Nancy: January (2018!) Accountability Thread

Wow, here we are in a whole new year. Choosing watchwords. Taking stock of 2017. Making plans for 2018. So in this accountability thread, I want to look at the big annual picture before I set my January goals. And as for accountability for my December goals? Well, to paraphrase Jeanne paraphrasing Robert Burns, the best laid schemes of mice and writers…you know how it ends.

Say the Word

I struggled with a watchword this year, trying on a few possibilities: focus, dedication, gratitude. None of those are bad, and in fact I do hope to incorporate all of those in practice this year. But none of them felt like a thesis statement for the year ahead. Then while thinking about something entirely different, something I now can’t even recall, I thought about how happy I am when I discover am surprised by the turn a story takes, get to see how other writers create story, or try to decipher how to complete a challenge (mental or physical). I get such joy from the sense of wonder these experiences engender, and I knew that was it, my 2018 watchword: wonder, as in ‘to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe’. Continue reading

Nancy: A Different Kind of Writer’s Gift List

As we’ve been discussing a lot here on the blog, ’tis the season for many things. Among these are lists of gift recommendations for the writer in your life (or for we writers to forward to our loved ones). Our own Michille and Jilly shared ideas and links to lists on other parts of the interwebs here and here. They contain writing-oriented games, fun writing tools, and caffeine delivery systems. I should add that Bourbon (or adult beverage of choice), chocolate, and fiction books should be priorities on your ‘what to buy for my writer’ list. But writers don’t just need things. Our care and feeding is complex, nuanced, and – as my husband would like you to know – exhausting.

So today, instead of discussing what others can give  me during the holiday season, I’m focusing on gifts I can give myself for the entire year of 2018. It’s going to be a big year for several of us here at the blog, with book launches and marketing, more books to write and revise, and readers to cultivate. Now is a good time to take a deep breath, get a warm cup of something to hold in our hands, and think about the foundations we’ll need to pull off this stellar year. To help jump-start your own thought process, here’s my list.

Self-Confidence. Dorothy had to learn this in the Wizard of Oz. Many of our protagonists have to learn it as part of their journeys, or even as their ‘big life lesson’ in our stories. Writers know how important belief in oneself is. Without it, we won’t have the audacity to brain-dump words onto pages and chip and chisel and shape them for months or years with the belief that someday, someone else will want to read our stories. But that doesn’t stop us from second-guessing ourselves at every turn. Imposter syndrome. Writers block. Sophomore slump. These are catchy phrases that strike terror in writers’ hearts, but at the core of all of them is a lack of belief that we can really do this audacious thing. Continue reading

Nancy: A Year of Change…Checking In

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about it way back in 1971.

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes way back in 1971.

A few months ago, after we’d all realized the world had changed and turned our eyes toward the hellfires of Mordor, Michaeline and I got into a discussion about change in the comments section of this post about writing as our superpower. She mentioned she’d put a tarot card app on her phone and ‘change’ cards kept popping up. Around the same time, I’d had a tarot reading (I was in Salem, MA; it seemed appropriate to do something ‘other-worldly’) during which I’d gotten three change cards (which I gathered from the tarot reader was a lot).

The card reader told me so much change so fast would be…unsettling might have been the least disturbing word bandied about, and warned me I wouldn’t be able to control ALL THE CHANGES. I should learn to change and control what I could and learn to adapt to the rest. Which is definitely a life lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again.

Luckily for me (she said sardonically), Continue reading

Nancy: Another 2017 Watchword: Patience

Patience is a VirtuePatience is a virtue, or so I’m told. I have to admit, I don’t have as much first-hand knowledge of this as perhaps I should. But like writing, life is a process, and as I continue pondering and acting upon my plans for 2017, I’ve decided to see how the other half (or whatever the percentage of patient people is) lives.

I should be clear: in my experience, impatience is not always a sin. It can be a driver and a motivator. It can ensure All the Things get done in a timely manner, something which was of the utmost importance in the strict deadline-driven professional world I used to inhabit. In fact, it is probably my impatience with my own work pace and quality, and (sometimes) that of others, that pushed me toward efficiency and higher-quality output. It made me really, really good at what I did.

And then I burned out. Continue reading

Nancy: Intention

Seated yoga poseJanuary, that post-holiday start of a new year, is a natural time to reassess, reprioritize, and reorganize our lives and our writing. Yesterday, Jilly shared her watchword for 2017: publish. Last year I made up my own word (phrase): joie d’ecriture. This year, my watchword/mantra/true north for 2017 is intention.

Intention. It’s not just paving material for the road to hell. It’s having a purpose. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them. Living each day as though it could be your last and knowing you won’t regret having misspent it. That’s all fine and good, you might be saying, but what the hell does it mean? How does one work toward intention? Continue reading

Nancy: It’s the End of the Year As We Know It

Happy-New-Year-2016Is it just me, or was 2016 a terrible horrible no good very bad year? We had Brexit and the US election; ’nuff said. Then there were the deaths of icons: David Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder. Things felt strange on the good days, bleak on the not-so-good-days. On the personal front, I fought through the day job from hell and dealt with a minor but weird medical issue that culminated in surgery.

But in good times or in bad – perhaps especially in bad – writers need to write. We do it to save our sanity and maybe even to save the world. As Donald Maass told the group gathered at the UnConference I attended in early November, the world needs our stories now more than ever. So if 2016 is our inciting incident and writing is our call to action, where are you in your story quest?

Looking back at January 2016 (was it really just a year ago? really???), I was facing months of a crazy day job with impossible deadlines and terrible hours. I anticipated that would mean less time for writing, and unfortunately I was so, so right. But this year I set different goals than in previous years, goals that were not about word counts and finishing multiple stories, but about joie d’ecriture. Now almost 12 months later, it’s time to analyze the results and fess up to how well I did or didn’t fare. Continue reading

Nancy: Week 3 of the Plan: Applying the Math

The good news: the math required to build your writing schedule will be much easier than this!

The good news: the math required to build your writing schedule will be much easier than this!

What I’m about to tell you could get my ‘writer card’ revoked, but I’m going to say it anyway. I love math. I love the elegance of a descriptive equation and the joy of solving a complex problem. And spreadsheets with built-in math functions – you know how I love  spreadsheets! So this week as we discuss our Big Plan for writing, we’re going to break it down with some fundamental math. But not to worry if you’re not a math geek. There will be no hard problems, no pop quizzes, and not even spreadsheets (unless you really want them).

In week 1 of the plan, we discussed setting writing goals and aspirations for a year or two or five. (Improving craft and/or publishing? Traditional, self, or hybrid publishing? Novels, novellas, short stories? Series or standalones?) In week 2 of the plan, we started looking at the building blocks necessary to reach those goals and laying them out on a high-level schedule of weeks or months per task, considering all the steps that go into creating a book, the additional steps and time required for self-publishing, and the mysterious black hole that is the timeline for traditional publishing.

At that time, I asked you to think as objectively and critically as you could about your own capabilities in meeting your schedule, and cautioned you to pad that sucker like an Olympic fencer. This week, let’s take a look at a week-by-week approach to writing, apply our metrics, and figure out if the math works. Sounds like fun, right? Trust me, it won’t be as painful as you think. Continue reading