Milestone reached. (Writing updates!)

I’m alarmed* thrilled to be able to share this update on the state of my novel! IT’S DONE.

The first draft is done, that is. It was very nearly done when I posted about it recently. Now it’s done-done.

It ended up at 84,590 words. Remember how my targeted word-count crept up from 50,000 to 60,000 and stayed there for a few months before I realized that I was going to need more words? Not long after I raised my target to 75,000 words, I laughed at myself and ditched the insanity of trying to approximate a word-count. Yeah.

I completed the draft on Tuesday last week, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s 398 pages long, but it’s the word-count that lands it in the widely-accepted “standard novel length” category. To think that I’d started with the idea that I was writing a novella-length piece shows how stories can tell themselves, unfolding in their own time.

*Needless to say, writing “THE END” came as sort of a shock. I went outside to take a deep breath and also a commemorative selfie. Somehow, the sun and the breeze and the warmth heightened my sense of accomplishment. It was a beautiful day.

 

Nov. 21, 2017 – wind-blown and done with draft 1.

 

Neither was I expecting this dual sense of exhilaration and melancholy. I’m at a loss trying to explain where the melancholy part comes from. Maybe it’s just the fact of reaching this milestone after 18 months… to have exited that world.

What’s next?

1). The second draft!

I’m starting work on draft 2 this week. This will mainly involve combing through the book from beginning to end, smoothing out any technical inconsistencies, and deciding whether to keep the novel divided into sections. As of now, I’ve got the manuscript marked with parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, the latter comprising the (hefty) remainder of the novel, which makes no sense. I just got to a point where I gave up on sections. Now I have to decide whether I even want them… and if I do, whether I want to name them or just number them.

2). Reading!

I’m eager to catch up on reading. I’m looking at Matt King’s superhero trilogy (I have the first book; the second and third should arrive this week), Lee Child’s new Reacher novel coming in the same Amazon order (can you believe I didn’t run out and grab it on its release date?!), and another novel that’s been sitting here for what seems like a long time.

That’s about it for now. I’m thinking I’ll post pics of my office in my next writing updates post, because it’s changed slightly since the last time I invited you in for a look. I know that some of you are like me in that you enjoy seeing other people’s spaces.

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Above water. (On writing.)

Let me confide in you what it is to be a writer of a novel. You’re at the end of your book and terrified of what you wrote: a 350-page shit-storm. You laugh at yourself as you find a selfie that came out expressionless, crop your image into a head-shot, harden it with the angstiest filter you can find – the one that turns the dark bits darker and deepens the shadows in the corners – because suddenly, you need digital armor. It won’t help. You think, I had a moral obligation to write this, and it’s been 30-odd years in the writing that began, in earnest, 18 months ago.

 

Life in two minutes.

 

The drama, the irony, the cliché! You can look at this image once and never see it again, or you can look at it once and see it every day. It’s worse than a mirror, so you share it with the world… especially easy to do when the world makes no sense.

We all have a dark side. Most of us keep it hidden, because it’s our business and no one else’s. Artists tend to display theirs through their work, whether others can see it there or not. Art unravels from buried places, taking form in every medium and genre from comedy to Shakespearean tragedy, capturing curiosity and beauty in music, writing, visual arts, poetry, photography, dance, dramatic arts, and so on, and so forth. Products of our creation spawn out of our darkest secrets, reflecting them in worlds we create… and we do create them, because we can. We can create art that belies the angst from which it springs, art that makes people laugh, even. “Tortured artists” have the means to express what others need to express. Then a step further: everything is okay. But the world, we know, doesn’t need our reassurance. We’re talking to ourselves, but it’s not about us.

So if just one person can find something of value in our work… something that helps… it’s worth it, we feel. One person includes everyone. We believe.

Writer’s confessions. (Writing updates!)

I looked back through my planner and verified that I’m overdue for a writing updates post, as one of you wonderful and helpful readers and NOT AT ALL smart-ass people (who may or may not attend Tuesday/Thursday BodyPump) pointed out to me earlier this week, though not in a smart-ass way.

Hence, this is a writing updates post.

As for the post that was going to happen today: I shall regale you with the latest on my minimalism journey somewhere in the first week of November. I do have minimalism updates!

The writing, then. It’s been trucking along. The end is nigh. I’m spending more time than usual strategizing before I put proverbial pen to paper. This last week, in particular, has been a challenging one… the process of writing has felt like an arduous slog through mud. I haven’t had blank-page syndrome, but it’s been difficult finding my groove.

The great thing about this is that I realized why; this is useful for future reference.

We’ve had houseguests. When they all went to lunch without me one day, I got some good writing done, and I had a mini-epiphany: I need to be alone in order to talk to myself, and I need to talk to myself in order to find my writing groove. I’m sure some of you fellow writers can relate to this.

I have a big ol’ chart with ever-changing notes jotted all over it, but in my head I’ve got a mental flow chart of variables that’s always better than any I could scribble out, because my thinking is a million steps ahead, always, and not lateral, as is the nature of thinking. It helps to pace around and talk myself through it.

(Mind you, I’m not complaining about the houseguests.)

In related writing and minimalism news, I found this t-shirt at Target. It was an impulse buy, but I couldn’t pass on it. It’s minimalism news because when I got home, I pulled another shirt out of my closet and put it in the Goodwill pile. Replacing, not accumulating.

 

When you knew better than to expect otherwise.

 

Right?! But mostly, the shirt had me at the font.

 

September writing updates!

I last came to you with an official writing update on August 4. It’s one month later, and I’m back to report my progress, as promised. This is where I fill you in on big-project writing developments, with numbers and everything. (SNOOZE-FEST WARNING for those not interested in dry details.)

So let me tell you where we stand.

Last month’s challenge/goal: to “control the pace and manner of unraveling” in this final stretch of the project.

This month’s challenge/goal: having gotten a grip on last month’s, I’m now focusing on creating and sustaining the tone and mood I desire for the completion of the story. At this point, I want to demand more from you, the reader. This means that I have some intensified atmospheric building to do. In other words, I’m ramping it up.

(When I started this project, I had no idea that I was essentially writing a mystery novel, of sorts. But here we are.)

Last month’s completion status: my word court as of August 4 was 56,952. My goal word count, I said, was “a moving target.” I was done trying to nail down a goal word count; I speculated that I was between 80% and 90% finished.

This month’s completion status: I’m back on the word-count train! Surprise! I didn’t think I’d bother with this nonsense again, either… but I did some projecting, which is much easier to do at this point, and I came up with a rough estimate. I believe I’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of 75,863 words. This means that the project is about 84% complete. (I will not be changing this word count goal again. It’s a rough estimate, and I’m leaving it at that.)

Breaking it down: I currently have 64,462 words. Roughly 2,137 of those words belong in future chapters (I tend to write ahead a little bit, now more than ever), so about 3% of my 84% completion is made up of future content.

Looking at just my current, finished work, I’ve got 283 pages, and I’m on chapter 26.

I’m also projecting that I’ll have this first draft completed by the end of November.

 

manuscript, 84% complete (minus 3%) (Sept. 5, 2017)

 

So that’s where we stand! Thank you for reading and for sticking with me, as always.

11 signs that you’re a writer.

In case you’re not sure, here are some signs that you’re a writer:

1). Clinical-grade confusion. You’re in the shower and you forget what body part you’ve already washed because you’re lost in your writing, or you’re at the gym and the minute you’re done working out you start thinking about your writing and you accidentally stretch the same side twice.

2). Speculation overload. You see the same white-paneled van crawling around your neighborhood at least once a week, and you become fixated on the narrative you’ve developed around it, which is always serial killers, of course.

3). Belief in magic. You choose the color of your underwear based on a predetermined superstition you have about the day.

4). Hyper-fueling. You operate on a fasting/feeding cycle where you wake up early, remember to have breakfast 4 hours later (ending a 12-hour fast), then eat lunch 3 hours after that, and then you eat every 2 hours thereafter, so by the time 9pm rolls around, you’ve eaten 6-7 times, all because you needed energy for writing, which includes researching and working out complicated problems in your head and so your brain is starving.

(Except on gym mornings when you eat two breakfasts, one before and one after the gym.)

5). Sleep-deprivation. You’re capable of Spartan self-discipline EXCEPT when it comes to your chronic resolution to get more than 5 hours of sleep and “more sleep” has become a unicorn in an undeserving forest.

6). Auto-conversation. You talk to your fur-baby (or finned, feathered, or scaled-baby) all day, except when you’re talking to yourself, which is something like 70% of the time, and if you don’t have a fur-baby, you’re just talking to yourself and your argument is invalid.

7). Full-of-shit syndrome. You have to get used to being asked what you do and when you say “I write” the person looks at you like “Yeah that’s NOT work,” and “You can’t possibly have a schedule, because you DON’T WORK, therefore you must be calling writing ‘work’ in order to have an excuse to not do (xyz).”

8). Other-world desensitization. You watch horror movies for the thrill of getting scared and 95% of them fail, but you keep watching them hoping that one of them will really super scare you, but it’s all good because you like horror, anyway.

9). Bladder resentment. You think wistfully of those times you were in the hospital and you had a catheter and how great it was to drink water all day without ever feeling like you had to pee, and how awesome catheters are and it’s a good thing they’re not accessible or practical for everyday at-home use because if they were, you’d always have one and then you’d never have to get up to go to the bathroom and then you’d develop bedsores.

10). Bermuda Triangle phenomenon. (AKA the unsolved mystery of writing’s impact on time.) You start re-working a paragraph and take a minute to deliberate between using a definite article or an indefinite article and when you look at the clock, an hour has passed and you can’t understand where that time went while you were deciding between the word choices and then you panic that you’ll be late for the gym.

11). Nap dysfunction. You’re sleep-deprived so you try to take a nap with your cat, but you end up staring at each other with starry eyes because you can’t sleep and it’s her fault for being too cute.

 

Sleep-deprived and confused. Must be a writer.

 

I hope this helps.

Happy Friday, All!

 

Writing Q and A: habits, music, status. (Writing updates!)

My last writing update post was on 30 June, so it’s time for another one, I reckon!

Every writer’s habits and rituals are personal, right? And, for many of us, in flux. Things flow and evolve. We go with it.

I still wish I was a writer who could stick to a schedule. The best I can do – more importantly, what works for me – is to protect my optimal writing time. Currently, that’s one full weekday (Mondays) + all early mornings. The rest of the time is for flexible writing, meaning, I can write around going to the gym Tuesday-Saturday, as well as occasional appointments, errands, and lunches.

At this point, there’s never a day that I don’t write at all. I write something every. single. day.

Speaking of which! My Tuesday/Friday blog-posting time here in TALC has officially changed: I’m now posting within the mid-morning to noonish window.

With all of the above, I’ve started off this mini writing Q&A. I’m happy to answer some of these recurring questions:

Q: Can you multi-task while writing?

A: It depends. The deeper I get into a writing session, the more scarce I am on social media. When I’m in a “deep sleep” stage of writing, I’m completely incommunicado.

I can’t be off-line, though, because I refer to the dictionary, and I’m always researching something or another.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing?

A: Not usually, but sometimes.

When I started working on this novel, I’d listen to certain songs to invoke a memory of a time. I haven’t done that for a while. Now, I can write with music playing on a low volume, choosing music that creates a background soundscape.

A current favorite is by Rachel’s: “To Rest Near to You.” It’s moody and eerie with voices whispering “I thought the sea.”

It’s perfect for this last stretch of the novel.

Other good background songs of the moment: “With More Air Than Words,” “Night at Sea,” and “Letters Home” (Also by Rachel’s, from their 1996 album The Sea and the Bells.)

I wish I could provide you with “To Rest Near to You,” but I get my music from Soundcloud, and you have to have a Soundcloud GO+ account in order to hear that entire Rachel’s album. Here’s their song “Stark Sea,” though, also on my current writing playlist:

 

 

I like this sort of music while I’m writing. It’s atmospheric without distracting my creative brain cells with melody that wants following.

And when I say I play the pieces with the volume down low, I mean very low. The planes taking off and landing at Sky Harbor are louder.

Q: Do you take breaks?

A: Yes. Many. I have to stop often in order to put distance between what I’ve written and what’s in my head from having written it.

There’s actually a pattern: on an average day, I go through three writing stages and two break stages, beginning and ending with writing. (I take smaller breaks within the writing stages, usually to eat. In the afternoons, I eat often.)

Q: Distractions?

A: I do get up to wander around the house. I have to unfold myself from the floor every once in a while.

Incidentally, I have Nenette, who is not a distraction. She’s the opposite of a distraction. She puts her nose on my forehead to transmit inspiration.

 

Nenette in her crow’s nest tree in the corner of my office.

 

These days, Nenette is apt to sleep on the floor next to me while I’m writing, but she still spends time up on her crow’s nest.

Q: Current project stage and status?

A: I’ve reached, as noted earlier, the final stretch.

Things are accelerating. That doesn’t mean that my writing’s accelerating, though. I have to focus now more than ever in order to control the pace and manner of unraveling.

As for current status, my word court at present is 56,952. My goal word count continues to be a moving target, so I’m just going to say that I’m between 80% and 90% finished.

That’s it for the monthly update! Thank you all for reading, once again. Happy Friday… or whatever day it is when you read this. =)

Is it Monday yet? TGIM! (Writing-Fitness balance: on changing routines.)

This week, I let go of my Monday evening workout. It was hard. I’d been doing that class for over three years… Monday/Wednesday kickboxing, non-negotiable.

You know how I feel about routines, and you know how I feel about kickboxing. This decision was not easy.

But it was a long time coming. I looked at my 2016 planner and saw that I’d been thinking about it since early November… because I’d just tried BodyPump, which is weight-training, which I’d spent a year trying and failing to do on my own. I finally realized that nothing was stopping me from going to a twice-weekly morning Pump class. It was life-changing. It got me thinking about re-vamping my entire workout schedule.

I did it slowly, starting with switching out Saturday morning kickboxing for Saturday morning Pump. I wanted three strength-training workouts per week, rather than two.

Then I had a few Monday evenings off when the Monday kickboxing class was between instructors, and I realized what Monday really is, now: it’s my favorite day of the week. My best workday. The ideal day to stay home all day and get shit done.

Monday has become my “third weekend-day,” my working-weekend day, my relaxed yet productive transition into the week. It’s my bubble of creative energy day. It’s my fresh-start day. I wake up filled with anticipation and ready to get ALL the ideas down. I’m writing before I even get out of bed on Monday mornings. I can multi-task all day on Mondays, no problem.

I realized that it’s TGIM around here, not TGIF. I had to make changes accordingly!

Easier said than done.

Since I’m slow to see things that are right before my eyes, I first had to have this argument with myself. (We all do this, right? Argue with ourselves, weigh pros and cons, etc.?)

Here’s how my argument went:

  • Monday is my best workday now.
  • And?
  • Leaving the house on Monday interrupts my best workday.
  • Why not just stay home on Mondays?
  • Because it’s Monday. I have to go to the gym.
  • Why?
  • Because it’s Monday.
  • Really.
  • I always go to the gym on Monday.
  • Okay, but why?
  • It’s what I do! Kickboxing on Mondays and Wednesdays!! I love it!!!
  • That’s not a real reason.
  • Because… I need at least two cardio workouts per week.
  • Can you find an alternate day for the Monday cardio?
  • Well, yes. Fridays or Sundays would work.
  • Then do it.

End of argument. Why had I been reluctant – even afraid – to give up Monday evening workouts? Because changing a routine is scary when your mental health depends on the stability routines provide. But I was able to work through it.

I’ve had my boxing gloves hanging up in my office, and now that’s metaphorical as well as practical. I hung up my Monday night gloves for writing.

 

Writing-training balance: boxing gloves hanging in my office (along with my hats and kukui nut lei)

 

The process of making this decision turned out to be a good exercise (pun not intended), so I thought I’d share it with you who may also have a hard time making changes to your routines.

I followed this thought-path:

  • Recognize (when something isn’t working anymore.)
  • Think (of how to fix it.)
  • Detach (to make it easier.)
  • Consider solutions/alternatives.
  • Wait for the immediate “obstacles” to come to mind, because they will… then
  • think beyond them.
  • Think creatively.
  • Do this by asking yourself questions and answering honestly.

Some people would call this “Follow your heart.” Others would call it “Adjust your thinking.” I call it “Wake up and realize that you’re the only one stopping yourself from making changes in order to do what you need to do… you can do it.”

Making changes isn’t easy for we who need routine in order to keep ourselves stable; routine is necessary, but it can also be an impediment. It makes it hard to see when change is needed.

Now I just need to discipline myself to get my ass to the gym to do cardio on my own. That shouldn’t be difficult.