Motivated to Write Again

Earlier this month I decided that I needed to pick a writing project and stick with it for the next two months until NaNoWriMo starts. I began rereading bits and pieces of my longest projects. I read a bit of my Murder Mystery and my MG Sci Fi, but they didn’t quite hit the spot. I still love them, they just aren’t what I want to be working on right now. I think the MG Sci Fi needs a bit more research, and the Murder Mystery needs a bit more experience.

Then, a few days ago, I started rereading bits of a YA Urban Fantasy I’d written for NaNo one year. It’s a fairly original concept, and I’ve always known how it would end. The story is interesting, I enjoy the characters, I already have names for everyone, and could easily spend some time expanding the characters (a weakness I’ve mentioned before).

Most importantly though, I’m excited to start working on it again. I can’t wait to dive into edits and start polishing things up. I can’t wait to write the last bit of the middle to match it up to the end. I’m going to let myself skip the beginning for now and work through the middle of the project first. I know how the story starts, I think, but I need time before I try and rewrite it.

The best part about settling on a project is that I should be able to submit to my critique group for the next two months. I’d been submitting only every second month for various reasons, but with my focus on a single project I can submit for the next two months in a row.

What project are you working on right now? Are you writing, editing, or both?

Summer is Coming

I’m sure for many of you summer has already arrived. Summer, where I live, is only two months. We are just starting to see some warm weather now. Summer hasn’t truly arrived yet, but we are getting warm days between the rainy ones.

With the nice weather arriving, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish this summer. My schedule is about to change again as my son goes from school to summer mornings spent with my mother (afternoons with me). He and I have plans to focus on reading this summer. Nothing too crazy, just 30 minutes a day split between writing, spelling, and reading.

I’ve been using the PM readers lately and really like them. My son already has a grasp on phonics, but with so many words not following the predicted pattern, he struggles. With the PM readers I’m able to look ahead to the next level and start his spelling practice with the words he is going to see. He is enjoying reading again, he is focused on reading, and he is improving at a rate I didn’t dare hope for.

With his focus on reading, I’m even more motivated to write. I am going to split my time this summer on my MG Sci Fi novel and the Murder Mystery. One of the members of my critique group requested I submit something from the Murder Mystery as she knows the basic premise, but hasn’t read anything from the draft yet. The MG I’m going to work on, so I can continue reading it to my son who thinks I’m the best writer on the planet. I could use some of that praise right now.

What are you planning to read or write this summer? Will your schedule change with school out for the summer?

Tracking my Writing Goals

I enjoy writing, but numbers are my first love. I’ve always been a big math fan, and I get excited when I have to spend time at work playing with spreadsheets. It should come as no surprise that I created a very cool (if I do say so myself) spreadsheet to track my writing.

I enter my total words for the day (positive or negative) as well as the novel I was working on. It colour codes the words based on preset values, tracks my words per novel and per month, and spits out one of five charts based on the options I pick. Below is my cumulative word count for the month of March via a NaNoWriMo style chart.

NaNo Style March 2016 Chart

I love that I can tell at a glance that I spent the middle of March editing. You can see a tiny increase on March 19th, then a drop on the 20th and 21st. I actually spent the 22nd and 18th editing as well, but the change in word count was so small you can’t really see it next to the larger increases on other days.

For March I worked on two different projects. The larger jumps at the end of the month were from my MG Sci Fi, everything else was from the new Steampunk novel (previously referred to as Mystery Project) I’m continuing to work on during Camp NaNo this month.

Do you track your writing progress? If you do, how do you track it?

p.s – I know it isn’t Friday, but I’m going to try a Monday/Thursday blogging schedule for a  while to see if it works better for me.

Plans for January

My updated goals for December were:

  1. Read a book I didn’t write. – Done! Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong (among others).
  2. Write the first four 500 words posts. – 2/4 done. I have started the next two, but I don’t think they are ready to post yet.
  3. Make plans for a new-ish writing group in the new year. – Done! We are finalizing plans now.
  4. Clean the house before the holidays. – Done. I got some cleaning, sorting, and de-cluttering accomplished. The house continues to be a work in progress though.

December total: 3.5/4 I would say December was a success.

My Goals for January are:

  1. Have the first meeting of our new writing critique group.
  2. Read through the YA Portal Fantasy and make a final edits list.
  3. Write 5,000 words on my MG Sci-Fi.

I haven’t decided if I am making goals for the new year or not. Sometimes making goals at the beginning of the year is motivating, but sometimes life is too unpredictable to try and plan that far out.

What are your goals for this month or year? How did you do on your goals for last year/month?

My First Writing Retreat

It has been almost a month and I just realized I never posted about the writing retreat I went on last month. I am lucky enough to have a small writers group that meets regularly online and less frequently in person. This year for NaNoWriMo we decided to take one of our in person gatherings to the next level. We borrowed a friends cottage for a weekend and spent two nights and two days writing away from home.

The short version: It was amazing! I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. We worked hard to keep writing as the main focus while still having time to chat and catch up.

The longer version: We left for the cottage on a Friday evening, after work. The drive was uneventful until the very end when we took a wrong turn up a road we dubbed “Murder Mountain Road”. It was a rutted gravel lane way that ended at a seemingly abandoned house with a single street light. Made no less creppy by the pair of jeans hanging from a tree halfway up the hill. After beating a hasty retreat we figure out where we should be going and found the cottage without much trouble.

That night we spent some time catching up. We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. It was nice to hear about everyone’s kids, families, jobs, etc. We did get a few hours of writing in before bed since I insisted on finishing NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t validate right away though since the cottage didn’t have internet or cell service. (I actually loved the lack of connectivity).

The next morning we got our first look at the ocean across the road from the cottage. The night before it was so dark by the time we arrived I wasn’t sure I believed our host about how close the ocean was. Even in the fog and damp the view was beautiful and inspiring.

That morning we had several one hour blocks for quiet time. I might have gotten a bit of a reputation for cracking the whip if anyone even looked like they might start talking, but we stuck to our quiet hours and got a lot of writing done. I did some much needed editing on the MG Sci Fi, and I even managed to write a few new scenes for it.

After lunch we went into town to hit an internet cafe. I validated my novel on the NaNo site and everyone sent off a quick text to let family members know we were alive and well. We did make an unexpected, but delightful side trip to a used bookstore called Blue Griffin Books. They had a great sci-fi and fantasy section. We had to literally dig through piles to be able to see even two thirds of the books. I will definitely be bringing my husband back to that store at some point.

The rest of Saturday we spent doing word wars/sprints before and after dinner. I don’t think I got to bed until after 1am, and even then I chatted with my roommate a bit before sleep. Sunday we had some more quiet time and word sprints in the morning, then at noon it was time to head home.

I think my favourite part of the writing retreat, besides the writing, was the time with other writers. If I ran into a stumbling block in my novel it was easy to ask for advice. Sometimes the suggestions didn’t quite work, but they got my mind going again. Our chats weren’t just about our current projects, but also about writing craft in general. We talked about grammar and punctuation, writing courses members of the group had taken, and how to make our characters more realistic.

We hope to make the retreat a reoccurring event. I already can’t wait for the next one.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Did you find it helpful or a drag?

Plans for December

My goals for November were to finish NaNo before the writing retreat, go to two write-ins, and finish the rough draft of my MG Sci-Fi. I managed to finish NaNo on the first night of the writing retreat. I went to one write-in plus a NaNo specific writing retreat. I would say both of those are a win. I didn’t do so well on getting that rough draft finished. I did some great work during the writing retreat, but really fell behind when I got home.

November total: 2/3

My goals for December are:

  1. Finish the MG novel by Dec. 7th.
  2. Read a book to get some quick distance from the MG novel. I don’t have time to let it sit for months, so a few days will have to do.
  3. Print a paper copy of the manuscript.
  4. Do a slow read through and make a list of local and global changes.
  5. Make the changes.

I won’t lie. That is a lot to get done in a very short amount of time. I’m not sure I can manage it around the holidays, but I am going to try.

Update on Dec. 7 – My goals and plans for this month have changed. As I no longer need to have this story ready for January I have switched to the goals below instead:

  1. Read a book I didn’t write.
  2. Write the first four 500 words posts.
  3. Make plans for a new-ish writing group in the new year.
  4. Clean the house before the holidays.

Do you set objectives for your writing? Did you achieve everything you wanted to in November?

Middle Grade Sci-Fi Research

While working on my MG Sci-Fi I have been doing some research about living in space, the history of space travel, and expected technology. I may not be able to travel through space, but I want my characters journey to have some authenticity to it. Today I will share some of my favourite finds so far.

Hands down favourite resource is Chris Hadfield’s youtube channel. Specifically I love his ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life in Space‘ playlist. Not only is Chris Hadfield a Canadian astronaut, but he was the first Canadian to command the International Space Station (ISS). While he was on ISS he had his son help him manage his social media including a twitter account with amazing pictures of earth from space. He got people interested in space in a way that I have never seen.

A great video reference for the history of the Apollo space missions is the mini series by Tom Hanks called From the Earth to the Moon. While it is not as relevant to what I am writing now, the information in that series has shaped more than a few pieces of my book. Before watching this series I don’t think I realized how much scientific training the astronauts underwent before each mission. I knew they had to learn to wear the gear and operate the technology. But I didn’t know they trained with a geologist to increase the chance of the samples they brought back to Earth being useful, for example.

Before I started the rough draft of this novel I spent some time in the children’s section of my local library reading non-fiction books about space, astronauts etc.  I found getting the information I needed at an age appropriate level helped set the tone for the facts I ended up using in the novel. I read a number of books, on a variety of topics. No single book jumped out as the ultimate source, but that was likely because I was looking for a broad base on the topic, not an in depth knowledge of a very specific subset.

Finally I did a lot of reading about creating gravity in space. This post on the Cornell University website was a great place to start. Once I had the basic concept I was able to do some reading about the math involved. This helped a lot when creating the space ship my characters live on. While I am writing science fiction, it is not a heavy science book. I have tried to keep what science I am using true, but for ease of story it is simplified.

Would you travel through space if you had the opportunity? Are you doing any research right now?

Plans for November

Many years ago I set goals for each month. They were usually fitness related, but sometimes I would sneak in some fun creative goals. I found setting them to be motivating, and I tended to have greater success if I shared my goals. This month I am going to set some writing specific goals. If it goes well this might become a monthly post.

  1. I will finish NaNoWriMo before my writing retreat (Nov. 19)
  2. I will write to the end of my MG Sci Fi (<15k)
  3. I will go to at least two NaNo events in my region

Wish me luck!

The Best Laid Plans

I am a planner. I like to set goals, draw up timelines, and make to do lists. I like order, numbers, and facts. Sometimes I also like to dream big.

When it comes to writing I have two goal lists. One is my to the moon and back list. It is the kind of list that includes ‘become a New York Times Bestselling author’ on it. The other is the list of things I am actually working toward. It has things like ‘publish a novel’ on it. For the most part to get to the to the moon and back list I need to go through the other list first. It’s hard to believe how much work lies ahead to achieve even a few of the things on that little piece of paper.

My timeline from now to the middle of next year is fairly simple. I want to work on the MG Sci-Fi until Jan. Then I will switch over to the YA Portal Fantasy. In November I will take a break for at least two weeks to get my butt through a 50k rough draft for NaNoWriMo. I only have the thinnest threads of a story for NaNo this year. I love NaNo for the ability to let loose, play with new ideas, and not feel constrained. Once that 50k is done though I need to buckle down for the MG Sci-Fi again.

Lastly my to do list. It is simple. Only one line. Stick to the timeline! I need to fall in line and get the work done. I need to push past the scenes that are tripping me up and get words on the page. I need to reread my notes and edit the heck out of two of my novels. I need to get to a finished project I feel proud of.

Are you a list, timeline, and numbers person? Do you usually stick to your plans or are you always falling behind (like me)?