May the fourth be with you.

Honestly, I didn’t plan on writing my April recap post on the fourth just to use this title. [But since I procrastinated this long, I couldn’t resist.]

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April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was a success. In the end, I changed my writing goal from 40,000 words to 20,000 words, but I’m proud of what I’d written over the course of thirty fourteen days. Had I stuck to my writing schedule diligently—meaning call out of my overnight shifts and write in lieu of sleeping—I could have reached my 40,000-word goal and finished the novella, but at what cost? In the end, when I discovered several plot holes that I could fly a plane through, I had to take a step back and realize that finishing the story in a month wasn’t worth it if I turned around and had to trash it. I decided it was more important getting it right the first time. Or at least as right as a first draft can be.

The biggest thing I noticed during the month was that constant longing to sit at my computer and type. I genuinely wanted to tell the story, solve the murder, and give my characters closure. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, I drag my feet through the first draft, and you’d think that I hate to write because I’d grumble the whole time. [Or I’d say screw it and write whatever came to mind, regardless if it made sense.] To come to the IHOP booth, since that’s where I wrote 90% of the words, excited and ready to dive in and further explore the world was both a relief and a joy.

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The takeaway I got from this Camp was that success is rarely linear. I have all these ideas and goals and action plans, but life doesn’t always accommodate them. Each day, I’m forced to decide between my goal and something else. Sometimes that something else is really important, like an appointment for my kids, and sometimes that something else is a mindless distraction, like binge-watching an entire season of a show on Netflix in two nights. Either way, it’s life, and I’m learning to not get hung up on what the journey looks like but on where it leads. In this case, it led to a half-finished manuscript that began to take shape. [Not to mention tons of morale points for accomplishing a goal.] I’m trying to bring that mindset of how I define—and constantly redefine—success into May and the rest of the year.

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Looking at May is a little daunting for me. Most of you know I’m also an editor, and May is completely booked with projects. [I’m starting to question my sanity and time management skills.] Even still, with multiple manuscripts needing to be read, critiqued, and returned, I’m working toward finishing this novella by the end of the month. Supposedly, as long as I’ve got fourteen days, I should be all right since I’m about midway through the story. If I finish early [yeah, right], the next project on the horizon was inspired by a Ray Bradbury quote:

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.

Maybe I’m trying to challenge him and debunk his theory, but I’d like to think I’m trying to work on improving my storytelling skills and find a kernel of talent hidden away. I’ve opened an account on Wattpad that I’ll link to the blog when I’ve published the first of fifty-two short stories so I can share those stories, however bad they may be at first.

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What was your favorite moment about April’s Camp? What are you looking forward to in May?

 

 

 

 

Bullet journal, minimalism, and my to-do list.

I use the bullet journal [bujo] system of organizing, well, my life. Except if you happen to have a preconceived notion of what a bujo is and how it should be used, I probably defy those thoughts. There are as many ways to use a bujo as there are people who use it, and there really aren’t “right” ways or “wrong” ways. Just what works for someone and what doesn’t. What I learned early on in my bujo journey was that the traditional way didn’t work for me, so I had to forge my own path, which was largely determined by trial and error. I also had guidance from several YouTubers and bloggers.

Since I started this system in December, not only have I gone through a full journal [I have lots of collections], I’ve also adapted the monthly, weekly, and daily spreads numerous times. I’ve actually nailed down a weekly spread that works for me, but I’m still tweaking those dailies – and I truly do need daily spreads to keep me focused.

 

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My weekly spread template. I switch out habits as needed too.

 

I’ve been toying around with the idea of minimalism and what it means to me and my life. I know I’m not one of those people who can just walk in a room and toss out 90% of the stuff in there without having a panic attack [seriously, I get really attached to meaningless stuff] and I probably couldn’t just pack up my life and my children’s lives and live in a tiny home the size of a mouse hole [see the comment about being overly attached to stuff], but I can introduce some concepts of minimalism in my life and see where that leads me.

What I’ve been reading about is the power of doing one thing at a time, which is a form of mental minimalism. Having that intense focus on a singular task makes it more likely for that task to be completed. So I’m adopting it! There’s also the idea that we were born to do one thing, but I feel so caged in thinking I’m here only to do that one thing and nothing else. [Actually, there’s a word for people like us: multipotentialite!] I have so many things I’m juggling: being a parent, homeschool teacher/blogger, indie author, freelance editor, writing coach, spiritual advisor, co-editor of a magazine, and a co-editor of dozens of anthologies. It’s a lot to take in, especially knowing I only have twenty-four hours in a day to do things, and my kids take up most of the daylight hours. In reality, I truly only have time to do one thing a day, and if I’m intentional with that one thing I can make a lot of progress with it.

So, how exactly does this translate to my bullet journal and to-do list? 

Before, I used to just make a running list of things I needed to get done during the week, and I’d pick and choose what I’d do that day when it came to making the daily spread. I’d have tasks like “write 2,000 words” mashed between “finish that damn load of laundry” and “buy some butter FFS,” and while having clean clothes and butter helps, it doesn’t exactly get me further ahead with my goals. [Let’s be honest: I walk around home in pajamas all day, and I wear the same two outfits religiously.]

Now, I’m tweaking the daily spread to include those little tasks [like paying bills and house chores], but to separate that really important stuff [like finish editing a client’s manuscript] in what I call “focus tasks.” Each week, I can have one focus topic: writing, editing, coaching, blogging, reading, homeschooling. While I can do more than just one, I’ll be devoting most of my week’s time to the chosen one. Each day, I can have up to three focus tasks, and one of those tasks has to be contributing to the focus topic. If all three tasks relate to the focus topic, that’s even better.

For example, this coming week’s focus topic is editing. I have a few projects I’m juggling and another manuscript will hit my desk in a few weeks, so I’m trying to get a handle on what I do have right now. While I’ll be able to do other stuff besides editing, because I’m not a red pen machine [how awesome would that be?!], my main focus is on editing tasks.

For example, Monday’s focus tasks are: copy edit 40 pages of Manuscript 1, write 500 words, finish reading Grave Measures and review. 

This is a heavy day of stuff for me, but as long as I finish the edits it’s a successful day. Focus tasks don’t have to be so time-intensive and they can include anything to do with my main projects, which can be planning a novel/series, doing research for a novel, researching aspects of indie publishing, updating a blog, reading and reviewing books, Patreon work [which I haven’t launched yet], networking with authors/readers/publishers, etc. The goal is to make progress in an area of my life.

Do you use a bullet journal? How do you track your goals?

Weekly camp check-in

Here we are! It’s a week into Camp NaNoWriMo, [Has it really been a week already?!] so here’s my check-in. The first three days of Camp, I resisted the urge to dive into my story, and I spent quality time creating an outline. Or, at least, some notes I can use that’ll help keep everything organized. I’m writing a murder mystery, which means I need to know everything from suspects’ alibis and motives to those tiny clues that might end up being red herrings in the end. I needed a way to track all that stuff, so I created some charts to keep handy.

I also created a map for my city! I hand drew it, so I’ll be honest and say it’s nothing to write home about, but it’s functional for now. It also allows room to grow as the series gets longer, which, hopefully, it will. How I created my fictional town was I searched for a real city about the same size as my fictional town. I pulled it up on Google Maps, and I scoped it out – how many restaurants did it have, how many stores, how many houses versus apartments, schools, parks, bus stops? Anything I could think of to research about it, I did. I then manipulated the real city, and in this case I drew a mirror image of it. I filled in what I needed for the first book – the theater that it takes place in, the police department, my main character’s home, and the school at which she works. I didn’t need all of those things, but I wanted to get a baseline so I didn’t have to do these basic things later. [Plus, I had to know how long it’d take the cops to get to the theater, and to do that I needed to calculate the distance to extrapolate the time.] And they said being a writer was easy. [Actually, nobody says that.]

After I had those things, I started to write. [It was the next logical step.] Somewhere in there, I realized my suspects only had a one-word motive without any backstory. I stopped writing again, and I went back to develop that just a little more. I filled nearly five pages of my notebook with their backstories, even though most, if not all, of these characters are making an appearance in this story only. It kind of felt like overkill, honestly, but it’s been helping me a lot while I write.

So I basically saved my entire manuscript by managing to fill those plot holes. Great. I start writing again, and at this point in the story, the ever-inquisitive sleuth has deduced that something isn’t right with the theater actors and she needs to get backstage to investigate. In my original outline, I had her pretend to be a doctor and her convincing the security guard that an actor appeared to be having a heart attack. [Lame, I know. It was probably 3am, though.] As I was writing it, it just felt all wrong, so I stopped writing again to figure out a good reason why she needs to be the one the guard lets through the doors. [I ended up creating a character…and another suspect.] Saved it again! Now, I’m somewhere in between the sleuth gathering information and piecing together the puzzle, which is pretty exciting. [What mystery writer or reader doesn’t like a good puzzle?]

My goal for this story is to turn it into a novella of around 40,000 words. [I’d like to finish all 40,000 words this month, but I’d also like to be realistic.] I’m not sure the story will be stretched out to 40,000 words, though. It’s sounding like it’ll be a shorter story, possibly a novelette, but I’m also recognizing that this is a first draft. My first drafts tend to be shorter, and I add in the details – and subplots – in subsequent drafts when the skeleton of the story has already been written. [I’m really not sure why I write this way.]

So, for now, I have 4,242 words out of a reasonable goal of 25,000 words. I haven’t written today yet, so I’m hopeful I can catch up to par for the day. [I have a home inspection with the rental company on Wednesday and I also have to repair some damages my three-year-old created – as well as messes we’ve all created – so my free time is being eaten by housework, which, let’s be honest, is the worst.]

I did, however, literally double my word count [actually, I more-than-doubled it] in one coffee-infused night at IHOP this past week, so I know it’s possible to catch up.

Current word count: 4,242
Weekly total word count goal: 12,000 [par is 11,666]
Weekly focus goal: 7,800 [actual goal is 7,753, but I wanted to round up and not down]

 

When plans fall through, march forth.

I came back to the world of blogging after taking a hiatus, and I read my last post. I haven’t made all the progress I’d have like to in January and February, but I’ve been focusing on other things. Here’s a recap.

  • I’ve managed to read at least one book a day to each child, which is huge. Some days, I read the same book five or more times, especially Llama Llama Red Pajama, which is a family favorite.
  • I’ve edited two novels for clients, one in each month, both of which are part of a series. I’m excited to read subsequent stories.
  • I’ve read 13 books so far, which means I’m ahead of schedule. (Not including books I’ve been asked to beta read or edit.)
  • I planned a short story for an anthology, missed the deadline, and expanded the story to a novella.
  • I haven’t kept up with writing, but I hope I can use Camp NaNo in April to play catch up.

I’m starting to see that simpler is better for me. When I create manageable goals, I’m less likely to freeze up. While I’d like to write 1,000 words a day every day all year, it’s not always reasonable for me to do so. I do try to write something each day, whether it’s a quick update on WriYe or planning a short story, though.

With that said, here are some goals for March.

 

  • Read three books (and write reviews).
  • Write 15,000 words of novella #1.
  • Hunt for great web hosting deals.
  • Continue to read one book a day to the kids.

 

I’m trying to read more indie authors. If you’re an indie author and want me to read (and review) your book, please let me know. While I prefer literary fiction and mystery/thrillers, I’m open to other genres. 🙂

Look back and moving forward.

Look back and moving forward.

As I look back over the past year, there were a lot of changes: a new addition in our family, the death of a beloved pet, moving to a new state, finding the courage to publish, quitting my job in the beginning of the year only to start a job during the final days of the year, and collaborating with a friend to build a literary press. There were some other really great stuff in the mix, too, and 2016 proved, despite all the negativity and death, to be a good year for me overall.

Looking forward, I’m continuing to ride that wave of success in several aspects of my life. I’m focusing on writing and publishing; editing, homeschooling, and spiritual side projects; raising my kidlets; and reading good literature. I have an idea percolating in the back of my mind, but I’m being realistic about it, trying to figure out the best way to implement it, so it’s a long-term goal. I’m also exploring furthering my education and, hopefully, enrolling in a new Master’s program in education.

My words for 2017, because I am a logophile [lover of words – and logs, for that matter], are LIBERATION and COURAGE and CREATE. 

In terms of concrete goals, because self-help blogs tout the power of SMART goals, I’m working toward:

  • Writing 1,000 words a day minimum. [I’m aiming for one million words this year, though I will be happy with 365K.]
  • Reading 70 books.
  • Reading 1 book a day each to the kids.
  • Earn $10K from editing.
  • Earn $5K from spiritual store.
  • Publish 8 homeschooling resources.
  • Publish 3 collaborative anthologies.

 

In January, I’m starting strong, if only because I know my energy levels are highest during the beginning and end of the year.

  • Write 31,000 words [in the form of 5 short stories and 1 novella]
  • Read and review 5 books.
  • Read 62 books to the kids [31 to each]
  • Launch editing website.
  • Launch spiritual store and blog.
  • Launch homeschooling blog and website.
  • Create 1 homeschooling resource.
  • Edit 2 novels for clients.

 

Updated posts will come every other week to allow for adjustments and victory dances. 🙂 In the meantime, I’ll post about my current WIPs and reads.

What are some of your goals for the new year? Do you break it down for each month, three months, six months, or is it a free-for-all?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome, December.

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Pintrest

I wish I could say my conspicuous absence during November was because I managed to hide away and write for NaNo, but, alas, I didn’t participate this year. [Okay, I managed to write 5,000-something words, but it was only during the first couple hours of the first day.] Instead, I helped a friend edit his manuscript for publication, which was a great experience! I had the extra bonus of getting a chance to read his work, which is always a treat. You can pre-order the book here.

I’m refocusing my energies toward December goals now to see what I can knock off this never-ending to-do list before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

  1. Collaborate with one of my best friends to create magic, also known as a trans-Atlantic literary press.
  2. Write four short stories to submit to three anthologies, one of which I’m putting together.
  3. Officially launch my editing website.
  4. Register for the teaching certificate test.
  5. Figure out my life for 2017.

Okay, that last one is only kind of a goal. (I’m still hopelessly lost when it comes to next year, though, and I think I’m okay with that for now.) The year isn’t over yet. There are still thirty-one days to weave some magic and put out some literary vibes.

Birthdays and writing and goals, oh my!

When I think of those lofty yearly goals, I tend to mentally halve the year. There’s the “before my birthday goals” and “after my birthday goals.” After all, I’m a whole year older, and, therefore, a whole year wiser, right? That’s the idea, anyway. Maybe this line of thinking is a product of having a summer birthday that lands somewhat in the middle of the year, or maybe everyone does this and I’ve been living under a rock all this time.

Well, today is my birthday, which means it’s the time that I reflect on my yearly goals to see what I’ve accomplished so far, what still needs to be accomplished, and what can be revised. It just so happens that tonight is also a full moon, in disciplined Capricorn no less, so this is just the perfect time to sit down and contemplate this.

This year was busy. I didn’t accomplish many of my writing goals, but I think I was too hard on myself this year. I had a baby in January, and, even though I’ve been through the newborn phase before, I still expected myself to write a novel during January. It didn’t happen. February, March, and April didn’t happen either. In fact, I don’t think I picked up a pen to write with until May, maybe June? It’s been such a blur. Even though the first half of the year was a flop, I still succeeded in other areas of my life, like parenting (juggling a toddler and newborn!) and making plans to uproot my entire family across several state lines and start anew. During the first half of the year, though, I managed to work on my writer connections. After all, there’s very little to do while nursing the babe. I signed up to participate in several charity anthologies, and my friendships with writers have grown deeper because of it. I managed to write and submit two of five short stories already.

Now it’s time to focus on this half of the year and all I want to accomplish. Turning 26 this year means I’m leaving that early 20s age group and entering the late 20s one, which is terrifying for me. I’m still working on sorting out my identity and my place in the world, the place that goes beyond “mother.” A friend set up something called the whole writer challenge and challenged us to think outside the literary box and focus on some of those other areas of our lives that we may have been neglecting for some time. So this year, I want to focus on some of those areas during the second half of this year, too.

Writing/Occupation:

  1. Write and submit short stories for 3 charity anthologies (Disarm, Pride Park, Mental Health)
  2. Write three children’s picture books and send the stories to my grandmother to illustrate.
  3. Write a YA novella and women’s fiction novella in between NaNo events.
  4. Participate in NaNo and write a YA novella.
  5. Practice writing in different genres and with different styles using weekly writing prompts.

Spiritual:

  1. Finish two modules of the CMP course. (Lunar and Crystals?) My ultimate goal is to finish the entire certification course by the end of 2017 and pursue small business avenues.
  2. Participate in a Tarot monthly challenge to deepen my relationship to the cards and my higher self.
  3. Find a Buddhist group in the new city, which I’d imagine would be difficult given where I’m moving but it’s worth a shot.
  4. Maintain an active spiritual blog where I can freely explore my beliefs and share my findings with others.

Financial:

  1. Open an online Tarot shop to offer guidance to people while saving money to invest.
  2. Create and live according to a budget – a good plan even if we weren’t hoping to decrease spending.
  3. Save money to rent (buy?!) a home in new state by the end of 2016/early 2017.

Family and Social

  1. Designate one night a week as family night and have monthly family meetings where we can openly discuss things that are working and not working while we actively look for solutions together.
  2. Create a family routine – morning and evening – and honor it. Our kids – and, if I’m honest, we – thrive on routines.
  3. Limit passive social media participation in favor for meaningful connections. These connections can take place online (since I know so many people abroad), but it needs to go beyond the “hi, how are you doing” and “liking” a status pattern I have going on right now.
  4. Connect with a homeschool co-op or group to encourage older son to learn and play with other kids. Ideally, I’d want to schedule something once per week to make a habit of getting out of the house and connecting with other homeschooling families.

 

These are just some of my goals, and I know I’ll revise and add onto them as the rest of the year progresses. This is just a starting place to use as a stepping stone because we all have to start somewhere. Looking at myself, and by extension my life, as a whole being that needs to be fostered is a radical shift for me because I tend to become hyper-focused on one area while I neglect everything else. This has only proven to be disastrous at best and self-destructive at worst, so it’s time, in this new late 20s stage, to try something new and learn new patterns of being along the way.