January Goals

To get a start on my resolutions, I set some goals for this month. When I set goals I try not to set too many. Usually I aim for four, but will occasionally go as high as five. I also try and by very specific about what I am trying to achieve. This month my goals are:

  1. Quilt the Jungle Path Quilt
  2. Finish the Holiday Train Stitch
  3. Submit something to Critique Group
  4. Cardio eight times
  5. Weights six times

I’m already making great progress on number two, and I’ve thought about what I want to submit for number three (MG sci fi chapter 2). The hardest one to complete will be number one. I need to stay focused and work hard.

Do you have anything you want to accomplish this month?


The Plot and the Rough Draft

I’ve had most of a rough draft of the MG Sci-Fi finished for a while. My big goal right now is to move from almost complete rough draft, to a complete first draft. As posted before my plan to get to a first draft is:

  1. Work out the seven point plot for this novel.
  2. Write up a detailed plot.
  3. Move the scenes I have to fit the final detailed plot.
  4. Finish writing the rough draft.
  5. Read through and edit to get a complete first draft.

Step 1 – Seven Point Plot
Once I figured out the starting state, the seven point plot came together quickly. I spent almost as much time watching videos and researching the seven point plot as I did figuring out the seven points for this novel.

Step 2 – Make a detailed plot
Writing up the detailed plot took longer than I expected, but I’m glad I took my time. To get this step done, I first broke up all the ‘chapters’ in my scrivener file into scenes. Then I lumped the scenes into folders for each stage of the adventure. This step took some time, but was a big help when it came to doing step 3, so no regrets.

Once I had the scenes broken out, I reread the novel. This didn’t take long, as it is only 30k at the moment. With a much fresher view of the story I made up the detailed plot. I took my time, and was able to move and imagine how to rework scenes to get a much better plot than I have right now. I think I only tossed three scenes into the garbage, although several more will need a complete rewrite.

Step 3 – Set up my Scrivener file
Because of the prep work I did in step 2, this step was fast and easy.  I finished moving my file in a single night. At the same time I also copied my final plot into my story notebook. I know the plot will still shift a bit during edits, but I feel much better having a solid place to start.

Step 4 – Write a rough draft of the missing scenes
This is where I am right now. I’ve taken this week off of writing, so next week when I dive back in, I hope to make good progress. I have four scenes left to write to have a finished rough draft.

What are you working on right now? Do you make a plan when writing a novel, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?

2017 Resolutions Update – January

My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops
  2. Finish at least three quilts
  3. Write 10k a month
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times
  5. Exercise twice a week
  6. Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
  7. Set up the crafting corner in the study

Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 8/96

Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.

The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.

Declutter update:
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.

Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?

Ups and Downs of Critiquing

In January a friend and I started a small critique group. We were aiming for a group of four-five. We started with four, had five for a few minutes, and are currently at three members.

The first few months of critiquing were hard. Getting a critique was hard because you never knew what kind of comments you would get. Giving a critique was hard because you weren’t sure what you were saying was well phrased or helpful. Over time giving and getting critiques has gotten easier. I discovered that if I submitted something fairly new, I wasn’t attached to it. When you aren’t attached hearing that an entire section is crap isn’t a big deal.

These days the ups and down of critiquing come from finding the time.

The few days before the submission deadline are hard. Deciding what I want to share with other people is difficult, and sometimes finding the time to do an editing pass or two on the selected section feels impossible.

Then the few days before the critique meeting itself are filled with reading and rereading the submissions for the month. Sometimes finding the words to say how well or poorly something works is hard. Many months I find myself thinking that critiquing is too hard, and I’m not sure I want to keep doing it. I know it helps my writing, but is it where I want to put my focus right now?

Last is the big meeting itself. I come out of a critique meeting feeling ready to work hard and excited for the future of both my own stories and those of my critique partners. The conversations we have about passages that work or don’t are very helpful regardless of if I was the one to write it or not. For a few days I know all the time I put in was worth it, and I got something amazing out of it.

For now I’m going to keep submitting and critique with my little critique group. Maybe there will come a time when I need to put my focus and time somewhere else, but for now I’ll push through the submission and reviewing to get to the good stuff.

Do you have a critique group? Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it?

Having Your Writing Critiqued

Our critique group isn’t even a year old yet, and I can’t begin to count the number of things I’ve learned. The piece that continues to amaze me is how much I learn by reading the work of the other group members. Our abilities and styles vary, but I gain valuable insight every time I read through their work.

Having others read through your work with the specific intent of telling you what you are doing wrong is hard. I don’t know that it will ever get easy, but now that I know the benefits it isn’t terrifying.

I’ve discovered that I have an easier time getting comments on newer work. Especially if the piece is something I’m playing around with to work on improving my writing as a skill, not because I want to polish the actual piece. I guess it makes sense that I’m less attached to the words and scenes of something I’ve only just started working on.

Are you part of a critique group? What makes submitting easier for you?

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?

July Camp NaNoWriMo Final Wordcount

On Monday I’ll post a full tally for my July goals, but today I want to focus on how I did on Camp NaNoWriMo.

I surprised myself. I wasn’t too worried about finishing (my goal was just over 10k). The surprised was how many words I ended up writing in July. I finished my NaNo goal on July 30th with 30 words to spare. But that wasn’t my only project for the month. On the 16th I was hit with a sudden, all consuming, NEED to work on a fanfic I hadn’t thought about in over five years.

I was on track for NaNo, so I decided what the heck. With half my nano words written I only needed three regular nano days to finish. Nothing to worry about, so I started writing… and writing … and writing. Over five days I wrote 20k on the fanfic project! It was fun and carefree writing, which in my opinion is the most freeing. This isn’t a story I’m likely to share with anyone. It won’t go to my critique group, and I won’t share it with family or friends. It was a story I wrote for myself. That let me take the long road, and several detours. In the end I got when I needed to be, but the journey was wonderful and far from a straight line.

julyHere is my word chart for the month. The blue was my NaNo project. It actually has a fairly consistent writing pattern through the month. A few days a week I wrote between 500-1500 words. It looks how I expected knowing what the rest of my month was like. The red is the unexpected project that took over my writing for the middle of the month. One day I wrote over 6000 words. It is my first >6k day in over a year I think. Overall I’m very happy with how camp went, and even more pleased that I found pleasure in writing for the first time in a while.

Did you participate in camp? Did you meet your goal?

Submitting to a Critique Group

Over six months ago I started a small critique group with a friend. We started with four members, briefly went down to three, and are back up to four. Overall things have been going well, and I’ve learned a lot both from reading and submitting.

Submitting work to the group was hard the first month. It hasn’t gotten any easier. I think the part that I’m struggling with for submitting is how much I’m learning from each meeting, but I can’t manage to put any of it into practice. It’s great to know what I’m doing wrong, but frustrating that it isn’t getting any better.

It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve managed a bit of sewing, but mostly at the end of my day I’m brain tired. I’m not physically tired, but I can’t think well enough to attempt something as thought provoking as writing. I also can’t exercise much because of a minor ankle injury. Overall I spent a lot more time than I should sitting on a couch watching TV and reading to my son.

With summer here my stress level might go down, but life continues. I still have to work, and I’ll have even less time to myself than I do during the school year. More sunlight, means more vitamin D, but it also means forcing sunscreen onto myself and the kid. It also means all the work keeping him reading falls to me.

Does the rest of your life often get in the way of your best writing intentions?

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?