#writerwednesday – When it all starts to go wrong

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It’s July. We are more than halfway through this strange and crazy year. And it’s #campnanowrimo. I didn’t take part in April because I was laid up with COVID-19. I’m still struggling with the after-effects, but have been writing for a few months. I’ve spent those months (since I received my rejection from Mills & Boon at the end of April) working on getting my MC romance trilogy ready for release over the coming months. I’m so pleased that after a number of YEARS working on it, it’s finally done. Sinful came out on July 1st, and will be followed by Taken (September 1st) and Possession (November 1st).

This meant I was free to start a new project for #campnanowrimo. Last November I set a goal of 1000 words per day and managed to stick to it despite having lupus and going to my day job. For July I set a goal of 750 words per day. I’m still recovering from COVID, my Mom is gravelly ill, and the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, so 750 words a day seemed like a nice, manageable number.

For the first 9 days I smashed my target, often writing 1400 words in two 20 minute sprints. I had it. I could do it. I was amazing. I was riding high and the writing was flowing despite everything else. Then I hit a wall. My chronic fatigue flared up so badly I could barely move off the sofa, let alone think about opening my laptop.

The mind was willing – I had so many thoughts and ideas, so many ‘things’ I needed to be doing as a writer: promote new books, promote back-list, get a cover made for a upcoming Christmas release, write new words. On top of that, I have a number of things going on with my Mom’s personal home care to sort out from a distance, and dealing with my own recovery. Yet I still continued to push myself – I needed to keep up my morning routine (yoga, journal, meditate) because I believe it made me more productive and that’s what successful authors do – have a morning routine. I baked, I gardened, I wrote, I promoted, I cleaned like a whirlwind.

And I burnt out. Again. If I could smack myself on the forehead without causing myself more pain, I would. I have this cycle. Doing, doing, doing, bust. Burnout. I ignore the signs of my body telling me to rest because I put all these expectations on myself. Especially as an indie author trying to build my community and producing consistent releases. If I take one day off from the schedule I’ve set myself, regardless of what is happening in other areas of my life, I berate myself – I’m not good enough, I’ll never make it, I’ll never be good enough to write full time and make a career out of it, I’m just lazy.

Because of that nagging voice, I set myself gruelling schedules – for all areas of my life. And then I get burnt out and the cycle starts all over again. It’s classic boom and bust, which then leads to me not doing anything writing wise for months.

The last few days I’ve taken a complete rest, mainly because for a few days I could barely move. It’s made me re-assess. Again. Cut things from my schedule. Focus on what I really want to do. What my body and mind can handle. I don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. Just a little every week. I need to be more mindful of recognising the signs. Of not fighting my body. It’s not failure to take some time for rest or self-care. I need to realise this more.

goals

This week sees the beginning of a new schedule. A gentler, slower schedule. I enjoy meditating and journaling, so I’ll keep that in my morning routine, but I also like to read. So I’m taking out yoga and putting in reading. I’m going to write 3 times a week in longer chunks, immersing myself in the story instead of stopping at a designated word count. The other four days I’m dedicating to resting and self-care activities – gardening, baking, knitting, yoga on 2 days and a walk on most. Movement helps me mentally and gives my inspiration, so it’s something I’d like to keep up – body dependant.

My new schedule is more about flow and doing what I feel like doing rather than what I SHOULD do. It’s probably going to be trial and error again, but I’m not going to give up.

I wanted to write about this for #writerwednesday because I want this blog to be real. In the past I’ve wrote about how my new daily writing schedule was amazing, and productive, and totally working for me. And it was. Until it wasn’t. As writers it’s okay to let go of what doesn’t work for you anymore. There are so many videos and articles talking about the hustle – the need to go, go, go to be successful. Sometimes you go through periods like that, but it’s not sustainable for different seasons of your life. It’s okay to change your writing habits. It’s okay to let go and try something new. You are not a failure if you want to try a gentler, slower flow.

So I may not meet my #campnanowrimo goal this month, but I’m going to keep doing what I love – writing, creating – and I’m going to listen to my body, listen to my mental health. Being a writer is about being in it for the long haul (for me anyway).

My mantra for the rest of the year: it’s a freaking marathon, not a sprint.

Here is to a slower, gentler, more focused and creative month.

Writer Wednesday – writing year review for 2019

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For the last #WriterWednesday of 2019 I thought I’d do a post on my writing year in review. It’s been a rocky one – ups and downs galore – but I’m happy to admit I’m ending 2019 on a writing high 🙂
So, let’s start with January.

In January I decided to get my sh*t together and create a plan (okay, so the plan didn’t come together until the end of January, but hey, it was still January!). I love watching YouTube videos from the author, Sarra Cannon. She has a craft channel called Heart Breathings. She is such a breath of fresh air with videos on the craft and the realistic life/goals of a writer. I love her because she is so generous to her fans – always creating work books for free – and not being constantly all about the hustle, hustle, hustle. She is real and talks about the real struggles of writing when you have other commitments – a job, family, school, chronic health issues.

She has a system called HB90. You plan your writing goals for 90 days at a time and be laser focused for those 3 months.

I could do this. It would give me structure and 90 days was a good period of time.

So I planned. I planned my 3 monthly goals.

  1. Increase sales and engagement
  2. Finish and release the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy
  3. Plot and write first 3 chapters of a Mills & Boon Dare submission

Easy. Sustainable.

Err…not. I failed. Oh, for the first month I wrote, I promoted and then I got lazy. Life happened. I got sick. Mom got sicker. Work got crazy. Life got in the way and I didn’t make writing a priority. It came way down my list of commitments.

Lets skip to June. I did some editing and started that Mills & Boon story while I was soaking up the sun in Santorini with Mister Scarlett (who wouldn’t want to write in such a beautiful setting?!), but it never got past 1,000 words.

santorini

Fast forward to August. I’m writing here and there. Book 1 in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy, Sinful, is complete (first draft only though). I made the decision not to release it until the other two were finished. I did add some words here and there, but nothing substantial. All the while the sales on my old titles have dwindled to nothing.

In September, I release an old story with Totally Bound.

By the time November rolls around I’m determined to get my ass in gear and do NaNoWriMo. As I explained in my other post, due to numerous things, I couldn’t commit to 50000 words. It just seemed too…insurmountable. So I made my own goal – 30000. 1000 words per day. Again, I charted my progression in another post (but I’m happy to say I hit it!).

One thing NaNo did for me was create a manageable, sustainable goal. I had to commit to just 30-45 minutes per day to getting the words down. That’s it. Just 30 minutes.

And you know what? It worked! By the end of NaNo, I had 36000 words. I’m happy to say as of Saturday just gone, I completed the first draft of the Mills & Boon submission I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Whoop, whoop.

Compared to this time last year, I feel in such a good place. I’m not doing 1000 words per day now, but I’m aiming for 750 a day. Mister Scarlett asked me how I was going to be accountable to myself now that NaNo is over and that’s a good question. After all, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. I’m a known slipper. Always have been. There is always something else I can find to do – binge Netflix, read, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, nap.

So for the end of the year and first few months of 2020 I have a manageable, sustainable (you seeing a theme with the buzzwords here?) plan.

From now until 31st December – I’m working on an erotic Christmas romance that I started in 2018. 750 per day, and I want to try and hit 10000 words by the end of the month. That’s with taking the holidays off. I started on Monday and I’m already 4063 words in.

word count tracker

January 2020 – I’m going to finish the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. 750 words per day. 20000 word target.

February – editing the Mills & Boon submission, working on the synopsis and putting together a trilogy proposal.

See? A plan. Manageable. Sustainable.

One of the things I have found in 2019 is the joy of writing again. It sounds like a cliche, but I lost that for so long.

Some days it’s still hard, but there are the days when it flows and the words fly onto the page, and there is such a joyous feeling inside me when that happens that I can’t explain it to people. The consistency helps the words fly. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the past year it’s consistency is the key to the words. The more I do it, the easier it gets (not always, but mostly). The writing has also been helping me, mentally, deal with a lot of stuff. It’s an outlet. A sorely needed one.

As 2019 draws to a close, there have been ups and downs, I haven’t published anything new, but I have lots of things coming together. The best thing about 2019 is I’ve rediscovered why I write. I’ve rediscovered the joy and that makes 2019 worth it!

I hope your 2019 has been everything you imagined. Let me know if you have any plans for 2020. I’d love to hear them!

 

Writer Wednesday – #NaNoWriMo

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I’m going to introduce a new feature for Wednesdays. I won’t be updating every week, maybe once a month (don’t hold me to that, I’m notoriously bad at updating my blog!) I’ll do a post called ‘Writer Wednesday‘. I’ll chat about the writing process, publishing, the practicalities of writing.  Let me know in the comments below if there is a particular topic you want me to cover and I’ve be happy to do a post on it.

Sooo, for this week’s ‘Writer Wednesday‘ I’m going to be talking about NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You can visit the website for more info. The basic premise is you commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

I don’t normally do NaNoWriMo. I tend to keep my own schedule and committing to a certain number of words per day (if you do the 50,000 that’s 1,666 per day) just makes me antsy and terrified. But this year I decided to sign up. Go, me!

 

Nano

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, feel free to follow me 🙂

I decided to sign up because I really want to complete a rough draft of a submission for the Mills & Boon Dare line. This has been on my to-do list since April. I’ve started the story (about 5,000 words in already) and have it all plotted, but the Knights of Hell series has been taking precedence. I came to the conclusion I would NEVER get to this Mills & Boon sub if I didn’t do something.

So I signed up for Nano.

The terrifying thing for me is, I’m not an everyday writer. With lupus, a job, and a sick Mom, other things sometimes have to take priority. Added to that, my books have NEVER reached 50,000 words. Some have come close. I think Claiming Ruby comes in around 42,000. I’m not even sure I can do 50,000 words.

But I want to do this. NaNo provides a perfect opportunity to get in regular writing sessions and to have a whole community of support. That is one of the best things about NaNo – the community. There is an online forum for support, but also regular local writing sessions. Honestly, if you are looking to write that novel and want to stay motivated, NaNo might be the thing for you.

I signed up a few weeks before November 1st…and then totally freaked out. I can’t commit to writing 1,666 words per day. Am I crazy? Sometimes I don’t even do that in a week! Lately I’ve implemented a 15 minute writing stint every day where I can average around 400 words, and at the end of the week those word counts add up. But 1,666 EVERY day? Nah. I can’t do it.

And knowing me like I do, I’d feel like a complete failure for not meeting those word counts. No matter how sick I felt. No matter what else was happening, I’d still feel like a failure. And that would put me off sitting down to write at all.

Being a writer is easy you say? Pfff. Hell no. As well as figuring out a writing schedule and actually getting the ideas down, you have to deal with all kinds of guilt (but that’s another blog post).

Anyhoo, at the advice of the awesome romance writing community, I decided to set my own goal for NaNo.

30,000 words in 30 days. 1,000 words a day. I can cover this pretty much in two 15 minute writing stints. Easy, right? I’m already doing one 15 minute stint, another one and I would have 30,000 at the end of it.

It’s now 6th November and I’m hitting my word counts *whoop, whoop*

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I can’t give you my typical NaNo day. Sometimes I write for 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Never at night as I’m just pretty dead after 6pm.

I write at my desk, in a coffee shop, at work on lunch. I write on my computer and in notebooks.

Bascially, I’m doing what I can, when I can.

Mister Scarlett asked me what happens if I don’t hit my word count one day. I’m not sure, but I’m determined not to beat myself up. If at the end of the month I don’t have 30,000…that’s okay. But I will have a big chunk of wordage that I didn’t have on October 31st and that is something to be celebrated 🙂

Wish me luck for the rest of the month!