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Posts Tagged ‘finishing’

I like NaNoWriMo for a lot of reasons. It provides a useful set of constraints, a deadline, and a global group of fellow travelers with which to share the journey. It’s also completely bonkers, in a good way. I remember the sheer sense of glee when I realized that I could actually produce that many words in that short a time.

First question: Can I churn out 50,000 words in a month? Yes, yes I can. Go me.*

Next question, and one that most NaNo participants come up against as the first flush of success fades: Do those words mean anything? Are they useful?

In my case, and no surprise here, the first draft was not 100% terrible but certainly needed work. Writing to a tight deadline with a high word count left me, at least, with the sort of prose I don’t usually write in fiction.

  • Contractions? Nope, they only counted as one word, and why write one word when you can use two?
  • Blah blah blah descriptions that were far wordier than necessary? Absolutely.
  • Unnecessary plot detours? Oh yes. Have my character stop off at a roadside ice cream stand and discuss the relative merits of lemon lavender versus pomegranate basil flavors on the way to the dramatic shootout? Sure, if it helps me meet my word count target.

That part of NaNoWriMo wasn’t as helpful to me. This year, I’m rewriting the rules.

  • I know I can write a lot of words on demand. Check.
  • I know I can write every day. Check.
  • I don’t need more of that. What I want to practice now is finishing.

So this November I’m being a bit of a NaNo radical. Word count is not my focus. I’ve chosen one story idea and will work on it until it’s done. That’s it.**

The end:)

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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* I bet you could do it too. Need a pep talk? Check out the NaNoWriMo archives.

** I may or may not also be participating in an imaginary mentorship program with Ilona Andrews Because what good is imagination if it can’t take you where you want to go?

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It’s been a while since I used November for its true purpose, which is (of course) writing a novel in 30 days.

Is it time?

I think it might be time:)

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Photo by Arash Asghari on Unsplash

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I spend a lot of time online for non-writing-related work, and on the way to serious business I run across a lot of interesting things. It’s Monday, so here’s a calming fascinating visualization of The Internet and its growth from 1997 to 2021. (Actually, you know what? This isn’t calming at all. I updated the wording but now I’m worried this is going to give small children nightmares. Or maybe me. Still interesting though.)

For more on this, visit THE INTERNET — Opte

Look closely enough and you might see sledding pandas and cat videos and recipes and sales and news and art and perhaps even yours truly.

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Parts of the internet are pure entertainment and too many are just awful but others include useful lessons on How to Do Better.

You may remember my motto, A Posse Ad Esse.* I don’t always achieve this goal, but I spend a non-zero amount of time trying to Do Better. Find ways to be more productive, to end the day feeling like I crossed off, if not everything, then the most important things on my list. 

That’s been a challenge the past year or, hmm, so. That’s partly why I’m going back to writer’s guides like Swain. It’s also why when I run across articles about grit or new research on how to accomplish more, I take a minute and peruse.

Lately, I’ve found this recent research in Applied Psychology: An International Review helpful. (Ok, fine, I found this article and its summary of those results helpful. I don’t have access to that journal and honestly, reading every interesting scientific study would cut into my cat video time**;)

What did they find? That when working to accomplish something, it’s useful to ask yourself a few specific questions:

  • What’s my goal?
  • How would a person who is good at this achieve the goal?
  • How will I feel if I don’t do this?
  • What is the first (or next) thing I need to do?

It helps to take a brief break, a couple of times a day, to step back and revisit what you’re trying to do and what needs to happen next. And as “with advertising, repeated exposure was key.” So asking these questions a couple of times a day can help prompt a quick moment of self-reflection that (here’s the useful bit) actually leads to action. I have my Calendar app set to pop up these questions first thing in the morning. So far it’s been helpful.

Let’s try it:

  • What’s my goal? Write this post. 
  • How would a person who is good at this achieve the goal? Probably stop procrastinating and start writing, so that’s what I’ll do.
  • How will I feel if I don’t do this? Lame.
  • What do I need to do next? Open a file and start writing.

And look, here we are! Now I get to cross this off my list and go have lunch. Have fun getting things done today!

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“A majority of life’s errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.”

— Charlie Munger

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* My Latin is 110% terrible so this may not be exactly right, but it gets the point across.

** I don’t actually watch cat videos much, but it’s nice to know that I could.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Hooray, my space pirate draft is complete! At almost 18,000 words, it’s the longest “short” story I’ve written to date. Ok, fine, it’s a novella and I’m ok with that.

I’ll need to go back over it, check a few things, get a degree in orbital mechanics (not really) and answer that age-old question, “Do donuts stay fresh longer in space?” Inquiring minds want to know! In the meantime, the draft is on its way to beta readers.

I like it, hope they do too!

 

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Politics make me sad.

Baking makes me happy. Being constructive and making things (and countering the negativity inherent in the current public discourse) makes me happy.

And so I give you my latest creation: A rolling pin…

… complete with a flower on the handle. (Or is that a “flour”? 😉

Next stop, Canadian Thanksgiving and (you guessed it!) pie.

Chin up, fellow humans. We’re just one alien invasion away from remembering that we’re all in this together.

 

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Here’s a quick pre-holiday update. Winter has come and I’m writing, working, cooking, shoveling and woodworking. As an antidote to all things discouraging and sad, I present evidence that effort + time = achievement. See Exhibit A, a.k.a. Bowl #1.

 

Some walnut, some birdseye maple, some sweat and a few tears. (Yes, it was perfect. Yes, I dropped it. Yes, I re-cut and re-finished the exterior. But now it’s done:)

Translate to your own circumstances as you will!

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I’m getting back to a more regular writing schedule after this summer (ok, year) of nuttiness, but that’s not all I’m doing. Last week’s project was to make a fleece shawl.


The shawl works as a wrap, blanket or pillow. It’s reversible, washable and nigh-on indestructible. It’s good for foggy mornings or chilly hospital rooms. It also has custom embroidery with what could be the motto for this crazy year. I made it for my aunt, a wonderful, free-wheeling, tough-as-nails woman who carved her own path to San Francisco decades ago and never left.

In related news, cancer sucks.

!

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Hello, and a quick update to say that I’ve got a new story out in the new issue of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine. “The T-4200” is a science fiction adventure featuring a regular guy just trying to save his dimension-hopping tortoise (and oh yes, end a galactic war). As one does!

Given the dynamics of the marketplace, it tends to be much harder to place longer pieces. I’m very happy to have found a home for this novelette, which began life at over 12k and now runs just over 9,000 words.

While ASM is subscription-based (sorry, free fiction lovers!), this entertaining Australian speculative fiction magazine publishes everything from science fiction to fantasy, humor to horror. If you’re in the market for an excellent new source of fresh fiction, check them out, and enjoy!

ASM Issue #66 Cover Image

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Happily, I’ve had two stories accepted this month. I’m particularly pleased on both fronts: one story is a bit peculiar, a flash of magical realism that may not fit into a convenient category, but (hopefully) captures the essence of an emotional experience. The second story is a rollicking sci-fi romp that’s one of my favorites, but its length (it started life at ~12,000 words) made it a hard sell. I’m delighted to have found homes for both stories!

I’ll post specifics when they are available, but celebrating is always fun. Yay!

Here’s hoping that you have things to celebrate this weekend too:)

 

 

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It’s a beautiful day today, the birds are singing, the clover is growing and I’m plugging along, making progress on numerous fronts and feeling fine.

It isn’t always this way.

Some days I can’t get a thing done and nothing seems right no matter what I do. I’m not alone in this, as I was reminded by a recent discussion on one of my listserves. A member had finally had it up to there with the frequent failure to find editorial acceptance. Folks chimed in, discussions were discussed, and this particular writer hopefully left the thread more optimistic than when it began. I know I did.

What some call failure, I call pre-acceptance. Have I mentioned this before? I probably have, because it’s a fairly critical component to my writerly attitude.* No one is going to like everything you write, no matter who you are. There will be rejection.

And that’s ok.

That’s progress, that’s experience, that’s learning one more way not to make a lightbulb. All writers, all people, get rejected.

Let’s take words out of the equation for a moment. I’m on a cookie kick so let’s stick with that.

Are you handing out delicious cookies at work? Someone will say thanks, but no thanks. It may be that they aren’t keen on chocolate chip, or that they are lactose intolerant, or that their doctor just read them the riot act about Type 2 diabetes. You don’t know, and that’s ok.

This isn’t about them, it’s about you.

Do the best you can, of course, and keep bumping that line higher. Practice. Follow Angela Duckworth’s research and go on grit rather than talent. Go online, and find helpful pep talks like the one Neil Gaiman wrote for National Novel Writing Month:

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

Whatever it takes. Your goals are worth it.

* I should mention that I didn’t start out this way. It took some time to be ok with rejection, and if I can do it, you can too. The 350+ pre-acceptances I have accumulated so far helped a lot:)

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