Nancy: Boom and Bust

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?

Um, no.

When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Nancy: Can Creativity Be Scheduled?

Week 1 of My 12-Week Year Creativity Schedule. I might have gotten a little carried away…Note that I did not schedule transition time between major activities. Or  lunch time.

There many, many schools of thought regarding creativity, grasshopper. Looking specifically at writing, there are pantsers and plotters, planners and wingers, outline enthusiasts, outline eschewers, thumbnail sketch makers, muse-seeking free spirits, spreadsheet weirdos (raises hand). It seems creativity refuses to be contained. You can’t put creativity in a corner!

But can you put creativity in a time block on a calendar?

Ever willing to be a cautionary tale, I threw myself on the sword of research with an intense productivity system, called the 12-Week Year, so I can report my findings. For more information about this system and how to implement it, there are books, courses, and seminars. Boiling it down for you, the idea is based on data that suggest companies (and individual employees), when aligning to their annual plans, see a burst of productivity and forward progress during the last three months of their fiscal years. Why? Continue reading

Nancy: I Double Dog Dare You

© Niserin | - Solve The Problem, Think About Solution, Challenge Concept. Photo

© Niserin | – Solve The Problem, Think About Solution, Challenge Concept. Photo

I’ve been thinking a lot about challenges recently, specifically, internally motivated challenges – the kind we set for ourselves. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a bit of a challenge junkie, which probably goes hand-in-hand with being a very goal-oriented person. I like to see that challenge or goal or thing I’m not quite sure I can achieve sitting out there on the horizon. I like developing a plan of strategies and tactics to get to it. And while I don’t always love the plan when I’m in the thick of it, I’m very good at keeping my eye on the prize and powering through the tough parts.

This tendency has its downside, as you can imagine. It can be difficult for me to know when a challenge is the wrong thing for me or to recognize when it’s not going well (like the 3-day cleanse/eating reset/borderline fast I did recently. Zero stars. Will not do again). In physical challenges, I’ve been known to push through the pain, which can be a bad thing when that pain turns out to be a long-term issue like a strained SI joint or a broken finger. And in business – well, let’s just say I’ve worked some ridiculously long, hard hours on more than one complex and intense project. But I keep setting challenges for myself. Why? As I asked myself that question in the middle of the 3-day fast from hell, my hunger-fueled brain came up with only one clear answer – most of the time, challenges work for me.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere! As a writer, my next logical question was, of course, how can I use this to my advantage in my writing life? Continue reading

Elizabeth: A Long and Winding Road

winding_roadWhat do Elizabeth Gilbert, my boss at work, and a fortune cookie all have in common?   They’re all reasons why none of the words I wrote this week were for The Traitor, the book I’m supposed to be finishing.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I should probably explain.

It’s all about the ideas

Part of the Writer Reboot plan that I talked about last month was to include some fun in my writing life. Continue reading

Nancy: NaNoWriMo: A Multi-Purpose Writing Tool

NaNoIt’s that time of year again. In the northern hemisphere, the air has turned crisp. Leaves are changing colors. Children are choosing Halloween costumes. And writers across the globe are stocking up on coffee, hoarding chocolate, and doing finger stretches in anticipation of National Novel Writing Month.

Here at 8LW, Michille has shared her plans for her own run at NaNoWriMo gold (finishing 50k words of original fiction in the month of November), Elizabeth has been getting us into shape with writing sprints, and several of the ladies are contemplating whether they’ll join the party.

Until this past week, I was undecided about my own NaNoWriMo plans. Continue reading

Nancy: The Month of the Phoenix

The Phoenix: Mythical Beast That Rises From the Ashes

As this is the first Monday of a new month, it’s time for me to recap my writing progress (or lack thereof) for the past month, as I promised to do way back in January. (Remember January? We were so young, so naive!) This time, however, I want to spend less time looking back and more time looking forward. This might lead you to think my progress in March was less than stellar. You would be correct. But that’s not the main reason I’m going to focus on April

This shift in perspective came from reading Michaeline’s and Jilly’s posts Saturday and Sunday, respectively, here on 8LW. Micki pointed out the first quarter of the year is over, and she was wondering what she’d gotten done (I’m right there with you, Micki), while looking forward to the next quarter of the year and what she hopes to accomplish. Jilly wrote a poignant post about the very personal and happily triumphant wake-up call she and her husband had two years ago. After a weekend of thinking about the upcoming quarter, bucket lists, and not letting one more day go by without pursuing dreams, Continue reading

Nancy: February Recap

Woman With a Plan

In the ongoing and possibly overrated interest of tracking my writing performance against my annual writing goals, it’s time to talk about February: the good, the bad, and the sometimes oh-so-ugly. You know the drill. I told you about my ‘reporting in’ plan here. Looking back on the post from just two short months ago, I have to smile a bit, the way you do at adorable pets and small children. I want to pat new-year me on the head and say oh, you naive, optimistic writer, you. Continue reading

Nancy: January Recap

One January 2015 project that did get completed: our patio.

One January 2015 project that did get completed: our patio.

This side patio connects to the back patio shown in the top picture.

This side patio connects to the back patio shown in the top picture.

As hard as it is to believe, the month of January has already passed! That means roughly one-twelfth of my word count/annual writing goals should be behind me. Now it’s time to address step 3 of my 3-step writing plan, which is to assess my writing progress against my goals at the end of each month. I’d like to say I’m starting off the year with a great big ‘Success!’ banner hanging in my office, but the truth is, the January results are mixed.

First, the good news. I did ‘touch the story’ every single day. If I wasn’t adding (or in many cases, subtracting) words, I was working through plot issues or building playlists or engaging in discovery for not only book 1 of my planned historical romance series, but for the other books and series as a whole, as well. And it really has helped. I’m spotting plot holes and fatal flaws much earlier in this draft than in other first draft I’ve done.

Keeping a running scene inventory of what I’ve written and what I still have left to write has allowed me to move, add, and delete scenes as needed to fix those problems. And boy, howdy, has this book (already!) had its problems. From a heroine who had a goal then promptly forgot after about page 5, to a h/h who lacked sexual chemistry Continue reading

Nancy: Writer Interrupted, Home Improvement Edition

Please Do Not Annoy the Writer

What writers usually want but rarely get is more time to write. We often get less time than expected because life has a tendency to ignore the advice of my favorite mug and has the audacity to annoy, interrupt, and otherwise mess with us, writing plans be damned. That’s possibly why we so often look for story inspiration or writing analogies in the other things that demand our attention. For instance, during the past two weeks, my life was interrupted by a long-delayed patio installation project, and while it didn’t derail my recently-completed writing plan, it certainly didn’t help it. But amidst the chaos, I took away some home improvement lessons learned that could be applied to the writing life as well. Continue reading