation, and add that after the app transcribes my slew of consciousness. But I’ve been writing the same way for years, fine-tuning the process to the point where now I have no idea what a normal human being does with all the downtime in their mind. Because I always write one story or another up there, and I’d go insane if I tried to stop. Which will never happen.

Fun fact: I sometimes talk to my characters in my head, or let them talk with each other. Let me tell you, Nate commenting on romance novels I read makes it a very different experience than the author likely had in mind for the readers. Might also be the reason why I still read romance sometimes. I love me some good satire.

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