Leveling Up

Saw this on Twitter the other week and it got me thinking about the writing process. I’ve always adjusted the way I’ve written to fit with my life, but somehow I’ve always believed that eventually I’d figure it out and find what works best for me. On the other hand, deep down I know I still have an endless number of things to learn. It’s a weird contrast of thoughts, and it’s jarring my brain.

The main point of the tweet is that sitting down to do the work doesn’t alone mean progressing in craft. Butt in chair, and finish what you start, are only the beginning. Even writing a million words don’t mean mastery unless you’re actively seeking it.

Do you agree? Disagree? Think that it’s fine to relax once you’ve reached a certain point?

Dream Big. Have Confidence.

I love love love, seeing this. What confidence! I especially love the parts that Butler wrote about paying it forward.

Sometimes we can get afraid of dreaming too big, or hoping for too much, because let’s face it, rejections are plentiful if you’re a writer, but on the flipside, if you don’t dare to have big dreams, how can you ever get there? Sometimes we need to convince ourselves that these kinds of things are possible.

What kind of writer would you want to be if you had some success? Right now I’m just all hopes and wishes, but I’ll dare to dream. It’s somewhere to start.

May Stats

Writing days: 20
Brainstorming / Research / Plotting : 2

So the baby sleep count didn’t work out this month because the kiddo’s habits keep changing, and I’m so tired I’ve actually slept through some of those night wakings by accident.

On the writing front, this was my first full month at this novel, and I’m really happy with how it’s gone. I’ve slowed down since I hit the halfway mark, and I think that’s partly fatigue. I’ve been steaming through until now, so 1k a day seems like a bad day, when it’s been my target for years. Maybe I’m just getting more impatient.

The slowdown usually happens around the mid-point for me, because I know just how much work there is left to do, and how much there will be to fix in the next draft. But don’t cry for me, because I expect this by now, and I know the only way past it is to keep going.

poc-destroy-sf ALSO in happy news, Lightspeed’s special double issue: POC Destroy Science Fiction is out! My story “The Peacekeeper” is a flash piece about a malfunctioning civil android unit trying to solve the problem of war. You’ll have to buy the issue to read my story, but some of the others are available on the website, so please do check those out. So far what I’ve seen is fantastic.

So, how was your May?

Limits and Fuzzy Edges

I pretty much agree with everything in Anthony’s post about The Positive Side of Limits. In short: certain types of limits can help fuel creativity.

For me, it’s true that if I’m not given any parameters it’s harder to create. I think that’s why I like themed anthology calls, even if I’m not really a short story writer. There’s a nugget of an idea to start with, and if you know the subject, then you also know where the soft edges of the idea are. The edges are what I like to play with if I can find them. That’s where you can bring something new to a genre or a trope. Also, anthology calls have a submission deadline, and well, if they didn’t I probably wouldn’t start typing.

I often create self-imposed limits just to have somewhere to start on a story. Sometimes they are time limits, or a certain sets of ideas (like the short story exercises we did ages ago here). More often than not, when you start deep diving into one idea, oceans open up around you. There’s always more to it than you think.

Word count limits can also be helpful. Seriously. When it comes to novels, having an idea about standard word counts, or the rough word counts of books I’ve read, helps me figure out where I am in the story I’m writing and if the pacing is right.

And of course, whenever someone imposes a limit like telling me I can’t do something because I’m not capable, or because of something dumb like I’m a girl, then you know what that means… That just gives me extra motivation to try.

Creative Ink Fest 2016 – Recap

No pressure.

Creative Ink Fest was the most relaxed conference I’ve ever been to. I’m not sure if it was just because I wasn’t on any panels, or because I knew a few people there. I think a large part of it was that we were all writers (or artists) so it felt like a gathering of peers.

This is the conference’s first official year, so it was quite small, but incredibly organized (thanks to real life wonder woman Sandra Wickham). No panels ran overtime and they pretty much ran themselves. Even if I wasn’t feeling particularly social there were plenty of panels to attend, so there was never any awkward standing around. I even got a little writing done during Ink Club time.

It was also nice to reconnect with local spec fic writers. I met a few new people, and recognized a few from VCon a couple years ago.

The idea is to keep growing this festival on the When Worlds Collide model. I’m looking forward to next year and being more involved when the kiddo isn’t as needy.  It’s nice to refuel the writing fires.

Now the downside: I’m still writing a first draft, but now I’ve thought up a dozen ways I need to edit it. I know that if I do I’ll go down that rabbit hole and never climb out. BAD Theresa. STOP.

Do you edit as you go, or not until you’re done?

April Recap

P. S. Will you be at the Creative Ink Festival? If you are, see you there! You won’t find me on any panels this time, but I might be helping out. As always, just say hello if you spot me.


And next, here’s April’s stats.

Writing days: 12
Brainstorming / Research / Plotting : 11
Days baby slept through the night: 8

Read:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

Recap:

I was worried that the story wouldn’t come together, but things kind of gelled at the end of the first week of April. I’d been jotting down scene ideas for the past month, without a clear idea of where they’d go, but there was enough plot there to get started with.

4 novels later, I also finally set up a template for organizing characters and world building. This way there’s only one place I need to go if I forget what the currency is called, or what countries there are on the map, names of minor characters and when they show up. I always forget these things, especially names. I’m horrible with names. This falls into the territory of boring, but necessary.

I’ve also got some (terrible) pictures for you.

Office improvements

An update on the standing desk wobbliness: fixed by adding an adjustable table leg from Ikea. My key requirement was that it had to be adjustable like the other side of the desk. It’s not screwed in, but stable enough because I added some some non-slip rubber padding. Bonus points because the leg is the same colour as the other legs!

Office improvements

I have a small bulletin board but it was clear it wouldn’t be enough to handle the plot for an entire novel. Instead, I put some painter’s tape up behind the door in this weird little niche. Unfortunately the toddler has discovered the pretty papers and likes to pull them down, so I’ve had to only use the upper portions of the wall. It still works. :)

And, still not luck on the sleep front. I was sick. Baby was sick. Teeth are showing up left and right. There is much screaming at bedtime… so I’m going to focus on the words, because damn, it was a good writing month.

The first draft of this novel is already 30% done, and it’s only really been two weeks of writing. That’s crazzzzy talk. I’m never this productive – ever – except now. I wish I could bottle this. I’m not sure how long the lightning is going to last, but I’m going to ride it as long as I can.

And how was your month?

A Book Breakup Letter

Dear Book,

I know we got off to a tentative start. You were packaged beautifully enough, and so many people said we’d get along, so I took a chance. I was happy to invest my time even though we didn’t seem to have a lot in common. I thought that I might have to get to know you a little better to see if we really clicked.

I’m sorry to say that this is the end. I don’t want to waste any more of your time, or mine, because clearly this is going nowhere. It’s not you, it’s me. Work’s been so busy lately, I haven’t been getting much sleep, and I just don’t have the energy. Maybe the timing was all wrong. Maybe we could have had a good time if I was younger, or maybe if I was a little older. I don’t really know. Maybe I’ll run into you again someday, we can pick up where we left off, and by then we’ll have grown into one another’s tastes.

You did show me a few new things, and I’m still grateful for our acquaintance. I hope that you won’t take this the wrong way.

Regards,
A recovering compulsive book finisher

Being a Parent Can Make You a Better Writer

Being a parent can help you be a better writer, and that doesn’t get talked about enough. Instead, you usually hear about how little time you’ll have, and how hard it can be to look after a young child and keep writing. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was honestly terrified I’d never find time to write (or have time for myself) ever again. I’d seen friends drop off the face of the earth after having kids, and that scared me too.

This post isn’t really for those of you who already have kids, but maybe for those of you thinking about children and a little worried like I was. Yes, your life will change, but it can be a positive change.

First of all, a caveat for the women: your hormones will go up and down before and after having a child. You don’t know how your mood might be affected, and sometimes the bad effects snowball when you dump sleep deprivation on top of them. Post partum depression is real too (and you should see a doctor if you suspect it). If you breastfeed, your hormones might not balance out until months after weaning. For me it wasn’t until more than a year after giving birth. For you it might be weeks or months. If it’s taking longer than you expect, don’t worry, you haven’t lost yourself. Be kind. If you can’t write for a while (I couldn’t), it’s okay. Eventually baby will sleep through the night and you’ll feel new again, I promise.

Some of the good things…

You get super good at squeezing tasks into short bits of free time.  The baby is napping, QUICK! eat, shower, do laundry! There’s nothing like a crying baby for a timer. Pomodoro technique? Try ‘while the baby sleeps.’ It’s like rolling dice.

You just experienced something crazy and wonderful. You survived sleepless nights, you know how much punishment your body can take, or not. You get to be reminded of what it’s like to be young again. All of it is more realism for your story toolbox.

You have a little person to write for and to tell stories to. You get to watch their imaginations develop and help them grow into future readers.

You gain perspective. Yes, rejections are still tough, but they’re nowhere near important as the kiddo tugging on your leg. You might find it’s so much easier to let them go, not just because you have no time to dwell, but because they are just a small part of your life.

And you know, sometimes you need a break to recharge. By the time you have time to write, you could be itching to create so badly that you’ll have super amazing outputs.

Yes, parenthood can be really tough at times, but there’s so much good stuff to experience too. It’s all worth it.

Related Reading: If you feel like you’re falling behind in life, don’t. You are exactly where you need to be.

ALSO NEWS!!!! I’m super excited to announce that I have a story coming out in POC Destroy SF. You can check out the table of contents here.  This is the first story I wrote post baby :)