Out of Order

Howdy, howdy! It’s the first Wednesday of a new year. How is everyone doing so far? Is 2022 going to be your year? I basically just want to survive it without getting sick, same as the last two years. But I also want to start being productive again. I failed hard in 2021 with everything except reading and blogging. It’s officially time to suck it up and get back on track. I started writing again this week. I’m not diving back into my old standards, but I’m going to work my way up to them. Same schedule, just starting out with a lower word count. But as I was writing words this week, it got me thinking about my writing system.

I started working on one of the stories I began last year and gave up on. I always knew the beginning and I know the ending, my problem is connecting the two. But what I really noticed when I opened the file is that I never wrote the ending out. I couldn’t. I can’t. The idea of writing a story out of order makes my eye twitch. I don’t mean a story has to be linear. I have no problem jumping around timelines. But I have to start at the beginning and work my way to the end. Writing random scenes and pasting them together makes me feel icky. It’s kind of ridiculous.

One of the stories I gave up on last year flips back and forth between the present and the past. In my head, I had every present scene plotted out, but I didn’t write them down because I couldn’t work out the past bits that alternated with them. I don’t know why I’m like this. It’s not like it’s difficult to skip around and insert scenes wherever I want. I use Word. All I have to do is move the cursor. It’s not like I’m writing this stuff out by hand or even using a typewriter. I should be capable of doing this.

So many other writers I know actually enjoy writing scenes and putting them together like a puzzle. It sounds so freeing. Don’t know what to write? Skip ahead! Or go back to something else you skipped. Easy peasy. But no. I have to make my life difficult. Am I worried I’ll forget to include something? Nah. I’d be one of those people who put a giant boldly colored note to “insert scene here” or something. I’m probably just super anal. Definitely. I like control and order when I write, maybe some organized chaos. But not sheer mayhem.

What about you? Do you have to write a story in a certain order or do you jump all around? Were you one, then you became the other? Or do you mix it up and write both ways? Do you have any advice for becoming someone who can work out of order? As usual, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

Things I Should’ve Done Today

Howdy, howdy! What’s everyone been up to lately? Things have been quiet here. I was supposed to be productive today. But I wasn’t. What’s new there? Instead, I listened to loud music while Dad ran an errand. I played stupid games. And I wasted time being social. Kind of. The minion and one of his spawn came by to drop something off for Dad. I mostly listened to them ramble. That’s as social as I get. But it was good seeing them after so long. Stupid plague. Nothing else got done.

I mostly should’ve been preparing to write this post. I didn’t have anything lined up to write about anyway, but I probably could’ve come up with something better to ramble about if it weren’t already so late. Or I would’ve kept procrastinating and written this anyway. At least I can blame it on the minion this week.

The other thing I really should’ve done is read. I’m reading two books and they’re both pretty long. I need to get through about 20 pages a day of the book I’ll be reviewing this month in order to finish it in time. I built in a couple of lazy days just in case, but I should try to get it done anyway. It takes me about an hour. The other book is my pre-bedtime read. I try to get at least half an hour in each night. I’ll at least do that tonight.

I should probably also have written an email and scheduled a video chat, but they can wait. It’s just for my jailbird sister. I keep putting off scheduling the video chat because I have better ways to waste my time. But at least Dad can join in this time (if I have to suffer, so do you). I also need to write emails to a couple of other people, but it’s nothing time sensitive or even important. I should just check in with some people who aren’t on social media.

There are probably things I’m forgetting, but it doesn’t really matter. Today was supposed to be a blog day and reading day. Instead, it was a people-ing kind of day. But I’m going to leave this kind of short and go catch up on reading. What were you supposed to do today? Did you do it? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

End of Year Stuff

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s already December? The year just slipped right on by. I’m still stuck somewhere back in March. But seriously, it wasn’t a very good year productivity-wise, as you very well know if you’ve been stalking me. I don’t really know what happened. I just got lazy and everything spiraled out of control. But I really need to get back on track for next year, so I’m just going to ramble a bit about my goals for this month. They aren’t much, but hopefully enough to get me back on track for being productive in 2022.

1. Read two books. This is pretty much the only thing I’ve kept up with this year. My goal was to read 35 books and I just started my 34th of the year. As long as I can finish that one and pick/finish a book to review by the end of the month, I’ll at least have my reading goal done. It shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Research publishing companies and how to query them. I’ve given up on finding an agent for the current book I was sending out, but I do want to try some publishers before I decide to put it away for a while. I just don’t know how different the querying process is for publishers vs. agents. So, I’ll have to do some Googling and/or pester people for advice.

3. Read through the current novel-in-progress. It’s already fully outlined and ready to be written (I believe it’s about halfway done, maybe a little less), so I need to at least finish the first draft. It’s the sequel to the novel I was querying, so I think I just got a bit discouraged and disgusted with the whole thing. But I still love these books and want to work on them, so hopefully I can drop back into that world and finish the draft. We’ll see how I feel after I re-read what I have.

4. Write words. It doesn’t have to be good words or even a lot of words, but I do need to get back in the habit of sitting here, opening a document, and writing something at least four days a week (five if you count blogging). I’m not even going to worry if it’s all part of the same story. Just practice for getting back into the novel-in-progress. When I start that, I’ll decide whether to focus on a specific word count or just time staring at the screen. And whether I want to establish a daily goal or weekly one.

That’s my plan for December. Nothing too demanding or exhausting. Just something to hopefully set me up for a better writing year in 2022. Forcing myself has failed miserably this year, so maybe easing myself into it will work better. But I really need to start trying again. Being lazy is only an excuse for so long before people start accusing you of being depressed. What about you? What are your plans for the last month of 2021? Are you wrapping up current goals or starting to plan for next year? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!

Progress, Not Perfection

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things are pretty much the same here. Got my flu shot last week. Should be eligible for a Pfizer booster soon. Other than that, I don’t have any reason to leave the house for the foreseeable future. I’m mostly okay with this. I should really buckle down and start writing steadily again. My slushing duties are basically done until the next submission period, so I have zero excuses to avoid writing. I just have to get back in the rhythm. NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I’m not participating (I write far too slowly for that), but it’s always encouraging to see others’ progress. And progress is what I’m going to ramble about today.

I was watching NCIS the other night and Gibbs said something that I keep thinking about even though I’ve heard it before. “It’s about progress, not perfection.” I guess when Leroy Jethro Gibbs quotes a motivational poster, it just hits different. But actually, it’s not originally from all the self-help crap (like motivational posters) floating around. According to Google, the quote’s origins are from the AA book (something to do with focusing on spiritual progress rather than trying to achieve spiritual perfection), but it’s shortened version has spilled over into common use pretty much everywhere (exercise, writing, art, etc.).

As a perfectionist, it’s difficult for me to appreciate the idea of progress. That affects my writing. It took me years to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect, to just say it’s the best I can currently do and toss it out into the world as is. And I still struggle to see progress from piece to piece, since everything is different. It also takes me forever to write because I’m one of those weirdos who edit as they go, especially on short pieces, so I don’t always get to see the progress of a story through multiple drafts. It’s part of the reason I’ve been avoiding writing lately. I’m mostly just annoyed that I don’t seem to be moving forward. I can handle rejection. It’s the feeling of being stuck that I’m having trouble with.

But I need to suck it up and get over it. In my head, I know this. Actually doing the sucking up and getting over is proving much harder in practice than in theory. However, if I have no words on the page, I’ll never see any progress. I won’t have anything to mold into something resembling perfection. I have to write. Creativity is hard. Ugh.

Even Chuck thinks so.

Okay, I’m done whining and rambling. I will strive to see my own progress instead of aiming for perfection. I’ll try not to let myself feel mired in mediocrity. A forward motion. That’s what I’ll try to achieve. Self pep talks (read that as pep talks in general) are not my forte, so I’m going to stop now.

Anyway, what are some words of wisdom that help motivate you? What doesn’t help? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages! I’ll try to think of something better to ramble about next week.

A Villanelle

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine day? Things here are about the same as always. I did write some words last week! They weren’t very good and there weren’t nearly enough of them, but it’s something. I’ll keep trying to write something this week as well. The story is there, I just have to pry the words from my brain and splatter them on the page. It’s just fighting me still. This blog post is also being a pain in the ass. I’ve gone through twenty lists of prompts, but nothing is sticking out and begging me to write it. Nothing is even producing an inkling of an idea. So, I decided to trudge through some of my old poetry that would otherwise never see the light of day and pick something to post here. This is a villanelle that I wrote for my Intro to Poetry Writing class back at SMU. In case it’s not obvious, I didn’t know what to write about back then either. Please excuse its suckiness. Poetry is fun, but not my first language. I get a lot of it wrong, especially back then. As always, feel free to share your comments or critiques or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Me while trying to decide what to post here.

Writer’s Block

I don’t know what to write.
The words just won’t come
And fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

Should it be about wrong versus right?
No, that idea fills my head with a monotonous hum.
I don’t know what to write.

How about the darkness and the light?
No, I just want the parts to equal the sum
That fills that void with the contrasting black and white.


Maybe I should just go grab a bite
To eat, maybe have some rum
Because I don’t know what to write.

Maybe music can lend me some insight.
Maybe the pounding of Yuki’s drums
Can help fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

That’s enough; this is it for the night.
I’m done trying because the words won’t come.
I just don’t know what to write
To fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

5 Things I Should Be Doing

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s August already? That means Christmas is some time next week, right? Time just won’t stop. But I did find out the world still exists. Had a doctor’s appointment, so I had to leave the house. I have to do it again later this month. There were people without masks. It was annoying. But I expected it. Anyway, I should be doing things besides worrying about the state of the world. And since I have nothing else to ramble about, I figured now was as good a time as any to try talking myself into being productive again.

1. Start writing again. I haven’t written much of anything aside from blog posts since mid-June. I know. Shame on me. I just have to decide whether I want to jump back into my last novel attempt or finish up some short stories. Probably the latter, so I have new stuff to submit. Just have to make myself do it.

2. Catch up on submissions. I’m three weeks behind, so I need to submit to six places on top of the two for this week. No idea why I started slacking on this. Yes, it’s getting more difficult to find paying markets to send these stories to, but not impossible. Also, writing a few new short stories or flash fiction pieces will help make submitting easier. I know this, yet I’m still lazy. Motivation is hard.

I haven’t had this happen yet, but I check at least ten times before I send anything and a couple of times after I send it. Just in case.

3. Query some more agents. I think I’ve waited long enough for the “only responds when interested” agents, so I can send out the last ten or so agent queries for DS1, then wait a while for replies before trying publishers. Or maybe I should just go right for the publishers? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.

4. Get excited about reading again. I read every day, but it’s felt like a slog for the last month. It doesn’t seem to matter what I read. Nothing holds my attention for more than a few minutes. It’s weird. Maybe I’m just burned out. No idea. Hopefully something will grab my attention soon.

WIPs = works in progress.

5. Finish something. Anything. A story, the shawl, whatever. Sometimes, I think if I could just feel the accomplishment of finishing something, my creativity would start flowing again. I know that’s not how it actually works, but it’s how I feel. The biggest problem is forcing myself to do the thing.

There you go. Sorry I didn’t come up with anything better to ramble about. Blogging is even harder than writing stories. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Peopling is Hard

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? I’m still stuck in a procrastination rut. I start projects, it goes well for a few days, then I just hit a wall. I try to work through it for a couple of days, but after staring at the same pages for a while, I get disgusted with it and take a few days off. It’s an endless cycle. I need to break it, but I can’t figure out how. So, I decided to try being social instead. Change up the routine. Maybe getting out of my comfort zone would help get the writing muscles going again. That was the hope, anyway. It’s not going too well.

It’s me!

I randomly joined some Facebook groups a week or so ago, mostly for pretty pictures of bats and cephalopods. Apparently, I also decided to join a couple of groups for people who are pansexual and their supporters (happy Pride!), which I never do because… well, people. One of the current fads in one of those groups are those stupid friendship application posts where newbies basically introduce themselves. I don’t do that stuff. I am horrible at peopling. Everyone knows this. I make no secret of it. But I did the thing despite my aversion to socializing.

All of the comments on the post were super sweet and accepting. Yes, I even included pictures. And, instead of being self-deprecating like I usually am, I tried very hard to just say thank you to the handful of folks who said I was pretty or whatever. It was weird. And I admit that I met a couple of people who are cool and I’ve enjoyed our conversations and will definitely keep talking to them. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t get like twenty DMs from douchenozzles (you know the ones, those who expect cyber sex or whatever it’s called nowadays without even attempting to hide it behind getting to know you) who ended up blocked. It totally reminded me of the Yahoo chat days, and not in the good way. Sifting through the asshats to find the interesting people is just not my thing anymore. I’m too lazy for all that. And way too comfortable with being alone (or talking to my current peoples) to make that effort.

Or I can be alone by myself. Either way works.

It doesn’t help that I have a lot of social anxiety. I can’t even make doctor appointments over the phone without freaking out unless I practice the conversation in my head fifty times. Goddess forbid they go off script. And even if it goes perfectly, I still feel like I screwed something up with the interaction. I’m not as bad with text based exchanges, because I can see and edit what I’m saying. Especially when it comes to professional correspondence. That, I have no problem with. As long as I can write it out, I’m okay. I really only have issues with socializing like a normal human being. I know people who I only knew by screen names for the first ten years of our friendship. That’s how horrible at peopling I am. I didn’t even think to ask for names until we’d run into each on Facebook or something. Peopling is hard.

Maybe.

But that’s enough about my lack of humaning skills. I probably should’ve thought of a better topic instead of rambling about nothing. But there you have it. As always, feel free to leave your comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Tricking Myself into Writing

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? It’s a gloomy Monday as I’m writing this and I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. So, I decided it’s as good a day as any to write my post for the week. The problem? I have nothing to ramble about. I should probably be working on an actual story or writing my May book review post or something, but I don’t want to. I can do that stuff tomorrow. But I am slowly starting to write again, thanks to the new computer. I guess I can ramble about that. It’s one of those weird cripple things, so be prepared to give me your best “huh?” look.

Yeah, that look.

When I first started using a laptop (actually, any computer), my typing options were to either figure out how to make the keyboard work for me or use Dragon Naturally Speaking (a dictation program). I tried the latter and it was horrible. No matter how much I trained it, at least every other word was wrong. It was more trouble editing stuff than it was worth. So, I decided to use a backscratcher in my right hand and my left index finger to make the hunt-and-peck method of typing work for me. And I was good at it too. Fast enough to keep up with multiple Yahoo chat conversations in a timely manner at least. And accurate enough that I rarely had to fix any typos. It was less hunting/pecking and more just my own form of two “finger” typing. But all good things must end.

After I went through a few different wheelchairs and just as many computers, I eventually reached a point where typing became more difficult than it was worth. Basically, each new chair changed the positions of my hands, the ease with which I could reposition my arms, etc. and each new computer positioned its keyboard and touchpad slightly differently until it all combined to screw with my typing (slowed it down and made the position I had to maintain uncomfortable) enough that I looked for alternatives. By that time, Microsoft had started getting into accessibility features and had added an on-screen keyboard. I’m certainly not as fast with it as I was at typing, but it works well enough. It got me through Stonecoast and has helped me write the majority of the stuff I’ve written since then, so I can’t complain.

Don’t feel bad. Losing stuff like the ability to type is a normal cripple thing.

When this computer arrived, I decided to try typing again. The keyboard is just too pretty not to touch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started trying to type for 30 minutes at a time. The range of motion in my left arm is absolute shit, which is to be expected. I can’t even reach the E, R, and G keys enough to press them anymore. The number keys (I used to be able to press 1-4 with my left hand) are completely out of reach. And I have to nudge my hand with my backscratcher in order to reach the Q and W. But for some reason, I have a better reach with my backscratcher than I used to, so it compensates a bit for the lack of use in my left hand. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll at least get back enough range of motion for E, R, and G.

Don’t get too excited. I’ve only done this 5 times so far. It’s annoying getting my hands into position, but that should get easier over time. My muscles tire out well before the 30 minutes are up, but I push through and it’s already getting better. I started at 75 words in 30 minutes and have increased each time (reached 245 words when I did it today). I can do 350ish words in a half hour with the on-screen keyboard, so if I can break that, I’ll definitely keep it up. Hopefully, my arms and hands will keep cooperating with me. I don’t fully trust them yet.

Idle Hands. They have a mind of their own. Am I the only one who remembers this stupid movie?

Anyway, in order to practice typing, I needed something to write, so I started a short story. It’s already 1,500 words long because it starts out as typing practice, then I’m in a groove, so I write a little more with the on-screen keyboard. But yeah. All this post is meant to say is that I found a way to trick myself into writing even though I have no motivation. Wootwoot!

What about you? Do you have any weird ways you trick yourself into being productive? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Be A Writer They Said…

Hello, hello! Welcome to September. I suppose Thanksgiving and Christmas are some time next week with how fast time is moving. Before you know it, this year will be over and we’ll get to see what 2021 decides to throw at us. My hopes aren’t very high. But I’ve been in a blah mood anyway, so maybe I’m wrong and next year will be great. I’m in one of my burned out periods again. I haven’t worked on the novel in a while, so that’s not getting done this month. Oh well. I just pushed myself too hard too fast. Anyway, being a writer is exhausting. I thought I’d take this post as a chance to whine a bit. Sorry in advance.

Maybe, but maybe not.

And it’s true. Being a writer can be fun. Telling stories and reading and gathering with fellow writers to discuss writerly things can be amazing. But no one ever tells you that being a writer is so much more than writing. It’s the one thing I was disappointed about when it came to my MFA program: they glossed over everything included in being a professional writer that wasn’t writing or editing. I get it, it’s a writing program, but it would’ve been nice to be a little prepared for everything else. That one lecture on contracts and being told in our graduation semester that we needed to make a website didn’t quite cut it. I’m slowly figuring things out, though.

That website they randomly told me I had to make for my graduation semester? I had to design it myself because what beginning writer can afford a web designer? It has to be maintained and updated. And in order to make a website, you have to have content. Like a blog that you update weekly. And contact information. You can’t be a new anything nowadays without a social media presence. Those social media profiles need attention and updates just about every day if you want to keep your followers. It’s not exactly hard work, but all of this stuff takes up time. And if you’re popular and have tons of comments and emails to respond to, it could potentially get overwhelming. Sure, there are people you can hire for all that, but it costs money.

Yes, it can.

That’s not all. You also have to be an editor to your own work, a critic who can pull apart everyone else’s work and see what’s working and what isn’t, and a diligent student constantly improving their craft. After that, you have to sell your work and yourself to agents and publishers and readers alike. People have to like you to want to work with you, right? This usually entails submitting and querying lots of people who each have slightly different guidelines that you have to adhere to and getting told no by most of them. Then, if you’re lucky enough to make a deal, you have to pull on your lawyer pants and review every aspect of the contract to make sure everyone involved is getting a fair deal. It’s terrifying and exhausting and no one seems to want to talk about it all.

I know.

And to top it all off, there’s always someone pointing out that you should be actually writing, like everything else involved in being a writer doesn’t count as work. It’s enough to put anyone off writing for a while. But then you get the rare acceptance or encouraging note from a complete stranger or something like that and it’s all worth it again. So yeah, being a writer is exhausting and sometimes it’s fun, but it’s so much more than just writing. Be warned, then become a writer. It’ll be fun.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or questions or comments here or on my social media pages!

Adjusted Goals

Hello, hello! Welcome to July! How is everyone doing? Can you believe it’s already July? This year has flown by despite (or maybe because of) everything going on. Anyway, I stayed up late with Dad while he had some stuff on the smoker last night (a couple of briskets, pulled pork, and a “prime” rib… it’s okay to be jealous), so we got a late start today, which means I’m too lazy to come up with something decent to blog about. So, since it’s actually the first of the month and I haven’t done a goals post in a while, I’m just going to give you a quick update on new goals and how my old ones are going.

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Here are my goals from January and how I’ve been doing with that/what’s changed.

1. From January: Finish revising DS1.
Status: Complete. I finished in April instead of March because I got lazy, but I finished nonetheless and I love this book.
Updated Goal: Write a first draft of DS2. I waffled about starting this book until I see how DS1 does, but ultimately decided that it’s better to have a draft started and have no one want it than to procrastinate and have nothing if someone gets interested and wants to know where I’m at with book two. I’m aiming to have the first draft done by September 15th at the latest.

2. From January: Read 30 books.
Status: I have read 20 books so far this year. Six were from my “to re-read” pile, nine have been books I’ve reviewed (no idea how that happened), and the other five were new to me, but not necessarily new.
Updated Goal: My official goal is still 30 books. I still have six months of books to review. I also want to re-read at least two more books. And I’ll squeeze in at least two new to me books. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to more in the latter two categories, but I won’t push it.

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Amazon, but yeah.

3. From January: Keep submitting.
Status: I haven’t missed a week yet.
Updated Goal: The goal is relatively the same, submit two short pieces to magazines or anthologies every week. I normally do this on Mondays, but I’ve decided it doesn’t matter which day as long as it gets done every week.

4. January Goal: Query 100 agents.
Status: In progress. I’ve queried 16 agents thus far and received a couple of form rejections as well as a couple of really encouraging personal rejections.
Updated Goal: I’m still going to query 100 agents unless I find one. I send out five queries a week and I will participate in appropriate Twitter pitch sessions. If I can’t find an agent, there are also a few publishers I will try querying before I give up and move to a new project or debate self-publishing.

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Accurate.

5. January Goal: Crochet.
Status: In limbo. I haven’t crocheted in a couple of months.
Updated Goal: I want to finish the shawl I’m working on and a hat by the end of the year. I’m just weird and can’t find the motivation for it. But I will get back to it soon.

Those are my revised goals for now. What are some of your goals? How have they changed since earlier in the year? As always, feel free to leave a comment here or on my social media pages!