Kelly Maher
Early morning writer

This morning I logged a little over 2100 words on Project Femur in an hour and five minutes this morning. Now, this is one of my more “speedy” mornings. On average, it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes, if not a teensy bit longer, to get the 2000 words in for the day. I recognize this is a very fast pace for many people. This is not something I learned overnight. Like my mentor in fast writing, Ann Aguirre, says, you have to build the muscles to meet the pace.

I got myself to a point where I knew I could write a novel at a pace of 500 words every day. I decided that pace was too slow to meet my personal goals that I set for myself last year. I stretched myself to shooting for 1000 words a day every day. That pace was, surprisingly, not sustainable for me. I did some hard reflection and realized I needed to change my goals to work in “break time” over the weekends. When I did the math to figure out what output I’d need to produce to have a finished first draft in the time frame I allotted myself by writing only on weekdays, I realized the number wasn’t *too* far from 2000. I figured I could do that, provided I gave myself the break. Big bonus: I’d have an even more productive pace!

Part of the transition from 1000 words/day/every day to 2000 words/day/Monday through Friday was also an acceptance that I do not write well at night despite being a natural night owl. I experimented with the schedule of dragging myself out of bed earlier than normal to write before I headed into my day job. Now, I’m fortunate in that my workplace offers a flexible start time. As long as I’m at my desk by 9:30 am, I’m on time. I just have to stay later in the day. For me, this was an acceptable trade off as it meant I was completely done with the production part of the workday when I got home from the day job. I can easily handle the administrative tasks related to my writing, which includes social media activity, in the evenings.

The benefits to me for being a morning writer are numerous:

  1. My brain is not fully awake, so I can submerse myself in the story.
  2. I live on the East Coast, so most of my friends haven’t woken up yet and therefore aren’t on social media yet, which makes it easier to ignore.
  3. My brain hasn’t been wiped out by my day job which involves a fair amount of analyzation of books.
  4. I have a discreet amount of time in which to write and meet my daily goal.

Those are the big points, for me, for being a morning writer. I’m in no way saying this is easy because there are days when I want to reach into my laptop and strangle my characters while yelling “TALK TO ME, GODDAMMIT!!!!” It’s also *really* hard to drag my ass out of a warm and cozy bed when it’s cold, dark, and dreary outside.

You really have to evaluate what your process is, and if this kind of schedule fits into your existing commitments and goals. It works for me and has certainly helped me to be an exponentially more productive writer than I was a year ago. The next step is figuring out how to do editing, as I have discovered I’m so not a morning editor. I need a more awake and aware brain for that function πŸ™‚

Changing of your mindset

I spent all of 2013 working to change my mindset in small, but significant ways. I actually began with my health and fitness. I worked all year on increasing my levels of exercise. I also worked on adjusting my eating habits–though not to the same extent of success as I did my exercise habits as evidenced by the McDonald’s bag currently sitting in my trashy bin. As you’ve seen, I also worked on changing my mindset about my writing.

I think the keys to the success I’ve enjoyed are to define achievable and quantifiable goals. This is probably why I’m having the trouble with the eating habits πŸ˜€ There are many systems out there, and you need to find the one which works best for you. The other key aspect is to accept that there is no real end date to these goals. These are lifelong habits I want to cultivate. I want to walk 10,000 steps a day, every day. I want to write 2000 words a day, Monday through Friday, when I’m drafting a manuscript. The more amorphous goals behind those are to “be more fit” and “be more productive with the writing”. See the difference?

Polishing your goals down from a lump of stone into a finely hewn jewel will make it all the more attractive to play with as you work to achieve it. What goals do you have which aren’t diamonds of the first water yet? How can you turn them into your own personal jewels?

The Poisoner’s Handbook

A few years ago, I stumbled across this book by Deborah Blum. Frankly, I don’t quite remember how I came across it, but I think it was through my part-time work at one of the local public libraries. I got a library copy to skim through, and was sucked in. I’m not a huge reader of non-fiction, but Deborah Blum can spin a damn good story. I admit to being predisposed to everything this book has: forensic science, Prohibition, tales of historical crimes. All of these high points would be nothing without a good storyteller. In fact, the current novel project was partially inspired by what I learned from reading TPH. On Tuesday, PBS ran the documentary made based on the book as part of their American Experience series. I loved the book, and I loved the documentary. I highly recommend watching it if you have a chance, and read the book if you like what you see!

Favorite romantic movies

When Peter O’Toole died a few weeks ago, I popped in “How to Steal a Million” as a celebration. As I watched it for probably the millionth time, I realized I can say without hesitation that it’s my favorite romantic movie of all time. It’s perfect to me. Tonight, as I was flipping through channels, I stumbled across “The Cutting Edge”. I loved this movie as a kid, but I haven’t watched it, in full, since I was a kid. However, every time I think of it and talk about it with friends, I always pull out “toe pick!” In fact, when I was looking it up on IMdB to see who played the coach, I started to type in “toe pick” rather than “The Cutting Edge”. What are your most favorite or memorable romantic movies?

Goals for 2014

I hope you all had fabulous New Year’s celebrations! I’m not really one for resolutions, but I do have a number of goals for this coming year. My first goal is to write the equivalent of three novels worth of new material. From the writer’s point of view, this equates to roughly 270,000 words. I started work today on the first novel. I don’t know what the other projects are going to be yet, but I’m sure it will be a mix of all story lengths. My other goal is to become more regulated in assigning time to writing and editing. Now that I know the pace I can comfortably produce at, I can work on smoothing out the rest of my production process. This will also help me better schedule my projects around times when I know I’ll be busy with conferences both for the day job and writing, and vacations with the family. That’s pretty much it for me goal wise. What goals have you set for yourself for this coming year?

Happy New Year!!

It’s a little early in my neck of the woods, but if my math’s correct, those of you in the Pacific and on the western edge of it are seeing fireworks! Tonight I’m making a ribeye and garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes for myself. I’ll stay up to watch the shows on TV, then I’ll hit the hay. Tomorrow I’ll drive out to the nearest body of water where I can dip my hand in as has become tradition for me. I’m also starting my new novel tomorrow, so it’s going to be a busy day. How are you celebrating?

Favorite presents?

I got some very nice presents from my family members this year. I think my favorites are the purple fuzzy Ugg slippers I got to go with the annual Jingle Jammies as we call them. Mom gets sleep pants for all of us. They started out as stocking stuffers, and now are the start of the present unwrapping. I love traditions like this. TDo you have a favorite present or family tradition?

Merry Christmas Eve!

Today I’ll head up to my sister’s where I’ll attend Mass with her, my brother and sister-in-law, and my niece. We do a very yummy dinner afterwards. Tomorrow I’ll go with my parents to my brother and sister-in-law’s place where we’ll be joined by my sister, my two other brothers and sisters-in-law, and my nephews. For us, this is a relatively quiet Christmas as, until this year, the regular gathering included everyone from my mom’s side of the family who could join in. With a big remodeling project happening at my parents’, this was not happening. Between various smaller visits, I’ll be able to see most of my family here in the hometown during my visit.

I know some of you may not celebrate Christmas, so happy Tuesday and Wednesday πŸ™‚ For those that do, I hope you have a wonderful celebration, however you celebrate!

Favorite presents

In an effort to give my fried brain a break (reflection post on the year’s writing coming up soon!), I’m keeping this post short πŸ™‚ What have been your favorite presents to give and receive over the years?

Christmas shopping

Apparently, the time to go shopping for toys for the niece and nephews and godson is at nearly 9pm on a Sunday night. I managed to knock off all but my godson from my “to buy” list–and that was because his dad didn’t get back to me about his wishlist until this morning. I’m saving him until I fly home this weekend. This is how I like to shop for Christmas: in and out sortie. Frankly, the only reason I was in the store for longer than an hour was due to ending up on the phone with my mom for nearly half an hour. We’re that kind of family πŸ™‚

With Christmas shopping completed for the time being, I’ve turned my attention to packing. At least with my clothes, all I have to do is empty my laundry basket into one of my suitcases. Yay for staying with the parents! I’m also sorting out my vacation reading. First up is the initial edit pass of Project Parietal. I’m also planning on catching up on a few series I’ve fallen behind on. Are you traveling for Christmas? What are you packing?