Struggling to (Re)Start

Another week, and another goal not met. Ugh. Once again, I wrote one night this week, then… nothing.

I’m not sure what the deal is with my writing (or rather, lack thereof). Maybe it’s because this was a bad week for migraines due to the change in weather. Maybe there is lingering house stuff crowding my brain (okay, there definitely is). Or maybe it’s a stupid fear I identified last year when I took Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark workshop last year–the Fear of Not Knowing What Happens Next. It isn’t the story. I really want to finish this one. I think about it when I’m not writing, but not enough to figure it out.

I am a recovering outliner. I’m not saying that outlining is bad if it works for you, but it had gotten so that it wasn’t working for me any longer. Outlining, or planning ahead, was pretty drilled into me, having worked as a software developer for 20 years. In that endeavor, failing to plan is definitely a plan to fail. And outlining served me well for the first few books I wrote.

But with the last couple, I noticed that I’d spend a lot of time planning, and no matter how much effort I put into it or how good a plan I thought I had, the book would always veer off into a different direction. And the new direction was always better than the outlined one, by far. ALWAYS. So why spend the time outlining (which is also boring) when it doesn’t help me anyway? That’s why I’m trying to get out of it. But I’ve been stuck lately. Maybe it’s because I’m just not putting the time in? I don’t know.

That’s what I’m trying to find out–if I just open the file, sit at the computer regularly, will this work itself out? The trouble is getting myself to that point. The nonfiction book I’m reading this week has given me a couple of good ideas to try, but I’m not done with it yet so I’ll discuss it after I finish.

What I’ve Been Reading: I did finish a couple more books last week, so I’m still reading. In fiction, I finished Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. Jansen has done it again and totally pulled me into this character’s life and world. Like her other series, it took a little while before I really clicked with the character, but the world and actions were interesting enough to get me through that initial bit, then once I was through that, I knew I’d read this whole series. Watcher’s Web is Book One of the Return of the Arghyrians series, a science fiction tale centering on Jessica, a 17-year old Australian with an odd power she calls “the web” with which she can telepathically influence animals, and sometimes people. When she’s in a plane wreck and finds herself in an otherworldly forest, she discovers a whole new world–and learns she’s not even human, but an alien race thought to be extinct. Now everyone wants her–and her powers. Though science fiction, this has a strong fantasy feel to it which is a combination I love, so I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended if this is your thing, too!

In non-fiction, I read The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. This is somewhat of a classic now, but I will admit I went into it with skepticism, and after finishing the book, I remain skeptical. I’m not saying that his process can’t be replicated–plenty of people have done it–but it’s not for me, and I suspect, for a lot of people. It involves either quitting one’s job to start a business, or else getting a remote work arrangement in your job, so that you can spend your time doing things you want like traveling the world. Ironically, I’ve done the remote work part, but I’m more of a roots person, and am not into the extensive outsourcing that Ferris advocates to reduce the need for actively participating in one’s business. I also don’t see how that works when one is an employee, though he claims it can (not even touching on all the fields that don’t lend themselves to remote work). Once he got to the outsourcing part, I started to find it distasteful–possibly because I wouldn’t appreciate having my job outsourced, and definitely because I see this system as something done by the Kindle scammers–put out a product solely for the money, with little regard for its quality. Another big negative of the book was that the book has been updated since its original publication, but a lot of it was links to services and content that is no longer available.  Though his system is not for me, it was still an interesting read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, not much. My goal for this week is to try a couple things in the nonfiction book I’m currently reading about habits, and also to check out Dean Wesley Smith’s video lecture series on Starting or Restarting Your Writing.

Tennessee Update: No new pictures, but they are planning to pour the basement floor this week. Hope to have some updates next week! One thing I really need to do–and am having as hard a time getting into as writing–is to declutter my house. I went through a big purge a couple years ago, but there are still a TON of things I don’t want to move. So decluttering a little bit each day is a habit I really need to get back into.

What about you–any suggestions for me to try to get back into writing? Have you read any good books lately? What’s been going on in your life? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Better than me, I hope! I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Rental House Wrap-up/Getting With It

It’s been a while since I last posted, and I can only blame part of that on the rental (now flip) house. But that did keep me pretty busy through mid-May, and my husband much more so. That’s about when the work on the house finally finished up and we listed it for sale, even though I hadn’t finished the new master bedroom closet organizer. Close enough!

We put on an Open House on Mothers Day, and actually got some decent traffic (my family celebrated Mothers Day the next day). The following weekend, my husband turned 50 and we had a party. Party planning is not my forte, and being an introvert, stuff like this stresses me out a good bit, but everything came together in time, and everyone had a good time. For my part, I was especially grateful to have a lot of help from friends in putting it all together!

Amazingly, my husband held another Open House the next day, and again got some good traffic. But in the whole time the house was listed (on Zillow and Craigslist), he got a lot of phone calls from agents wanting him to list with them, but no buyers. I thought his price was a little high, so he dropped it. It was still pretty aggressive for the neighborhood, but we’re also talking a house that’s practically new, given all the fire restoration work plus the completely new upstairs.

We got a call from an agent with a buyer the next day. They toured the house the following day. My husband called me while they were in the house and said “I think they’re going to put in an offer.” After they finished looking through the house, my husband hadn’t driven more than two blocks when the Realtor called and said they wanted to make an offer. And they did–for pretty much the asking price! It was listed for less than three weeks before the offer–the market is hot right now! One agent told my husband there were ten buyers for every listing right now, so that sure didn’t hurt.

Inspections went well, and only turned up a couple of minor things which my husband and the contractors fixed. The appraiser was skeptical until he went inside. He told my husband the house was easily worth the asking price. Closing is this coming Tuesday!

But that’s not what you were hoping to see here, were you? Here’s what we all came for: pictures! I don’t have too many before pictures, as I just didn’t think to get many before the work began. So we’ll start with those, then go on to the bunch we took for the listing.

Exterior – Before

 

Dining Room Before (after carpet was pulled up)

 

Kitchen Before

Kitchen Before – yes, the fridge and stove were crammed in next to each other on this small wall.

 

Exterior – after. Really, it was fine before, but the fire damaged the roofing and siding, so we had to replace it all. We kept the roof and trim the same, but for siding figured, why not green?

 

Click any of these smaller pictures for a larger view

 
Living Room and Dining Room

   
Downstairs Bedrooms – the front bedroom (right) was originally this color scheme (go Bucks!).
We kept it to honor my husband’s late cousin, who was a big Ohio State fan.

    
Downstairs Bathroom, with fun decal on the laundry chute

   
Dining Room, with barn door I built

    
Kitchen – remember the pipe shelves I built? Very happy with how they turned out!
I’ll give my husband credit for the hard part–installation! Also, we moved the fridge.

    
Mudroom/Drop Zone I built

    
Pantry shelves I built (and cute decal purchased from Etsy)

    
Upstairs/Master Bedroom

    
Master Bedroom, with barn door I built

    
Master closet, with shelves I built, and Bathroom

    
Master Bathroom

    
Basement – not a dingy, creepy one

    
Screen porch, and even the garage got a new door and siding

Not bad for our first flip, huh? Of course, we owe a lot of the credit to our contractors–we’re even going to have them over for a cookout in a couple weeks to say thanks. We were really happy with how everything turned out in the end, especially since this fetched $25k more than the next highest-priced recent sale in this neighborhood! Finally, all those hours spent watching HGTV are paying off, LOL. I hope the buyers will love having this as their home!

What I’ve been Reading: Lots of blogs and books, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll pick this up next time.

What I’ve been Writing: Uhhhh, not much. This is where I need to “get with it,” as my friend Stacy said in a recent blog. The flip house work was mostly wrapped up by the end of May (I still had to build the closet shelving). In June I didn’t really have an excuse, other than it’s been hard to get my mind back onto fiction. There is still house stuff on the brain, what with Tennessee and all.

Speaking of Tennessee, things are moving along there too. We went there in early June to meet with the builder and our lender. The builder is ready to go whenever everything else is. So right now, we’re just waiting on the final version of the plans–we had a few more minor changes–it’s by far the easiest and cheapest to make them now! I expect those back later this week or early next, then the builder can file for permits, and the bank can get an appraisal. Hopefully we’ll be able to break ground in late August!

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But the writing… yeah. I realized I need some kind of accountability. Even if it’s to folks who are always nice and understanding when I don’t meet my goals, just knowing I need to report in to someone is motivating. That’s what ROW80 (“A Round of Words in 80 Days“) is for. So ROW80 friends (and anyone else), please keep me accountable!

I’m going to start out with baby steps. My main goals for this Round are to complete the “How to Write Villains” self-directed workshop I purchased from Holly Lisle, and to write at least one more chapter in my WIP. I’m currently one week into the workshop, out of eight. So this week, I want to complete the Week 2 reading and exercises. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s been a struggle getting to it–or getting with it, as Stacy says. Let’s hope this Round gets me back on track!

What about you–what’s been going on in your life? If you’re a writer, do you sometimes struggle to get to the writing, even though it’s something you really want to do? Or if you’re not a writer, is there something else you really want to do but just can’t seem to get around to? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you! And please click the ROW 80 seal above to go to the ROW80 Facebook page, and cheer everyone else on!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Blame it on the Olympics

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve gotten pretty much nothing done.  Just a little bit on my shelves for the rental house, and no writing at all. Part of it has been whenever I walk through the living room and there are Olympics on, I have to stop and watch. Which ends up being all evening. Yeah, I know, I could just keep walking and go to the writing, but it’s only for a couple weeks every other year. And doing it afterward? I stop watching when it’s time for bed, so no go there. At least that’s my rationalization, and I’m sticking to it! I’m not writing off tonight (excuse the pun LOL) but I’m not optimistic either.

I did get done what I wanted to on the shelves–I cut all the mounting bracket pieces, and drilled pilot holes in them. I would have liked to go over there this afternoon and get those installed, but my fatigue kicked in pretty good today so that just wasn’t happening.

What I’ve been Reading: I started a new novel, but haven’t read far enough into it to discuss. I also finished binging on the 1500 Days blog a couple weeks ago, and moved on to another personal finance/financial independence blog, Slowly Sipping Coffee. It’s named that because that’s what the authors want to be able to do when they’ve managed to save up enough to ditch their hectic workweek and crazy commute, and live life on their own terms. Another one I highly recommend, especially since they’re not so super-frugal as many of these folks, yet still save tons of moolah. The husband was not always so good at managing money (to put it kindly, LOL), and shares his past struggles with it. Entertaining and relatable!

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What I’ve been Writing: As noted above, nada. I even opened up the file last night, and just wasn’t into it. So I’m going to try opening the file up at different times of the evening–hey, maybe before the Olympics comes on after the news!–and we’ll see how that works. So this week, getting anything at all will be a win.

What about you–have you been caught up in the Olympics? Read any good blogs lately? (Or books?) How are you doing on whatever goals you might be working on, writing or otherwise–here’s hoping better than me? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Crazy, Freaky

By that, I mean the weather. As I write this on January 22, I have my windows open. It’s over 60 degrees here in southwest Ohio. I just got back from taking the dogs for a walk with DH, first time I’ve done so since we got Skeet. Yesterday, my husband went hunting and almost got struck by lightning when a popup thunderstorm came up while he was in a tree stand. Not fun for him.

As nice as the weather is now, it’s just not right. I’m used to cold and often, snow, this time of year! Not that I’m complaining.

What I’ve been reading: Dead Money by Dean Wesley Smith. This is the novel in Smith’s Monthly #22, which is an issue I missed. Studying how he did point-of-view in it was one of the exercises in a workshop I recently finished (“Plotting with Depth” – highly recommend for writers!). I went ahead and read the rest, and it was as entertaining as I know I can count on from him. Even though it’s set in an arena that doesn’t particularly interest me (professional poker), the book still kept my attention throughout. A fast-paced, exciting thriller where someone is systematically killing off the members of a group of old poker buddies, one of whom is the president of the U.S. One need not know anything about poker to enjoy reading!

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Writing/ROW80 Update: I figured out a few more things about my stuck story, but still no idea of the end. That’s no big deal for some writers (and I envy them), but for a planner like me, it’s paralyzing. I have no idea what comes next if I don’t know where I’m ultimately headed. Yes, I’m one of those people who looooooooves maps, always have, even back when they were paper.

I also realized that there were some basic things about my story I’d failed to determine as well, like what the main characters needed to learn in this one, and–duh–the basic premise of the story. As in, “the sentence” that tells what it’s all about. So I looked into a plotting aid I read about recently, The Story Toolkit by Susan Bischoff. It’s a set of worksheets of questions to answer about the story, plus a book to explain the details. It’s not vastly different than some other workshops/books I’ve read, but arranged differently enough that it may jar some stuff loose, so I figure why not give it a try. This week, I want to work through as much of that as I can, although I have a lot going on this weekend, so probably won’t get through it all.

What about you–how’s the weather where you are? Is it as crazy as here? Are you someone who likes to know where you’re going, whether you’re writing or driving? Or do you like to discover as you go? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Depth in Fiction: Why I (almost) Put the Book Down

This was one of those weeks where I didn’t do a whole lot besides the usual go to work, write, and of course, read. I finished last week’s book early in the week, so picked up another. This book was a type of story I love, so I expected to really enjoy it.

Despite its interesting story and premise, I kept finding myself distracted by all kind of other thoughts, and frequently putting the book down to think about something I’m working on instead. I couldn’t figure out why–it didn’t have any of the typical things that make me put books down, like excessive background information, repetition, or just nothing happening. Then I remembered the online writing workshop I recently completed.

Depth-Workshop-Cover2-e1402637242834Like Stacy commented on last week’s postsometimes we learn the most from the books we don’t enjoy. When I put a book down–or am tempted to, I always try to figure out why. The workshop I took last month was Dean Wesley Smith’s Depth in Writing (highly recommended if you’re a writer, btw). In it, he discussed how the bestsellers–and all good fiction–pull readers down deep into the story, quickly. This is something vital to keep readers reading, and to make them want the next book.

One part of accomplishing this is to draw the reader into the setting through vivid details, using all five senses–yep, even taste. (I’m not giving away any of the workshop either–he’s mentioned this on his blog before.) I skimmed the openings of the book’s prior chapters, and sure enough, this was what was missing. I couldn’t find any descriptions of smells or tastes, which are strongly connected to emotion, and only in a couple places could I find sounds or touch/temperature.

Now, I have never been overly fond of a lot of description in my reading, and it’s something I have had to work on in my own writing. But done right, it’s not a big chunk of bore, and won’t even be noticeable to the reader. This book was a perfect example of how important that is.

Sometimes, lack of depth can be compensated for with good storytelling, and that’s why I haven’t put the book down yet. It’s an engaging and interesting plot, and I want to find out what happens next just enough to keep on.

smithsmonthly15What I’ve been reading: I definitely enjoyed the book I finished early last week. That was Smith’s Monthly #15, by Dean Wesley Smith. The full novel therein was Cold Call, a really twisted murder mystery featuring retired cops who get together to play poker and solve cold cases.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: last week, my goal was to complete my first draft revision, and get the novella off to the beta readers. That is DONE. I contacted my publisher, and they already have my final editor lined up, and expect to have the book out by mid-March, barring anything unforeseen. Since I do cover design for Mythical Press, I also design my own covers, so that’s what’s up for this week–the cover design, and a short blurb suitable for back cover copy, something else the publisher needs. As a bonus goal, I need to collect all the front- and back-matter for the book, which I’ll need to supply to them as well.

What about you—have you put down a book lately, or considered doing so? Do you know why? How do you feel about description in fiction, whether you’re a writer or from a reader’s perspective? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments—I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Just Do It

No, this is not an athletic shoes commercial. This is what I had to tell myself yesterday to get the job done, the “job” being the scene that’s hung over me for the past three weeks.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting the writing done is just getting started, going to the computer, and overcoming inertia. But lately, my main problem has been staying focused once I’m there. I did some more experimenting with mynoise.net, having decided that Brain.fm was not working well enough to be worth spending $6.99 for a one-month subscription.

My conclusion? Sometimes/it depends. Which soundscape I chose definitely made a difference; some were too bland to aid in focus, as they were mostly intended to be noise-masking. Others sounded great, but made me sleepy (one use for these sounds is in hypnotherapy practice). I might try listening as I’m reading before bed to help me go to sleep. But that’s not what I want to do at the writing computer. I really like the Ice World sound, but this is one of those. However, My Noise lets you combine sounds, and combining it with Ethereal Choir is great, and did seem to help with focus.

I met with three of my writer friends yesterday, and one of them was having focus trouble, too. We talked about what we do when we come to a scene we don’t want to write yet, whether because of mood or something else. “Toss it out” wasn’t discussed, although that’s a perfectly viable option when the scene isn’t really needed for the book. We were talking about those that were definitely needed.

I just skip the scene and move on to the next, as I mentioned in last week’s ROW80 update. One of my friends writes out of order, so that’s a no-brainer for her. It’s easy enough for me to do, as my sketch/outline tells me what happens in the next scene. But one of my other friends does the same thing, and she uses absolutely no outline. She and I both write our scenes in order otherwise. But my third friend said he absolutely can’t write out of order. Lucky for him, he doesn’t come upon this situation very often.

Yesterday, I still had not finished either of the two scenes I’d wanted to for today’s ROW80 update. But meeting with my writing friends is always fun and energizing (at least creatively), and I came home ready to tackle those scenes. I hit the later one first, and finished it without a problem. Then I played computer games for about an hour, procrastinating on that scene I didn’t want to write, until I finally realized I was not going to hit that goal for the third week in a row if I didn’t Just Do It.

So I went back to the writing room, fed the critters, and fired up mynoise.net with a combo of Ice World, Ethereal Choir, and Coastline. I don’t know whether it was the music/sounds, or my determination to just get it written, but it worked. Took about three hours, and 2500 words, but it’s done! 🙂

GodsSwindlersWhat I’ve been reading: I finished Gods and Swindlers by Laura Kirwan last Sunday or Monday. I love, love, love this series, about a fifty-something, non-magical lawyer who lives in a magical town and is the only thing standing between it and magical baddies. This one was a little slow at first, but still kept my interest, and only got better and better as it went (much like the previous two books in the series). I hope the next one is out soon, though I’m willing to wait.

One thing I’ve noticed as a reader is that I can’t tell if something was written fast or slow, in order or not, outlined or written into the dark. Nor can I tell whether the author revised and fixed as s/he went, or did a big revision (or multiple) afterward. A lot of people have strong opinions on these, particularly the speed and revisions, but IMO none of them matter. What’s important is that we do what works for us for that book, at that point in our knowledge of craft. And it can change. (FWIW, I am a nominal outliner, I mostly write in order, my speed varies greatly even within one book, and I am working toward fixing more as I write, and revising less because I don’t enjoy it.)

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I made my goal to finish both the scenes I was working on (barely)! So this week’s goal is to write the last scene (yes!), and then go back and fix the things I know are missing. As a bonus, I’d like to do the read-through and proofread, to get it ready for the beta readers.

What about you–when you read, can you tell anything about how the book was written? What do you do to get yourself to Just Do It when “it” is something you keep stalling on? If you’re a writer, do you ever write out of order, and how do you handle scenes you don’t feel like writing? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether or not you’re a writer? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

How to Train Your Brain (Maybe)

I ran across an interesting blog post last week about a website called Brain.fm, a tool that’s supposed to help us focus.

Like many writers, this is help I need, as when I sit down to write, I’m as susceptible as anyone to OOOOOH SQUIRREL! and thinking about things like how the gerbil cages really need cleaned, or how I haven’t yet done the daily challenges in Microsoft Solitaire. So anything that can help me focus without icky side effects? I’m so there!

Image via Morguefile.com

Image via Morguefile.com

Brain.fm offers seven free sessions, so I jumped right in that night, selecting the “Intense Focus” option. They tell you to wear headphones or earbuds, and then you get a half hour or more (you can pick your session length) of what’s basically electronic ambient music that mostly fades into the background, but blocks out other noises, like my gerbils’ wheels, the bubbling of the aquarium filter, or the TV in the next room. I was especially intrigued by the comments on the above-linked blog post, where several people tried it and found it really helped them, even one who admitted to being skeptical.

I gave it five tries, plus one at my day job, where I also have trouble focusing (probably because the projects I’m currently working on are just not that interesting). So did Brain.fm work for me?

Uhhhh, maybe.

It did block out other noise effectively. And since I like electronic music to begin with, was decent listening. But I still wanted to do things like go pet the gerbils, or see what my husband was watching in the next room. If I had more free sessions, I would give it more of a chance, but it didn’t work well enough for me to pay $6.99 for a month, or $47.88 for a year.

I mentioned this to my daughter, who was home yesterday. She hadn’t heard of Brain.fm, but she uses a competitive site, mynoise.net. So I tried that one out.

The sounds on the sites seem fairly similar, with the main difference being that Brain.fm’s music includes percussion, while those I’ve tried so far on My Noise did not. There are a bajillion different settings on My Noise, too, so I spent much of my writing time last night fiddling with it. I did find some sounds I liked, and it had about the same effect as Brain.fm – and a one-time donation of as little as $5.00 unlocks all the advanced features. So I tried those out too.

I’ve only tried My Noise once, so not enough to decide how well it works. I’ll update you when I do!

What I’ve been Reading: Still working on the same novel as last week. It’s long, and I don’t get much time to read, but it’s very good. I’ll talk about it next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal last week was to finish the next scene in my WIP. I wrote probably half of it before I realized I was padding because I was not in the mood to write what comes next. So I skipped to the next scene, and got it about half done, too, so I’ll consider that a win. I also completed the writing workshop, and the instructor said I totally nailed the assignment with my scene from the Blizzard of 1950. So another win! My goal this week is to finish both, which should be doable as this week should not be as busy as the last one.

What about you–have you ever tried focusing aids like Brain.fm or mynoise.net? Did it help? Or if you haven’t tried them, does it sound interesting? These aren’t just for writers, but anyone who wants help focusing, relaxing or even to get to sleep. How are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from  you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Fighting through Fear

There’s no shortage of blog posts and articles on writers’ block at any time, but there seem to be a lot of them now, with the new year. I’m one of those who doesn’t believe in writers’ block as a thing in and of itself, but I experienced a bit of block myself this week, when it came time to do the assignment for the writing workshop I’m currently taking.

Last week’s assignment I pretty much put off to the last minute, and wound up dashing off something I didn’t really find interesting, that I suspected wasn’t very good. The instructor called me on it (though nicely), which I totally expected.

This week’s assignment was a challenging one, and I put it off too.

I was blocked on it, and when I took a minute to think about it, I realized it was because I didn’t want to throw out more crap and get called on it again. But what that really was, was good old fear.

I believe that’s what’s behind most of what we call writers’ block. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of getting bad reviews, if we publish. Fear of rejection, if we’re sending materials to agents or publishing houses. Fear of… I don’t know. It’s kind of irrational when I think about it. As this very instructor has said in other workshops, what is there really to fear? It’s not like an agent, editor, or reader is going to hunt us down and shoot us for writing something not so good. If we send something to an editor or agent and it’s no good, it’s not like they’ll remember it–or the writer. Or if we self-publish, neither will readers, if they read it at all. And I have zero illusions that the instructor for my workshop remembers anything that students send in for these short, 200-400 word assignments. That’s just silly.

This week’s assignment was to write about someone in a blizzard. It helped that we had our first, real snow of the winter last night (one that’s pretty but didn’t stick to the roads, my favorite kind!). That led me to think of some cool Ohio history–something that interests me–so I wrote about a girl in the Blizzard of 1950 and sent it off. And yes, once I got going, it was fun to write, getting all those historical details in without coming out and writing a dateline. Here’s hoping that will show through for the instructor, because I’d like to think I’m learning something in that workshop. 🙂

What I’ve been reading: Still working on the same novel as last week, so I’ll discuss after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Here are last week’s goals, and how I did.

  1. Finish two more scenes on the novella – Done
  2. Complete last week’s assignment for the workshop- Done
  3. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week – Done
  4. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella – Done

Yes, really! I met all of them, even the bonus. It helped that I finally kicked the last of the crud last weekend, and have been feeling better this week (two weeks is an improvement over last time I got this sick, so my supplements must be helping :)).

So this week’s goals are:

  1. Finish the next scene in the novella
  2. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week
  3. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella.

These look less than last week, but I expect the scene to be a long one, and I have plans all day Saturday, so taking that into consideration. Luckily, it’s the last week for the workshop, so no assignment.

What about you–have you had to fight through fear lately, whether writing or something else? Did the fear turn out to be something silly, and what did you do? How are you doing with whatever goals you have so far this new year, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

How Routines can Free us from Guilt

One thing with my writing that has been a constant struggle is how to divide my time between marketing and writing new material. Some long-time pros advocate focusing on the new writing, as the best marketing is to publish a new book. I observe other authors who seem to publish a book (or two, or three), then spend all their time marketing and networking. Both approaches can work, but the former begs the question, what good is publishing another book if they’re all invisible? And the latter often makes us cranky, because we got into this because we love to write, not because we love to market.

Clearly, some balance is needed. But after seeing so many marketing ploys either not work for others, or work only when those others have many more books out than me, I sort of gave up on it and focused on learning and writing. And no one was finding my books. Which brought forth all kinds of unhappy thoughts: if no one’s reading, why am I bothering to publish? I really needed to do something to keep my books out there.

I switched gears into marketing this summer. It has helped. I wasn’t happy focusing on that, but I couldn’t mentally switch from new writing to doing marketing each evening.

Isis has no problem with guilt - but is good at inducing it in others!

Isis has no problem with guilt – but is good at inducing it in others!

Then it dawned on me that some advice I saw for balancing the publishing tasks with writing could also work for the marketing: set aside one day a week for that stuff, and write the rest of the week. I’ve been doing this for stuff around the house for years–for example, Monday nights are when I do bill paying and bookkeeping for my husband’s businesses. Anything that comes in during the week goes into my letter sorter, and stays there until Monday. It’s so much more efficient than dealing with each piece of paper the day it comes in–or putting it off, and being late. I’ve read variations of this before, so I don’t know why I never tried it–until now.

Last week, I devoted Sunday to writing my blog, doing website stuff, and getting through a couple things on my marketing list. I didn’t plan to write that day, so no guilt there. And I got a lot done, in addition to the usual household stuff I do on Sunday.

I also did no writing on Monday, which is typical since that’s bookkeeping day. But I did write every other day this week, and again–no guilt over not doing any of the other tasks.

So we’re going to stick with this plan for the time being, and adjust if it doesn’t work. One catch is that sometimes Sundays are taken up by other things, like family get-togethers. I have one of those coming up next week. So on those days, I’ll just pare down my usual list to maybe one item that can easily be done after I get home, and ditch the guilt.

What I read this week: I’m only about halfway through this novel, so I’ll blog about it after I finish.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Last week’s goal was to write 5,000 words on the novella, plus do 3-5 items on the marketing/website list. I added 7500 words to the novella (though admittedly, some of those were copy/paste from my outline), plus I updated my headers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and set up a special offer for my newsletter readers, and sent out a newsletter. Speaking of which, anyone is welcome to sign up for that, which you can do here. I also received my upcoming novel back from my editor, so making the edits is my writing priority for this week. In addition, I’ll complete another 3-5 items from my website/marketing list today.

What about you–do you have certain tasks you delegate to certain days? Or do you try to do a little each day? If you don’t, do you get a bad case of the “shoulds,” or is it just me? What are some routines or time-management tips that have helped you? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Pomodoro for the Win!

This has been a good week for the writing–enough to make up for the last, lousy week. I spent about two hours on Sunday trying out the Pomodoro method, as suggested in Write Better, Faster. One thing I liked about that book was that it also gave suggestions on applying the efficiencies therein to other aspects of writing beyond the first draft: outlining, editing, and publishing tasks like cover design and formatting.

Monday was Dog’s Nite Out at the ice cream shop. Isis was so eager for her doggy cup that she almost launched herself into the window when we went to order!

Isis orders ice cream

 

She also saw her Rottie friend there who we met last month:

Isis and rottie

And she made some new friends, a pair of Irish Wolfhounds, and an Ibizan (in back, in the photo below) who was also named Isis!

Isis makes new friends

Blind TemptationWhat I read this week: Blind Temptation, by Stacy McKitrick. I was mostly focused on my own writing, so have not yet finished this book, but close! This is a really different vampire story in that the vampire is a girl who was turned as a teen, so that’s what she looks like, even though she’s over 300 years old. The hero is blind–a totally capable and lovable guy, and a nice change from the typical “alpha” male that typically is found in vampire books. How his sightlessness works with the romance was well-done, and effectively demonstrates the theme. It is book 3 of a series, but these each stand alone and do not need to be read in order. If you like vampire romances but enjoy something a bit different, definitely get this one! Disclaimer: this was published by my publisher–hey, they have great taste! 🙂 But I bought my copy.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal was to finish writing in the revisions for three chapters–I did five and finished the book! So this week’s goal is to type in the changes, and complete this draft. This coming weekend will be a busy one, so I’m hoping to get 10 chapters. That may be a bit ambitious, but with the Pomodoro method to help me stay focused, is doable, I hope!

What about you–have you ever tried, or at least heard of–the Pomodoro technique, and if so, how did it work for you? Have you made any new friends this week, in person or otherwise? What would you do if that was looking in at you through an ice cream shop window? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might be working toward, whether writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.