Work it, Craft it, Type it, Curse it, Fix it, Trash it, quick Upload it

(Credit for the picture goes to the amazing Chiara Bautista)

So… after two weeks of being bad and not updating my blog, this is what’s been happening.

I’m 35k behind in my NaNoWriMo endeavors this year as of today. Yep. Definitely not going to win. NO, it was NOT because of procrastination! I SWEAR!! I’ve been steadily typing and was even ahead of the game at one point! But this month, for some reason, FAMILY HAPPENED. They usually don’t. They usually leave me in peace and I’m free to be a hermit as long as I wish only fielding an occasional visit or phone call.

Well. Can’t help it.Can’t avoid it. Cupcakes needed to be baked for a nephew’s 5th birthday last-minute. Holiday cards needed to be crafted for commissions. Sister needed to come over and do laundry. Computer needed to be shared with the Husband. Chores needed to be done. Food needed to be cooked. Harry Potter needed to be read…

Now these SOUND like excuses. They’re really not (especially reading Harry Potter) because life happens and I can’t stop it, even for NaNo. It occurred to me that psychologically I should be feeling upset about this. I have an intense fear of failure and this is my 14 year WIP we’re talking about here. I should be quaking in my boots at deadlines and word counts and everything.

But I’m not.

In fact, I’m nearing acceptance that deadlines are rubbish as a beginning novelist, at least for me because all this is–this WHOLE BLOG and NaNo and all my half-written stories– are practice and they’re all going to suck. THEY ARE ALL GOING TO SUCK!!!

DID YOU HEAR ME???!! THEY SUCK!!

BUT! They will become better. WE will become better. Do you know how much stress you’ll save when you accept this? Let me tell you how much. It’s like passing Gall Stones or  having a baby. All you feel is relief and it makes the creative process go so much more smoothly.

When I become a famous published novelist I will worry about deadlines and procrastination. But I’m a nub. I don’t HAVE to worry about that! And all it took was one quote from Sir Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”~ Terry Pratchett

I birthed this blog from my fear of failure. I wanted a place where I could look back and see my journey, to learn from it, and maybe take some people along with me. I was/am afraid that nothing I write will ever be good enough, no matter how great the idea is. This set me free. (Thank you my dearly departed Terry! I love/hate you. You know why. But thank you).

Every time I get too much inside my own head I sit back and remember this quote. I give myself permission to suck first and write the story in my head. I received a comment along these lines from a reader on another blog post where he admitted he kept coming back to the unwritten story in his head, even after he’d given up on it and had written another trilogy instead. It was so perfect and the comment  made this process come full circle for me

I’ve decided I’m going to start here. RIGHT HERE. I’m going to write the story that comes to my fingers first because I know that if I don’t, it will always bother me.

Yes, it kind of contradicts what I’m trying to achieve by being a professional novelist and being all organized and impressive. But there’s no ONE WAY to do it. There are lots of ways to fail and succeed and I know enough about myself that I won’t conform to a rigid schedule. Gotta give the nub some slack 😉 That’s a lesson I was glad to learn, even if it took me 31 years. I’m glad I never listened to the “right advice” because it wouldn’t have meant as much as finding it on my own did.

Writers. We start out with a decision. That is we want to become published and share our stories with the world. After marveling at our temerity, we take the next step full of bravado while secretly cowering like a scared kitten among a pack of dogs. And we start on the journey trying to find the best way to do what we promised ourselves we’d do. So we try imitation. We try post-its, index cards, poster boards and time lines. We try the three act method, the four act method, the Excel chapter method, and many different versions of plot structure. We read the books and the blogs. We freak out about the actual process of publishing, table flip a couple of times and then take a brain-cation where we do nothing at all but watch old 90’s movies and eat bowls of chips.

Oh, you didn’t? It’s just me then? Well wherever your journey is taking you, I hope that you come to accept that you’re not perfect right out of the gate. Write your stories for yourself first. Write the wish-fulfillment, kill your ex-boyfriend, say all those witty one-liners you can never remember when you need them most. Write it all down for yourself and accept that it’ll suck, but you’ll make it better. Satisfy yourself as a writer and a reader first. There will me time for you, your editor and agent to pick apart your work later.

Let’s suck as writers together!!!!! Good luck all. Write on 🙂

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All hail the Queen of Procrastination and her court of Plot Bunnies!

October is so many things for me.

It’s truly a freaking roller coaster. Most of the bad things that ever happened to me happened in October. Also, most of the best things. The sun starts to become more pale which kicks my SAD (Seasonal Affective) disorder into gear. It’s the turning of the seasons for southern California which means that the blistering hot few weeks from September are finally starting to cool off and I can put the fans away. I can inch the temperature nob on the shower faucet up closer to “hot” and not feel like I’m in a sauna. I put on my thicker winter jackets and realize that my back fat no longer allows me to button them. I can slip on my comfortable imitation Ugg boots and finally put the comforter back on the bed without sweating to death. I start seeing Halloween and Christmas decorations in stores and mutter viciously about corporate holidays and media-driven frenzies while scowling at the happy shoppers.

YAY OCTOBER!!

Alternately, October is the time I used to kick into high gear for the holidays. (I say “used to” because I don’t celebrate anymore. Personal reasons.) I used to plan parties and start buying gifts or crafting them. I would start piecing together my costume. I would buy birthday presents and send off-hand crafted cards. I was BUSY.

Well what do you do now that you’ve stopped celebrating Jess?

I am SO glad you asked!! I PANIC.

Yah because guess what? I’m the Queen of Procrastination and all the goals and projects I’ve been saying I’d do before the end of the year sneak up on me and drown me in importance. More than that though; more than anything else, I watch in dread as NaNoWriMo draws near. Yes, that special brand of Hell where for one whole month we authors are glued to our computers, mired in paragraphs and stressing about word counts.

I freaking love it.

And this year I was hopeful that since I’ve started this journey of “professional writing” I’d be able to get my shit together and not pants it. WAS hopeful.

I decided last month that this was the year I was going to finish the rough draft of my 14 year WIP novel. I floated the idea by some Nano friends and they agreed it was time. COOL! I know the characters really well and I know the general direction of the plot, even if the order of the specifics wasn’t ironed out yet. This’ll be a cinch. I was feeling pretty smug; smug enough indeed to challenge myself to finish last year’s NaNo novel rough draft before November first. Plenty of time!

BUAAHAHAHHAHA *enter the villainous genius of Past Me*

I got the brilliant idea to read the file in my computer labeled “Story Ideas” one night. No harm, right? My NaNo was locked in. I was pleased that Past Me was still genius and that I would read every single book in that file had it been on a shelf in a book store right now. (Healthy bravado, ya know?) Oh I was ALMOST out of danger! One of the last ideas listed was inspired by an idea my little sister had years ago about a symbiosis between humans and Demons.

OMFG. It was the bomb that ruined my perfectly stacked Fall writing schedule.

This PLOT BUNNY WOULD NOT LEAVE ME ALONE. I texted in a panic to my bestie Owen about it and he advised me to give this new bunny a pat on the head by writing a basic outline and then shoving it back in its hole. He had, probably with some relief, helped me come to the decision to write the WIP novel. (Poor chap seems to never get away from my writing rants for long.)

Well that’s just great. It seems that now I had another decision to make. I could:

A. Continue with my previous plan by writing my WIP for 2016 NaNo and fleshing out my rough draft for 2015 Nano in October. This requires fighting off the Plot Bunny long enough to get 1,677 words a day of actual WORK.

or

B. Say EFF THE SCHEDULE and leap on this new Plot Bunny and give it all the time it deserves, which means scrapping plan A entirely and focusing on outlining this new idea.

Is it nature that makes me a procrastinator or nurture? I’m beginning to think I’m not ever allowed to be a rational organized human being. It pretty much goes against the fabric of my Self. So now I have to make the biggest decision of the 2016 year.

Goody goody gum drops. Prioritize my friends! Don’t be weak like me and give in to Plot Bunnies (if that’s what I decide to do)! Stick to your schedules with an Iron Defense and look straight ahead to the horizon that is on the other end of November!

I’ll be rooting for you in between bouts of Panic and Indecision. Oh, and screw you October.

Not right now Honey. I have a Headache…

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. Shame on me! I started this so my future fans can get to know me and I can make forays into the Professional Writing World, which subtly demands that the authors have a blog of some sort. Bloggsssss…….bleehhhhh *smacks cheeks vigorously and perks up, shaking my brain out of this nonsense*

OK! YAY blogging! Opinions only! Write what I want to write! This is an excellent thing!

…then why do I only have a dozen articles at best? Wellll a pesky thing called procrastination might have something to do with it. It’s in my genetic DNA. Can’t help that. (Actually my sister and mother are anti-procrastination so maybe I’m just the black sheep of the family :P) The other bigger part of this conundrum is every writer’s greatest nemesis, besides the foul-mouthed Editor Demon. It’s called:

I DUN WANNA. 

I Dun Wanna write today because *fill in the blank*. It can be just about any excuse. No time. Headache. Chores. Errands. Too tired. Work. Deadlines. Weeding the garden. Kids. Pretty Little Liars Marathon on Netflix. All of these are legit excuses–I mean REASONS– why you can’t write. Priorities first right? Cool. Fine.

The thing is, when you first start a project, you’re all gung-ho for it. Remember that? Your fingers fly over the keyboard and your pen scratches fastidiously on whatever piece of paper is nearest at hand because you can’t WAIT to get your ideas out! You’re all fire and smoke and you babble to whomever will listen about your latest brilliant book idea! It’s NaNoWriMo material! Publishers will eat it up! So you write scenes and character bios and maybe even get as far as a scene list. The relationship is great and fun and fiery! At first. All lust and passion and late evenings contemplating the world by candle light and glasses of wine. It’s a beautiful thing for sure and you think  that it if only it could last forever, book deals will rain down on you from Publishing Heaven.

So after the initial rush, you take a breath and go back to the beginning. What happens when the characters seem…TOO perfect? What if you start to think, Oh WOW, did that really just happen? You might hesitate when a scene demands something of you that you just aren’t ready for. Little things start to bother you. Then bigger things. You get frustrated and you can’t find the right words to express why. And suddenly it comes to this:

Not right now Honey. I have a Headache. 

You feel guilty saying it, even if it’s not true. And you start paying less attention to the manuscript, making more and more excuses to NOT sit down and write. The relationship with your book changed. Now IT’S WORK. All the newness and bluster of the new idea wore off and you have to sludge through terrible first draft scenes and you have to make your perfect first character meaner/uglier/flawed. It seems like all your hard work was for nothing and will only ever be nothing.

You’d be right, of course, if you never did another thing with your piece of shat novel. But hey, you’re married to this book now. And if you REALLY want to test your mettle as a writer, then FINISH IT. Force yourself to face the painful things, the boring things, the gaps between scenes, the trashing of the last ten pages of absolute crap writing. This literally is the defining moment between Blog Writer and NOVELIST. James Patterson probably has every single crack in the walls of his office memorized and named from the hundreds of hours staring at them, trying to make his brain spit out new murderous plot twists. Nora Roberts probably has trenches worn around her garden as she walked and contemplated the next great heroine for her latest romance.

Contemplation and staring are fine. Chew pencils, turn circles in your spinny chair, balance a spoon on your nose….whatever works for you. But while you’re doing it, think about writing. Write a word. The another. And another. Put the punctuation at the end of the sentence and write another word. Even if you resent every damn word you write, just keep doing it! Because this is what being a professional writer means, working on your manuscript likes it’s your significant other. Work out the bad things, reward the good things. Talk it out. Re-read it. Reiterate.

Yep. it’s WORK writing a book. Yuck. I know friends. It’s hard. I know for sure it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You have to dig deep inside yourself and explore dark corners you never knew existed. For example, I’m writing an anti-hero into my novel and he’s very…cruel. He LIKES hurting people and toying with people and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass who doesn’t like him. His voice is harsh and true and unrelenting. To write this character I’ve had to explore hidden places in myself that have made me…not a nice person of late. Like an actor slipping into a role. It’s rough. But if you stick with it, and DON’T fake headaches, the rewards might be really great. You could get a publishing deal out of that!

Maybe you won’t. Not gonna lie. But are you really going to pass up that chance?

The best piece of advice I come across over and over while I research the writing world is to KEEP WRITING. The more you write, the better you’ll become.

Pick any writer and read their very first novel. Then read their latest one. I bet you’ll see a vasssssttttttt improvement.

I am struggling a great deal with this concept myself because I can’t balance my life right now to fit writing in among all the other things. I know that it really needs to be the other way around because above all things, I WANT TO BE A WRITER. I’m at the hard part of my writing relationship where writing is work and I get so frustrated and disappointed that I just table flip and walk away.

Simple advice? Write what you’ve got. If it’s only three scenes, write that. The rest will come if you work at it.

Just keep writing. NO Headaches 😉 (Or maybe occasionally….)

Also if you need another pick me up about why you’re a bad ass for writing a novel, check out this blog. It’s a good reminder about why you do what you do 🙂