I hope that if you’re in the DC/Baltimore area this weekend, you’ll come visit the Baltimore Book Fest. There are *tons* of authors of all genres and celebrity, and it’s all happening around the Inner Harbor. In fact, my family is totally getting a kick out of the fact that at certain times (depending on how many authors are listed before me), my picture has been sitting smack next to the honorable Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain (he’s currently one row below me…add one more author before me, BBF!!!). It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to politics (other than STRONGLY urging you to exercise your right to vote). Frankly, other than participating on the two panels I’m on at the Maryland Romance Writers tent (YAY!!!!!), I’m really looking forward to the fair food 😀 Mmmmmmm…funnel cake!
Today I’m participating in the #GetItTogetherHop along with today’s other attendees: Jennifer Lohmann, Alexis Anne, Erin Satie, Sandy Williams, and Ophelia London. You can find the list for the participants during the rest of the week on Alexandra Haughton’s or Lindsay Emory’s blogs. This
may did turn into a treatise as I have many ideas on organization (and maybe a wee fetish for office supplies), but as with all of my advice, this is what works for me. If you’re a writer, I hope you get some ideas. If you’re a reader, I hope you enjoy this look into my life as a writer. Experiment, take what works for you, and discard the rest. If you get to the bottom of the post, there’s a special surprise including a contribution from moi!
This is where I’m most fluid. I love notebooks. Adore them. And I like playing with pens. My mother was the one who told me I had to try Stabilo’s fine (point 88) marker pens. I come by my love affair honestly. As you can see, I’ve got a collection of notebooks, some filled with notes on writing and other things that catch my attention, and some waiting to be populated.
As you can see, some of the notebooks are dedicated to certain sets of ideas, like the brown one for the Sweet Heat Collections (join my newsletter to be notified when they release!). That included project planning notes, marketing ideas, listings of which stories should be included in which volume, and more. The RWA 2015 notebook didn’t get as many notes written in it as I thought it would, but I’ll be bringing it to chapter meetings and may jot notes into it as I listen to the recordings.
I’m a big believer in paper planning for myself for the sheer fact that my memory seems to be keyed to muscle movement and space. If I forget something, I retrace what I was physically doing when I had the thought to jog my memory, and it often works. I buy paper calendars every year because while they do lie fallow for some months, there are other months where they save my butt. I’m continuously experimenting with various systems to sort out one that works best for me. My number one finding: it depends on my mood. As with pretty much everything else in my life like reading, eating, and knitting 😀
I’ve recently started planning a trilogy of books to go on submission with to an agent, and hopefully publishers. In order to keep physical things I come across in relation to the planning together, I got this really cool accordion file from Staples. It’s part of a special designer line from Cynthia Rowley, and I couldn’t resist the design:
Which is really the key to finding a system that helps you keep your idea organized: it’s fun for you. I’m going to use this accordion file because I enjoy looking at the pattern. I’m going to use the notebooks in ways where I can play with pens, but also help me visualize what’s stuck in my head when it comes to the story. In order to make sure I don’t miss any highlights that I need to hit when writing the first book, this is the planning tool I’ve come up with in the series notebook, followed by the hero/heroine worksheet for the trilogy:
Notice, I haven’t even gotten into the digital side of things. Alter ego is the queen of Pinterest when it comes to this body (she’s got multiple boards dedicated to Food). I would probably use it more, but the way Pinterest is set up, it’s not easy to switch between accounts the way it is with Twitter and alter ego demands access to her recipes on a regular basis.
This is a harder nut to crack as I live in a studio apartment. I have to appropriately divide up my space between my office, my living area, my workout area, my supplementary cooking/food prep area (because my kitchen is too freaking small), my storage area, and my sleeping area. I would offer up more pictures, but I’m not the neatest person on the planet. What I have been doing recently is purging as much non-essential, and non-used stuff as I can. It’s not going as quickly as I would hope. However, I have transformed one of my smaller bookshelves into Kelly Support Central. It’s where I house office supplies like paper (I still print out manuscripts for at least one editing round), receipts and financials, research books, and promo materials. I’m liking the way it’s turned out!
Organizing my time is a vital part of my mental health process. For example, I began drafting this post over a week before its posting date because this particular week is an insane one schedule-wise for alter ego and she would probably be laughing hysterically if the post was still waiting to be written last night.
The biggest challenge to me is carving out time to write. For my last semester of high school, I managed to work out my last semester’s schedule so periods 1-3 were my year-long classes, periods 4 & 5 were gym classes (yes, two gym classes my senior year), period 6 was a class that I aced with little thought, period 7 was lunch, and period 8 was study hall. At my school, juniors and seniors were able to leave early if they had eighth period study hall, and if you were lucky enough to have seventh period lunch, you got to leave even earlier! Which means, I mentally checked out every day after 3rd period. I believe in being an efficient slacker. Oxymoronic maybe, but it’s how I work best. I’ve managed to get myself to the point where I am able to draft at least 10,000 words in a day. My high point was a little over 12,000 words. This is a full day of work. I have a day job, which means that this schedule is only possible on weekends or when I have a day off of work. However, if I schedule myself to write 10,000 words each day on the weekend, I can have an 80,000-word first draft (and boy, is it ever a dirty draft) in 4 weekends.
This allows me to loaf off after work on weekdays when I need to or work on administrative stuff if I have energy. Being able to write this much in one day required me to train up the way you would a marathon. Which meant a couple of years slowly increasing my output level, getting comfortable in my process, and building up my stamina for multiple hours of writing while avoiding burn out. This schedule can fluctuate depending on the project, but knowing what my writing pace is and can be is invaluable in allowing me to figure out my writing schedule around my day job life and my personal life. I need to have a balance between the three, and, for now, this is what works for me.
I can, and have, gone months between writing the first drafts of projects, let alone edits. This is okay. Some people work best by writing every single day. Good for them. Do that if that’s your process! It’s not mine. The last time I tried to work that way, I went into a depressive episode. I need spans of time when I’m not writing even when I’m working on the first draft of a project. It helps me to refill the energy well.
The biggest take away I’ve learned this summer is that I need to be kind to myself. When it comes to organization, that means I need to stick with what is working for me and abandoning things when they don’t jibe with my style. One organization method working fabulously for someone does not mean that it will work for me or for you.
My tip: organize your life around what makes you happy even if that means not being organized 🙂
Because this turned into a treatise and I barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on the topic, I’ve decided to turn it into a series of posts. I’ll link all of the posts from this one if you want to bookmark it and check back 🙂
A number of the #GetItTogetherHop participants have contributed items to a set of group giveaways. If you’re interested in entering, follow the Rafflecopter instructions. I am contributing signed copies of Best Erotic Romance 2014 and The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica and a mini swag bag filled with a stylus pen (I’d take a picture, but they’re currently in mailroom limbo) and an “I ♥ Uppercase Hotties” button. Good luck!
The Emotional Impact of Organization
When I was writing the original Sweet, Sweet Organization post for the #GetItTogetherHop, I was also in the process of cleaning my apartment for my mom’s impending visit over Labor Day. In some ways, cleaning off my desk was the easiest part of that process (as of this post, I’m still in the middle of it). It’s something I do regularly, for me. I find that having a mostly clear desk makes it easier for me to write. If only because I have the space to rest my arms and laptop/iPad.
If you’ve read the #GetItTogetherHop posts, you’ll see a common theme of how organization methods both reduce and create stress and impact mental health. This is definitely true for me. Having a clearer desk gives me more mental space as well as physical since I’m not feeling as crowded. Every piece of paper sitting on my desk chatters at me to be dealt with. And I generate a crap ton of paper for as much as I live my life in an online environment. Certain things, like my check book, also have a designated space they occupy. If they are not in that dedicated space when I need them, like to pay rent, I get more anxious and bitchier the longer I can’t find them. Ask my family how many times I’ve bitten off their heads when I haven’t been able to find something because it’s not in or near the last place I remember seeing it. Half the time it *is* near the place, but hidden under something.
Let’s talk about moving and storage for a little bit. Mainly because I went home last weekend and was forced to deal with, or at least acknowledge, the majority of things I had left in storage in various locations with my family. Moving is not pretty. No matter how organized I am, and I am thanking whatever deities there are that I thought ahead enough to label many of the boxes that weren’t see-through, moving turns me into an emotionally battered bitch. I hate subjecting my family to that, but they continue to volunteer to assist despite this. Dad and I were reminiscing over my last full day in Iowa. Not. Pretty. The problem is all of the decision-making you have to do. You have to touch every single tiny ass object and make a decision about it. Does it go with you? If so, where do you pack it? Does it go in the trash? Recycling? Can you sell it? Should you give it to someone? So many questions. And I fret over each and every answer. Fretting is your enemy when you have so much to go through even when you think you have budgeted yourself enough time. I had a month to go through my things in Iowa. I used that month. It was nowhere near enough.
At one point on Monday, while standing in my parents’ garage looking at what was sitting in there (and my parents’ garage is not finished, so that’s another issue), my mom asked me something and the only thing I could tell her, warn her really, was “I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now.” All of these boxes were staring at me, demanding my emotional energy. And this was after I’d spent four hours on Friday culling about eight banker’s boxes of books out of my book collection sitting in my dad’s storage unit. The question my family kept asking me was “what do you want us to do with it?” I kept wanting to say, “did you not see everything I threw out/decided to get rid of in some manner?!?!?!”
The final kick in the emotional can was when the used book store I went to offered me only $40 for the eight boxes of books. $5 per box. If I could have, I would have boxed up a good half of those books so I could give them to someone, FOR FREE, who would appreciate the treasure trove I had built up over the years. But I didn’t have the space, nor the time, to do that. Luckily, both my parents saw how fragile I was at that point, and didn’t speak much about it. A little unexpectedly, I started crying as I wrote this bit because I’m still grieving the loss of that collection. And this was something I had been planning on doing for almost a year. It’s because I know that collection was special, and I couldn’t treat it the way it deserved because of the time and space constraints forced upon me.
That is the emotional toll of organization. It’s all about managing your time and space. Being organized in a way that works for your situation can be a very good thing. Having outside constraints force you to be organized in a way that is not ideal for you can suck you down quickly. I am glad to have lightened my mental load with not owning as much stuff, even though I didn’t see it on a regular basis. I wish I could have been able to better control the dispersal of the most meaningful part of that “stuff” in a way that was emotionally healthier for me. If you want to be more organized, whether with time or space, I think the key is to find a system that minimizes the amount of decisions you have to make. It should help relieve the stress in your life, not contribute to it. Good luck!
I’m happy to announce that I will be republishing my backlist stories under the series title “Sweet Heat”. I’m planning on three volumes that will be published over the course of Fall 2015. One volume, likely the last one, will be updated next year when the exclusive rights to the last of my previously published stories reverts back to me. I will be pricing these collections at $3.99. I’m playing around with the idea of offering a one to two month introductory price for each of $1.99. I’m interested in your thoughts on the pricing of previously published material, so leave a comment below, email me, or tweet me! I’d very much like to make these available internationally, but I need to do some research into the VAT issue as I don’t want to run afoul of regulations.
If you are interested in being notified of when these collections are available, join my newsletter. I’m instituting a thank you program for newsletter subscribers. For every 100 subscribers, and with every newsletter, I will randomly draw a name to win a $10 gift certificate to your online bookstore of choice–provided they offer gift cards or equivalent.
I will not be signing at RWA this year, but if you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check it out as a ton of great authors will be signing.
Though I’m not signing, I will be running around the Literacy event as a volunteer. If you can spot me, grab me and I’ll give you one of my special buttons that I’m really hoping will get delivered before I leave! I’ll also be around the entire conference if you’re also attending or bar-conning it.
More updates! Such as they are 🙂 I’ve requested back my rights to the stories I’ve published with Amber Quill Press (Family Jewels and Cimmerean League: Revelations) and Phaze (Spring Storm and The Man from HATHOR). I’ve had no complaints with either AQP or Phaze as a publisher, but I’m hoping to repackage and self-publish the stories along with the ones formerly published with EC and a few other stories I have floating around. I’ll leave this post up as a sticky and will post another update once I have more information.
When I’m asked where I work for the day job, I have a short answer and a long answer. I have many things tumbling through my head about the status of my books that had been published by Ellora’s Cave, but for now, I’ll give you the short answer: the publishing rights to Amuse Bouche, End Balance, and Tera’s Awakening have reverted back to me as of today, March 16, 2015.
I have hidden the pages for those books until I can deal with updating them (I’m heading into the day job in a few minutes). Until I have time to update them I’ll leave this post, or one with further information, stickied to the top of the main site page so that there is a clear record of them (it’s the librarian in me). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
I crossed the 50,000 words mark on my novel yesterday! Woohoo!! I’m very pleased with myself in that I confirmed that I can write the first draft of a short novel in a 3-week period without killing myself. I did manage this same feat earlier this summer, but doing it again is proof the first time wasn’t a fluke.
I do have mixed feelings about this novel, however. Most of my writing yesterday was done just to cross the story over the 50K mark. The ending is beyond rushed, and some might say it doesn’t even exist. The story itself is wibbly-wobbly and is in dire need of revision. If I wanted to do anything with the story in its current state. And I’m pretty sure I don’t. As I said to a friend on Twitter yesterday, not only did the story go off the rails, but it went over the cliff. But do I regret spending my precious writing time on this novel? No.
I’m choosing to look at it as a palate cleanser. Last week, I was pondering some things I discussed with a writing friend at a recent convention. The main point was to write what excited you. Every project I tackle excites me to some extent. There’s something drawing me in. However, not every story is able to hold my attention through the first draft. Let alone all of the revision drafts that are necessary. As I was pondering the conversation, I had the spark of an idea. That idea grew, is still growing, and it’s getting me *very* excited. To the point that I’ve already plopped this new story on my writing schedule for January and February. Without working on the Nano novel and clearing the dreck from my mind, I would not have been able to sow the field for this new idea.
In my non-writing life, I’ve never regretted any job I’ve ever worked even though a few made me *supremely* unhappy for the time I was there. The reason I don’t regret them is because I learned something from each and every one of them. Whether it was a skill set I was able to take forward into the next job, or something about myself, I learned. This is the same with writing. If you learn something from every project you spend time on, your time is being well-spent.
For those still Nano-ing, good luck! Press on! Even if you do not get the winner’s badge, you are still a winner for ending the month with more words on paper or screen than you started the month with!
Fast-drafting is a challenge. Nanowrimo is essentially one of many versions of fast-drafting. This last calendar year has cemented for me that my process is very much aligned with the principles of fast-drafting. I vomit out words at a copious pace, and then I go back and heavily edit them later. I mentioned in my last post that previous attempts at Nanowrimo had left me burnt out. This is always a concern with fast-drafting if it’s not a process you’re used to. Increasing your pace at any time leaves you open to burn out.
You must listen to your body and your mind when fast-drafting or working to increase your pace. A couple of times this week, I ignored my alarm and slept in later than I planned on. I needed sleep as I’d been staying up until midnight (if I was lucky) with my alarm going off at 6 am. For some, this amount of sleep would be more than sufficient. It isn’t for me, and I’m not a morning person in the first place. The first time it happened, I got up in time to squeeze in a half hour of writing time before I needed to head into work. This is about half the time I normally spend writing in the morning. I’d already decided that I was going out with friends for a working dinner of writing, so I figured I’d be able to make up the remainder of my daily goal then. That didn’t happen, but the words I had written that morning had kept me ahead of not only my personally scheduled pace, but also the official Nanowrimo pace. I chose not to stress.
Then on Friday, I was exhausted. In addition to just being tired–and cozy warm in a nest of blankets with a chilly morning temperature, I was having a flare up of the dry patches around one of my eyes. This fall-to-winter transition has caused incipient psoriatic patches around my eyes to erupt as never before. My left eye is being hit particularly bad. Luckily, my issues with psoriasis are relatively light compared to others with it. Suffice it to say, before I go into a long discourse on psoriasis (I just deleted a bunch of sentences), my body’s yelling at me to rest. Friday, I listened to it and slept in a little longer. I compromised and went into work earlier than normal so I could leave earlier than normal. I came home, and despite not generally liking to draft new projects in the evenings, I got my words in.
The key to successfully fast-drafting is setting up a schedule. A schedule that includes downtime for you which can be shifted around as needed. One of the main reasons I get up early to write is so I can have my evenings free to read, watch TV/movies, or do chores around the house (ugh). When needed, like on Friday, I can put those more fun activities (not the cleaning) aside in favor of making up the work. I try not to do this often, but every once in a while is fine.
For this weekend and next, to get ahead of the Nano pace and finish the first draft of my novel (at least my project word count) prior to Thanksgiving, I scheduled myself to write 5000 each Saturday and Sunday. I know I can accomplish that in a three-hour period. On the days where 5000 words is my goal, I shoot for blocking out 9 am to 12 pm to do it. Yesterday, I started a little after nine, but that was fine. I was able to get the words done and then head out to my other scheduled activities without being too late. Even better, I hit the halfway point of my project word count for my novel. This morning, I could not crawl out of bed once again. However, I also had not scheduled myself for any hard-ish commitments like I had for yesterday. I started an hour later than I did yesterday, but once again, I completed my goal.
Ultimately, be kind to yourself. Figuring out the right pace for you is finding the one that will allow you to work consistently and produce the amount of work needed to meet your goals.
Ah, Nano. I’ve had interesting feelings regarding Nano since I first started attempting it way back in 2003. I became aware of it in 2002, but I think during November, so I didn’t actually have a book to write at that point. The manuscript that eventually became End Balance got me my one “win” in 2004. Ten years ago. Chills raced down my spine at that thought. I tried again in 2005 and 2006, but realized that the pressure of Nano was contributing to feelings of burn out. In the years since, I’ve kept my account active, but have not put effort into dipping my toes into the water again. Last year, though, I did consider doing it again as I had begun to achieve a rhythm in my drafting style that would theoretically allow me to win. However, the timing was not in my favor for a number of reasons.
This year, though, as I was plotting out when I would be drafting projects–though I hadn’t decided on *which* projects–I realized that I could schedule myself to draft a novel in November. And I knew I could absolutely win as I’d written two full novels and a few short stories in the meantime. One of those novels was written well ahead of the suggested Nano pace. All without really feeling a strain. This is not to say that some days weren’t grueling, because they totally were. However, because I’ve gotten to know myself, and what works best for me in terms of the time of day that I write and the amount that I write, I have been able to avoid burning out. Which has *always* been my biggest fear with Nano.
As part of my prep for this year, and what I’ve done for my last few projects, I’ve printed out a calendar and written down my daily writing goals. But I do that *after* I block out the days I already have other plans. For example, I went back to my hometown last weekend for a family-ish wedding. I knew I’d have some time here and there Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write, but I only scheduled myself for 1000 words each day. Part of this was to ease myself back into drafting mode, and part was to accommodate the expectations of visiting with family. However, I forgot my calendar here at home so I got ahead of myself on Monday. This did come in handy this morning as there were some errands I had to accomplish before going into work and I cut the goal for today in half. I’m still 1300 words ahead of my scheduled pace.
This is me, though. I was advising a friend a few weeks ago to give Nano a try because she needs a kick in the butt to start writing. She was focused on winning. I told her to ignore winning. What she needs to focus on is just getting words down on the page. Any amount she accomplishes during Nano is going to be more words than she had at the beginning of the month. And *that* is true for everyone whether you “win” or not.
If you’re participating in Nano this year, good luck! If you finish and “win”, yay!! If you don’t, you still have more words than you started with. But no matter what, EDIT that sucker before you submit it somewhere or self-publish it!