Revised Goals

Howdy, howdy!  It’s mid-March, and as many of you know, I’ve been sick most of the year thus far.  I don’t want to jinx it, so I won’t say that I’m definitely better, but I think I’m on the right track.  Anyway, I thought I would take this week’s post easy and revise my goals for the year since everything is screwed up.  I’ll try to post something writerly or personal or worth reading next week.  Suggestions for topics or questions are always welcome.  For now, let’s get to it.

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This has been me for a while now.

So, yeah. Goals: revised.

1. Finish revising LR1.  I was hoping to get this done by early April, but that’s not happening.  All I’ve managed to do with this story is figure out I forgot to swap some scenes around as I was going through it.  So, I’m hoping I can get it done by late June or early July.  At least I’ll know where to start when I can dig back into this one!

2. Begin revising DS1.  I was hoping to get this novel polished up by the end of the year, but with all the work it needs, that’s a tall order.  I’ll be happy if I can get through a second draft and end up with something vaguely readable by the end of the year.  There’s always next year if I need more time.

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That’s also the secret to finishing second drafts!

3. Submit short stories/flash pieces (at least 2 subs a week).  I admit that I fell a few weeks behind on this while I was sick, but I did take a day to send a bunch out in order to catch up.  Now, I’m back to doing it regularly, so this is one goal that gets to stay the same.

4. Write 5 short stories/flash pieces.  I highly doubt I’ll get the story I wanted to get done by the end of March finished.  However, I still believe that five new short pieces is a reasonable goal.  It’s less than one per month.  Maybe I’ll also add some poetry, but I can decide that later.

5. Shop LR around to agents.  Still hoping to meet this goal.  If I can get it revised by July, I don’t see why this isn’t something I could accomplish.  It’s not like I’m saying I want to get it published or anything.  That’s more of a five year plan goal.

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6. Read 25 books.  This was originally 30 books, but I’ve lost a lot of time and don’t know if I can make it up.  I’m a slow reader.  But I’ve still got a long list of to-be-read books!

I should also throw it out there that I need to socialize more and write to people and take care of my health.  Hopefully, I can do all that plus get to everything on my list.  What about you?  Do you have any goals you need to rework this year?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

The Year of Pestilence

Hello, hello!  Apparently, 2019 has decided it wants to be the year of disease and crud and general unpleasantness in this house.  If I’m not sick, Dad is.  If he’s not sick, I am.  We don’t know where we’re getting sick or even what we’re sick with, but it seems like every time we feel better for a couple of days, something new pops up.  We keep blaming the dog (that’s what we have pets for, right?  To blame everything on them), but she doesn’t care as long as she gets her cuddles and food.  Anyway, this weekend it was my turn to get sick and I’m still in that post sickness haze where every time I feel halfway decent, I ask my body what kind of trick it’s pulling.  Needless to say, this post will probably be short and just a rant.

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Speaking of dogs, this is Lady after her bath.

I’ve been sick pretty much since January 22nd.  I’ll have days where I feel pretty good, but never enough in a row to get any significant amount of work done.  That means my goals for the year are all screwed up.  Once I get over whatever is going on with me, I’ll have to rework all my plans and see what’s salvageable and what I need to push back.  But, honestly, I’m at the point right now where I just don’t care.  All I want is to go more than a week without feeling like crap.  But I don’t want to complain, so I’ll just leave you with a little ditty that describes how I feel.

Warning: profanity.

Thoughts on SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s book review time!  Didn’t I just do this?  Seems like it, but that was just to make up for January.  February gets its own book.  This month, I’m going to talk about Snow White Learns Witchcraft, which is a collection of short stories and poems by Theodora Goss.  Technically, I received access to an advanced reader copy (ARC) through NetGalley, but they archived it without warning a few days after the approval and I hadn’t downloaded it yet.  Sadness.  Then, I realized it was releasing on February 5th, so I would have plenty of time to buy a copy and read it in time to review it.  Happiness!  Anyway, let’s get to it.

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A lovely cover.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft is a little misleading as a title for the entire collection because Snow White isn’t the only fairy tale revisited among these pieces.  Goss adds her own personal touch as she retells many beloved tales from Goldilocks to the Little Mermaid to Cinderella to some that I’m not even familiar with.  A mixture of poetry and short stories, this collection is sure to have something for all fairy tale lovers to get lost in.

I think I’ll start with the short stories.  My personal favorite was “Conversations with the Sea Witch,” but I admit that I’m biased because the Little Mermaid happens to be my favorite fairy tale.  It tells the story of an old crippled woman who has lived her happy life with her prince and is now awaiting death.  Each day her servants wheel her out on the balcony for fresh air and she has conversations with her friend, the sea witch who gave her legs.  We get to hear about the witch and how she ended up the way she is.  It’s a neat, quick story.  Most of the stories in this collection come at their mother fairy tales from new and interesting directions.  Some are set in olden times while others are in the present and many are somewhere between the two.  Many of the tales are quick reads, but some drag a little.  I think that’s why “A Country Called Winter” wasn’t as enjoyable as others for me; it felt slow.  It was one of the tales I wasn’t familiar with, but it was predictable enough that I wasn’t pulled along the way I would have been if I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked this story (and all the others), it simply wasn’t my favorite.

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She does get nasty.

The poetry in this collection was wonderful.  “The Ogress Queen” delights the senses as she ponders what delicacies Helios, Aurora, and their mother would taste like.  “Diamonds and Toads” offers up an amusing situation that leaves the reader with a number of potential lessons it could be trying to teach.  I’d like to believe it’s showing us that every bad situation has a potential upside if you’re willing to look for it.  Like all fairy tales, each poem leaves us with a lesson.  Some of these, the speaker comes right out and says, others we have to dig for.

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The writing in this collection is as varied as the stories and poems.  Goss captures each voice like she’s the sea witch.  As I said earlier, the pace changes from piece to piece, but all in all this was a fast and fun read.

Ultimately, I’m happy that I went ahead and bought Snow White Learns Witchcraft.  Fairy tales are some of my favorite reading material.  This book was worth adding to my collection.

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Overall, I gave this collection 4 out of 5 stars.  I wavered between four and five because I always expect to not enjoy some pieces as much as others when reading a collection like this, so I shouldn’t let that affect my decision, right?  But I settled on four because it seemed fair and true to how I felt about everything.  If you like fairy tales, check this book out!

That Didn’t Go Right

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this week?  I’m a bit annoyed at myself if I’m being honest.  I was going over my story’s timeline and looking at the revisions I’ve made when I realized I had made a stupid mistake.  There were two main plot points that I meant to reverse, but apparently in my zeal during my rewriting sessions, I forgot to switch them.  So, today, I’m going to ramble until I figure out some kind of solution for my dilemma.

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Me when I realized why something felt off with my story.

The more I think about it, I have a couple of solutions.  The easiest one would be to leave the story like it is and follow my original plotline.  I admit that I liked this section the way it was, but it drags a little in between scenes this way and there’s no good transition that will speed things up.  Slowness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It gives the writer a chance to build up the setting or show the characters in different types of interactions.  All of that can give the story depth.  But, it can also cause the reader to put the book down and makes it easier for them not to want to pick it back up.  Which makes this option dangerous.

The other solution would be to go back and add the chapter I wanted to move in the first place.  This would require reading through what I’ve already rewritten and finding the best place to transition to the “new” material, then figuring out how to make that section flow into the old one.  Luckily, I haven’t gotten too far ahead of the switch, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to go back and find a place to insert the other plot point.  And it should speed up the pace of the story.  Plus, some of the scenes in that section would really benefit from appearing earlier in the novel anyway.  My main concern is that, while it sounds great in my head, it won’t work as well on the page and I’ll end up switching everything back to the original order in the next draft.

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Because I’m too lazy to think of any others right now.

Honestly, since my first instinct was to flip these two plot points when I was working out the timeline for the revision, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing.  It’ll be more difficult and time consuming because I’ll have to read through what I have thus far and find a good place to insert a chapter.  However, I think the potential benefits are worth the risk.  It’s not as if I’m on an official deadline or anything.  If it sucks, I have time to switch it back.

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Maybe not always, but enough to trust it.

Have you had any moments where you realized you made a stupid mistake in your creative work recently?  Did you decide to go back and do what you had originally planned or did you go with the flow?  Feel free to share your stories or comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages.

Writer’s Block AKA Stubborn Procrastination

Hello, hello!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day or Excuse for Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call Thursday.  I have no plans, but I do have chocolate.  Huzzah!  Anyway, that’s tomorrow.  Today is about confessions of a writerly nature.  Namely, I haven’t done anything productive since January 20th (the day before the sickness of doom took over).  Yeah, I can blame the illness for about two weeks worth of laziness, but what about the last week and a half?  I had no excuse for vegging out.  So, I thought I would talk a little about what some people call writer’s block and my plan to deal with it.

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This is true.

First off, I want to say that I don’t particularly like the term “writer’s block.”  It sounds like something that just happens, something you have no control over.  For some people, that might be true.  Other people might enjoy having the excuse, being able to say that their lack of writing time is out of their control.  Not me.  I fully acknowledge that when I’m not writing, I’m usually procrastinating.  It’s rare for me to run out of words, at least on fictional things.  Motivation is my biggest issue.  And sometimes, I admit that the procrastination bug digs deep and stubbornly refuses to let go.  It’s what’s happening right now.  My motivation is low due to an influx of rejections I’ve been expecting (because of my year-end submissions that are just now being looked at).  It’s hard to want to write and revise when you keep getting told “it’s not for us, but good luck elsewhere.”  So, when the opportunity to procrastinate presented itself, I didn’t bother fighting it.

However, it’s about time for me to get over myself and get back to writing regularly.  Before the sickness decided to knock out all my will to work, I was actually struggling back into a decent rhythm.  How?  I joined a sprint group and one of the leaders happens to write around the same time I do during the week (early evening).  So, I have the support of checking in after each sprint and being held accountable.  Even if the leaders aren’t doing sprints, I can still create my own sprints and see if anyone wants to join me.  It’s a super helpful group for me and I plan to get back into it this week.

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I feel this on a deep level.

Aside from the sprint group, I need to find other forms of motivation as well, otherwise I know I’ll eventually fall back into the procrastination pit.  The problem is that I don’t respond well to self-appointed rewards.  Mostly because I usually forgo the rewards.  I promise myself anime or manga and by the time I get everything done, I’m either too lazy to find something to watch/read or it’s time for dinner and TV with Dad.  I guess all I can do is keep trying different things until I find something that works for me.

What about you?  How do you battle writer’s block or the procrastination bug?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on DEAD AS A DOOR KNOCKER

Howdy, howdy!  Since I missed last month’s book review, I figured I would go ahead and do it this week.  After all, I’m only a week late.  That’s not too bad, right?  For January, I picked up an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  Dead as a Door Knocker is the the first book in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper Mysteries.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, we might as well get to the review!

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Cover is relevant to the book, but the knocker is all wrong.  It’s supposed to be the Green Man.

Dead as a Door Knocker introduces us to Whitney Whitaker, a 28-year-old who enjoys helping her cousins remodel houses and harbors dreams of becoming a real estate guru.  She lives with her parents and her cat, Sawdust, in Nashville and works at a small mom-and-pop property management firm.  When the firm’s biggest client offers her a deal on a property that’s too good to be true, she jumps on it.  However, the guy is murdered on the site and everything goes haywire from there.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I didn’t like this book.  The story was the same as every other cozy, which could have been fine.  Combine it with the fact that the main character is extremely unlikable and not even the parts from the cat’s point of view could save it.  Why is Whitney unlikable?  First off, she’s 28 and acts like she’s 15.  If she doesn’t get her way, she pouts or throws a fit.  Second, she’s a bully.  She runs around questioning people like she’s a cop or something, ambushing people and even forcing her foot in doorways so people can’t close the door, then has the gall the get upset when she gets a glass of iced tea thrown in her face.  I had zero respect for her.

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My thoughts exactly.

The background characters were flat and only served to enable Whitney’s antics.  She dragged her cousin and her best friend around as bodyguards, neither of whom ever bothered pointing out when she was crossing boundaries.  The detective let her go based on weak arguments and tantrums.  I get that it’s a story and all, but it still needs to be believable.  None of these characters came across as actual people, especially the police.

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Basically.

As far as the writing goes, it was a tight, quick read.  Every other sentence seemed like a well-worn cliché or at least a play on one.  If the author was aiming to make Whitney sound like a 15-year-old, she was spot on.  But don’t go into it hoping for the 28-year-old we’re supposed to be getting.

Ultimately, I was super disappointed in this story.  I just couldn’t get past the characters.  It’s not a series I’ll be following.

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Overall, I gave Dead as a Door Knocker one star out of five.  Pretty sure this is a first for me.  I honestly feel bad.  I really wanted to like it, but nope.  If you’re okay with childish characters and unrealistic police officers, try it.  Otherwise, you’re not missing anything.

A Quick Explanation

Howdy, howdy!  Last week was a series of unfortunate events.  On Sunday (the 20th), I had a mishap and injured my knee.  Spent Monday in bed to baby it.  Got sick on Tuesday  with one of those illnesses no one wants to know about and have been struggling to recover ever since.  This past Monday, I got a shot and some amoxicillin.  I’m slowly on the mend.  But!  I haven’t been productive and I haven’t even finished reading my book that I was supposed to review this week.  Hopefully, I’ll be back next week to review that and get on track!  I think I’m going to go rest now.

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What’s Your Novel Really About?

Howdy, howdy!  Have you ever run into one of those people who asks what your novel-in-progress is about, but after you explain it to them, they’re all like “no, what is it really about…”?  They’re usually English majors or something along that line: people who can’t accept that sometimes, in writing, blue curtains are just blue curtains.  These are the deep thinkers, the over-analyzers.  And they’re usually pretty cool people.  But if you aren’t prepared for the question, it can be annoying and frustrating.  Especially if you’re like me and don’t consciously build underlying themes into your work.  So, I thought I would take a minute to ramble about hidden meanings and all that fun stuff.

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It’s the controversial meme of (writerly) doom!

Like I said, I don’t go into a writing session with the purpose of bringing a particular lesson to the page.  I don’t know many people who do.  The few I know who have tried doing this come across as preachy and, in all honesty, more than a little douchenozzly.  (This was a long time ago and in no way reflects my current circles.)  I like to let things happen naturally, especially in a first draft.  If the story is good, themes and hidden meanings will bury themselves into the story and eventually make themselves known.

How do I know this?  Because when I was doing exercises from Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision, one of the things I had to do was state the main vision of the novel I was preparing to revise.  I had no idea what LR was about in any deep sense.  I didn’t really care.  The story and characters were fun, so why did it need to be about anything other than dragons and war?  Then, I started reading through it and noticed a weird trend.  When everyone listened to each other and thought things through, there was forward momentum.  When everyone just argued and ignored things, everything stalled out.  So, I ended up with a sticky note on my computer that says “Vision: Looking at conflict from multiple angles (including the enemy’s) allows one greater access to the Truth and the ability to make difficult decisions.”

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At least he’s honest.

It turns out that listening and understanding are things I write about a lot.  I don’t know why.  It’s kind of like when Nancy Holder told me that young people getting dragged into new worlds was “classic Shawna.”  I had no idea.  Apparently, it’s what I gravitate towards without realizing it.  Granted, listening isn’t the only thing hidden in my stories, but I think it’s a lesson we all need to consider getting into the habit of, especially right now.  Maybe that’s why I notice it cropping up more and more in my stuff.

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Surprises are… fun?

Anyway, I suppose all of this just boils down to the fact that I think it’s kind of neat to see things I never intended to write about pop up in my stories.  So, while I may not know what my novel is about when you ask, I’ll eventually figure it out during revision.  What about you?  What themes pop up in your work?  Feel free to share your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Writing Stints: I Should Get Back to Those

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone’s year going so far?  I’ve been fairly productive in getting ready to dive back into revisions in a serious manner.  I read through the revisions thus far, made sure I knew where I was going with things, and reviewed the plot to come.  But I admit that it’s a daunting task to sit down and seriously work on the story.  That’s why I’ve been looking into different variations of writing stints/time management methods.  I thought I would ramble on about a few of my options today, since I have nothing else to write about.

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This is not wrong.

For a while, a friend and I did a couple of hour long stints a day (or when we were both writing at the same time).  In other words, we’d check in with each other with our goals for our stints that day, write (or revise or blog or whatever we needed to do) for an hour, take a short break to check in and rest, then repeat the last two steps until we met our goals or were exhausted.  That method worked for me.  It helped me concentrate and reporting in with said friend helped hold me accountable.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way of these things and makes it impossible for us to do this at the moment.  And, honestly, I don’t know if I could keep up that kind of momentum on my own.  An hour is a long time.  That’s why I’ve been looking at other options.

One of the most popular options for time management seems to be the Pomodoro Technique.  Yes, it means tomato.  Supposedly, the guy who started it used a tomato shaped timer.  In this one, you select a task and work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat 4 times, after which you take a 15 minute break then start all over again until you’re done.  It sounds useful and there are tons of apps to use that will help with my accountability issues.  I might try this.

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Apparently this is a thing.

Some of my other friends have recently started doing a 15 minute stint followed by two half hour stints and another 15 minute stint to finish up.  They take short breaks between each stint to check in with each other as well.  It’s a method they found on Twitter through Leigh Bardugo.  Our writing schedules just don’t mesh, so I haven’t been able to join them, but it seems like a helpful style.  Maybe live tweeting progress during breaks could even work for me.  Or at least posting progress on my private Facebook page.  I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to publicly announce how slow I am.

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Because cunning is better than speed.

Anyway, this is all to say that I need to start doing stints again.  I’ll probably try my old way on my own for a while.  If that fails, I’ll try the Pomodoro Technique.  What about you?  Do you have any time management tips?  What do you do to get yourself on track?  Feel free to share your thoughts, methods, or comments here or on my social media pages!

A Time For Goals

Hello, hello!  Welcome to 2019!  Since it’s only the 2nd day of the year, I thought I would share my goals.  I did this type of post for last year as well, but I failed pretty miserably.  In 2018, I finished the first draft of DS1, started revisions on LR1, wrote 3 new short stories/flash fiction pieces, submitted 2 short stories/flash pieces/poems a week (earning myself a publication and a handful of personal rejections), and I read 29 books.  I started out strong early in the year, but eventually lost steam.  Hopefully, I can find a steady pace that won’t wear out on me in 2019.  On to the goals!

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True.  Also, I guess 2016 just kind of disappeared into the aether.

1. Finish revising LR1.  I still have a lot of work to do on this book, but I adore the characters and the story line.  I’m shooting for a finish date of early April.  At least finishing the second draft, at which point I’ll have to find some trusty beta readers (always the hardest part in my experience).  I might even look into prices for professional editing, so I can get some expert feedback.  We’ll see how it goes.  First, I have to finish revising it.

2. Revise DS1.  My mind has been randomly drifting to this book for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been reading so many cozy mysteries that I really want to get back to working on my own.  It’s a series I’m considering using a pseudonym for, though that means I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have to revise it and get an agent or publisher interested, then I can worry about names and all that fancy stuff.  A woman can dream, though.

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Non-existent Jekyll. Has a nice ring to it.

3. Submit short stories/flash pieces (at least 2 subs a week).  I want to keep this habit going for as long as I can.  It’s sometimes really difficult to find at least semi-pro paying places to submit a story that’s been out in slush limbo on and off for over a year, but I keep looking.  I haven’t had to retire a piece because of that yet.  Hopefully this year will bring more acceptances and more awesome venues for submitting!

4. Write 5 short stories/flash pieces.  A break between revisions is always a good thing.  Last year, I aimed a little too high on my short story goals, so I decided to be more sensible.  I already have one short story brewing for a project with some friends.  Maybe getting that one written will help grease the wheels, so to speak.

5. Shop LR around to agents.  This is a goal that is a tad ambitious, which is good.  It all depends on how well the revisions on LR go and whether or not it requires another round of them.  It’ll give me something to strive for.

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Look at the cute puppy!

6. Read 30 books.  I didn’t include a reading goal last year, but my goal was 24 books.  I managed to read 29 books, so I thought I would try to one up that.  But I’m a slow reader.  Hopefully, I can get through 30 books.

What about you?  What are your goals for 2019?  Feel free to share them or your thoughts here or on my social media pages!