Cautiously Optimistic

Today is a very Monday-y Tuesday, but that has ceased to phase me. Internet may be spotty this week, but blogging feels normal, so I want to get an entry up on as regular a schedule as possible. The offline times are good for writing longhand, so I am not complaining at all. As much as I love winter, this has been a tough one, and I will not be that sorry to see it go. I am ready for a new season.

The title of today’s post comes from a discussion Real Life Romance Hero and I had earlier this week. We are pretty sure that the light at the end of the tunnel is not, this time, a train, so we are moving in that direction. That also means that the Patreon will indeed be a go, and, for the first time, setting up tiers doesn’t seem as scary as it once did.

This past weekend, I presented Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys, at Capitol Region Romance writers. I learned a couple of things. First, I really do need to use visual aids, for myself as well as the people taking the workshop. A dry erase board usually does the trick, and I probably should learn PowerPoint. I will add that to my list. The second thing I learned is that, when visually impaired, and knowing darned well one needs high contrast, do not attempt to work, in front of a group, from handwritten notes, if the only inks available are pink and turquoise.

Even so, I crazy love this workshop, and the CRRWA chapter, and I came away from the experience remembering how much I really do love writing romance. When I got home, a chapter was waiting for me from my contemporary collaborator, Melva, which has me excited to work on Drama King. I also need kick in the behind to get Her Last First Kiss back in action, because those pirate books are chomping at the bit. That’s part of what I’m taking care of this week.

I know how to do this. I know how to write books. I know how to write good books. This is the thing I wanted to do more than anything else in the world for as long as I can remember. It’s easy, though, to lose sight of that when life gets crazy, and boy howdy, has it ever this past year and change. I am hanging onto the “change” part. I have mad, mad, mad respect for the productivity of authors like Sandra Sookoo and Kathryn LeVeque, the staying power of Cynthia Wright and Kimberly Cates, and yes, there is most certainly a seat at that table for me. It comes by putting butt in chair (or passenger seat) and pen to paper and telling those stores. Dump from brain to page, rough and raw, and make it pretty later.

Right now, I am tired and stressed and hopeful, and very much in love with my chosen genre. I have added an ebook edition of the material for PIYOSKATT (pee-yose-cat? Pie-yose-cat?) as a Patreon perk for a middle tier, because now, it feels like a reachable goal, and actually kind of fun. Small online class offerings may also be in the offing, because I also crazy love teaching workshops, both on my own and with other talented author type people. It’s a good place to be.

see you next time

Typing With Wet Paws: Happy Valentine Edition

Tails up, Storm Troopers! I’m Storm, you’re awesome, and it’s Valentine’s Day. Aunt Anna is cramming for her workshop tomorrow, at Capitol Region Romance Writers, but only to a certain point, because there comes a time it is possible to overprepare, and it’s really better to shut that stuff down and play Sims. Better yet, play Mousie, with me. I have a signature move. It involves hiding under the bed, where the blanket hangs down, then when Mousie goes by, I pounce. Works every time.

Buried Under Romance has been on a little vacation, but Aunt Anna is back on the job, and there will be new content up ASAP. Since I already put the Goodreads update in my last post, there isn’t that much to update on that front, and I can’t recap her workshop until she gives it, so that does leave me with a certain amount of wiggle room. I am exceptionally good at wiggling.

Since Aunt Anna is all about the workshop for right now, maybe I will stick with that for a while. She’s not doing visual aids this time around, because we are still on the vsgabond track, and because she isn’t doing any exercises that require visual aids, but she is hoping to put some sipplemental material on either the chapter website, or her own. She is strongly thinking of turning the material for her online workshop into an ebook for her Patreon patrons, and, for that, she’s goling to need pictures that are not copyrighted (well, not to anybody who is not her) so she will need to take new ones. It is a tough job, but I may volunteer to be her model. What *isn’t* better with a beautiful calico girl? I mean, look at me. I’m stunning.

will work for tuna

One thing Aunt Anna likes to do at the start of this workshop is that it is *not* a workshop on how to write fan fiction. That might be a fun workshop to look into another time, but if she had to say only one things about that, it would be, “have fun.” Also make sure the characters are in characters. Okay, that is two things, but it is not this workshop.

What this workshop is, is a way to use the media a human already loves, to amplify their individual voice and abilities. Voice is how readers can tell who wrote the story. No two writers will write the same story the same way. Aunt Anna thinks that is pretty exciting. This is part of why the romance level is such a wide and varied place. It still has a way to go, but Aunt Anna is adamant that writers who follow their own hearts put the very best passion into their work, and readers can definitely tell.

How does a human find that voice? Aunt Anna said I can’t give away her secrets, but she did say I could share a link to a bunch of songs Spotify says she really, really likes. Can you see any common threads (apart from the holiday music thing, but that too) in this playlist here?

Huh. I thought that was a link. Hm. Hard to type with paws sometimes. If you copy and paste that link, it will work. Aunt Anna will try and fix the link once she comes up for air. We will see how that goes, but I will remind her. I do that by putting my paws on her leg while she is at work, and look soulfully into her eyes until she gets the idea. Usually this works when it is dinner time, but also when it is time for her to go to bed, but I think it will work in this case as well.

That’s about it for now, and my sunbeam is hitting the exact spot for premium nappage, so I am going to wrap this here and let Aunt Anna get back to business. Hope you are all having a good Valentine’s Day.


Five of These Things

I did take a deskscape for today (okay, it was a lap deskscape) but there were technical difficulties, so let us all appreciate stock photos and photo editing software.

At any rate, I’m back. Our stay off the grid extended itself due to a couple of factors, but that’s life. Apart from the virus that converted all of my energy into super gross eye boogers, the whole thing did pretty well. I had a great working lunch with Melva Michaelian. We are oh so ready to get Jack and Kelly all the way to their HEA, so it can be Rob and Heather’s turn next, and we do know what comes after we finish this group of three.

Longhand really does work best for me, for composing/drafting, and the lack of internet distraction did allow me more time to get at least some of the ducks in a row. That does involve plotting out the bones of the gazebo story, which is taking a turn I didn’t expect (still a romance, don’t worry) and I actually have all of my pirate trilogy longhand notes in one container. ,I will do a post later, on the plotting method/template I used, and the modifications I’m making to it, but for this week, I have another focus.

Even though the whole future of RWA (Romance Writers of America) is a big question mark right now, I am super excited, and a little nervous, about the meeting of my local chapter, Capitol Region Romance Writers, because this month, I am the one presenting the program. I am honored and psyched that my fellow members not only asked me to present the workshop a few years back, but asked me to present it again.

Come to think of it, the workshop I presented back then was at a February meeting as well, so one more time, and it’s tradition. I could live with that. The chapter has changed in the intervening years, and so have I, so it stands to reason that the workshop has undergone a few changes of its own. Bob and Jane (if you’ve taken one of my workshops before, you know who they are) will be making an appearance, and there will be a few surprises as well. That’s usually what happens when we creative types dump a bunch of stuff we love in the kiddy pool of our imaginations and splash about with reckless abandon.

“Um, Anna,” I hear some of you saying, “the title mentions five things, and I don’t see any numbered lists here, just saying.” I hear you, dear readers, so I will get right to this wee listicle of five things that have made me happy recently:

1) photo editing
2) Sims (3 and 4)
3) getting back into my travelers notebooks
4) historical romance with adventure and pageantry
5) contemporary YA that makes my heart ache

To use a phrase one will hear often in my workshop, what do these things all have in common? Either with each other or as a whole. Anybody? Anybody? Beuller? The list took only a few seconds to come up with, because those things have been very near the surface over the last couple of weeks. It’s been a rough few months IRL, so that means that getting some of the good stuff is even more important, not only for creativity’s sake, but for emotional survival.

I will probably go into more detail on each item above, but for now, I’m going to be more general. I have been watching a lot of photo editing videos online, most with a very particular aesthetic. Take a look at the picture above and guess which one. The fact that I have been listening to a lot of The Smiths while I try to see if I can apply what I’ve learned to my own work probably says something.

Erik was born in-game, a while back.

Sims games are eerily similar to writing, and with custom content, I can -hey, like photo editing- make the picture on my screen look more like the picture in my head. Said picture does absolutely have a lot to do with those historical romances and YA novels that play my emotions like YoYo Ma plays the cello, and I can oh so happily spend hours getting a Sim or a house, etc, exactly right. I probably have the save with the above simulated gent in it, saved in the cloud, and if not, I have his parents; they always make gorgeous offspring.

is the return of Big Pink imminent?

Though I believe I have found planner peace with my current planner, I still very much miss Big Pink, and Li’l Pink, my travelers’ notebooks, so that probably means it’s time to get back to them. I don’t want to duplicate my7 calendar, but that only means that the next logical step is to make them something else. That, I can do. Not sure what, but I will start with my old faithful Moleskine cahiers, rather than the standard size pictured above.

That’s pretty much the gist of the workshop. Find what you love, and find a way to make it uniquely one’s own. No two combinations are ever going to be the same I find that exciting.

see you soon!

Typing With Wet Paws: Back in the ALB Edition

Tails up, Storm Troopers! Aunt Anna, Uncle Rheuben, Aunt Linda and I are back in our home state. Still vagabonding but this does mean Aunt Anna has access to internet once more. She is taking care of a few adulting and writing things, so she asked me to pop in and drop a few updates. Cool? Cool.

Okay. First of all, it’s February, the month where even people who don’t normally read romance novels at least think about them from time to time. For romance writers and readers like Aunt Anna, that’s more like all the time. Even though there might be some silly think pieces out there, kick litter over them and embrace all the new romance readers this fun month will bring.

While Aunt Anna was at Chez Grandmere, she did not have internet, but that did give her more reading time, which put her way ahead on her Goodreads challenge. Nine books ahead of schedule, to be exact. I think that is a personal best. I will have to take some of that credit, for sure, because I am an awesome reading buddy. I am soft and warm and I have a motor purr. Also, I make amazing biscuits, if you know what I mean. So far, Aunt Anna has read 18 out of 90 books, which puts her at 20% of the way to her goal in only month two. Go, Aunt Anna! Check that out here:

About the writing part of this retreat, that went pretty well, too. Aunt Anna had a working lunch with Aunt Melva, where they talked about getting Drama King all the way to the end (it’s not far) and moving on to Queen of Hearts, as well as starting something new. Aunt Anna also showed Aunt Melva her plans for the gazebo story (the plotting chart seems to be working well so far) and Aunt Melva zoomed right in on one thing Aunt Anna hadn’t picked up on but made the story even more interesting.

Aunt Anna did a lot of longhand writing, so there is a lot of transcription ahead. I will help by reminding her when it is time for a treat break. I’m dedicated like that. I’ll let her update you on how she uses the form later. This is just a quick pounce of a post, but it’s good to be back.


Typing With Wet Paws: Special Tuesday Edition

Hi, Storm Troopers! Are you surprised to see me on a Tuesday? Wild, huh? I know, but it’s one of those weeks. Aunt Anna and the other humans will be off the grid for a couple of days, as we are off on another trip to Aunt Linda’s family home, so Aunt Anna asked me to fill in today, to cover yesterday and tomorrow’s post. I told her no problem. That’s why I’m here, right? Well, that and to spread magical fibers of love and joy.

Anyway, about what’s going on over here. Aunt Anna is having kind of an existential planner crisis, or, depending on the perspective, (let’s reframe!) a chance to try some new things and get even more creative. She wouldn’t let me take any pictures of her planners in progress, but trust me, there is stuff going on. Some of that will be going on while we are on adventure at Chez Grandmere (the mother of your aunt is your grandmother, right? I think that’s how it works. I am not sure about human family terms.) Aunt Anna is also planning on doing a lot of writing in longhand there, because Chez Grandmere does not, unfortunately, have interwebs. Maybe not so unfortunately if that means more writing time.

Aunt Anna has already started trying out a new to her plotting technique that she learned from a Heart Breathings tutorial. If this works, that will go a long way to solving the problem of what to do with a bunch of outdated Happy Planner pages. She has set up her spread for a story to be determined, and will give that a go during out adventure. Watch this space for the results. Normally, she doesn’t go in for charts and stuff, but when it’s time to get back on the horse (nobody told me there was a horse) trying new things is always a good idea.

This is also a good time to go through some stuff that the aunts and uncle have stored at Chez Grandmere, which may provide some interesting results. I find that rather exciting. I also find the place called “basement” very very very exciting, but I am not allowed to go down there. No idea why. Other cats used to go down there. Maybe they left some food or toys. How can I leave that unexplored? Humans. Hmph.

Huh. This doesn’t seem like a lot of news for a “special” blog, but that’s okay. Can’t all be rock stars, am I right? Except for beautiful calico girls. We are all automatically rock stars. I like to sing the song of my people at special midnight performances, and you should see the choreography that goes along with it. Truly a work of genius. We’ll be back on Friday, Saturday at the latest, and there will be better updates then. Rest assured that I will be in full mews mode, providing inspiration and encouragement.

Okay, wait. I remember. I was supposed to list some of the planner and notebook things that Aunt Anna is going to revamp over the next few weeks. Let’s see if I can find some pictures to go with them.

Granted, these are not all of them, nor does Aunt Anna expect to be able to keep all of them running for unique purposes (or the same one; boy, would that be repetitive) at the same time, and she is beginning to come around to the idea that it’s okay to move the same guts to different covers as the mood strikes. Also that there are plusses and minuses to the different sizes and formats she likes, including but not limited to:

  • discbound (Happy Planner, etc) in micro, mini, classic or big sizes
  • Traveler’s notebooks (strings) in pocket, personal, and standard sizes
  • Six ring binders in personal or A5 size
  • Three ring binders in full or half letter size
  • traditional hard or softcover notebooks, sewn, perfect, or wirebound

So yeah, that’s kind of a lot, and it does relate to writing, because that’s what she likes to do in them, so she is figuring out what format her exploration of these should take. Blogging? Vlogging? If you have a preference, leave a comment and I will make sure she gets it.


Typing With Wet Paws: Family Weekend Edition

Hi, Storm Troopers! Twice in one week. I could get used to this. I’m going to be quick this week because our weekend is full of family stuff. Don’t worry, it’s good. Aunt Anna has her local RWA chapter meeting on Saturday. It will be an important meeting, with some serious stuff and some fun stuff, too. Aunt Anna loves that the membership is varied, that there really is a love story for everybody.

Talking about love stories is a pretty good segue, because that’s basically what Aunt Anna does. Buried Under Romance is sorting out a few things, moving to a new host, and getting ready to unleash some fun new stuff including but not limited to getting to know the staff and what kinds of romance novels they like and recommend. Aunt Anna is also looking for other romance authors who would like to be interviewed for the blog. because talking to writers is one of her very favorite things, especially if it pertains to the writing of romance. Also cats. Lots of writers have cats.

On to the business of Aunt Anna’s Goodreads challenge for 2020. Right now, she is two books ahead of schedule, with five books read out of ninety. This is partly due to the trick that she learned from Miss Lisa at Buried Under Romance, about making any book into an audiobook if she reads on her Kindle app, but I do have to include a cat-viat on this one. Sometimes, Aunt Anna finds the computer voice reading to her so relaxing that she falls asleep. When that happens, I curl up next to her head and purr. I think that helps. Maybe not her, but it helps something. Mostly me.

Really tiny notebook, perfect for feline use

Other than reading and writing, Aunt Anna is usually planning, and one of the things that she did this past week was to use something she has had for a very long time, but had not used for almost that long. That is the stamp that you can see above in the really tiny notebook. This reminds Aunt Anna that her goal is to remain true to her own voice and write the storts of stories she most wants to read, and leave all that marketing stuff ifor later. She is still figuring out what this tiny notebook is for, but right now it is pretty good for keeping the most important tasks for the day. I still think it is more cat sized than human sized.

Anyway, that is about it for right now. I need to herd Aunt Anna to bed because it will be an early morning and a big weekend. Stay tuned, Storm Troopers, because more news is coming.


Only one month now until I present my workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys, at Capitol Region Romance Writers. If you’ve heard me talk, before, about From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction or On Beyond Fanfic, the cores of the workshops are the same. The execution, though, is constantly evolving. I love that.

This morning, I opened the file for the workshop, to nab my bio and a blurb to send to CR-RWA’s esteemed webmistress, and next thing I knew, it was a couple of hours later, and I had accidentally edited some of the chapters, and slid, when I wasn’t looking, into “could I make this into an ebook?” mode. I think I probably could, possibly with a PDF version of t he exercises. This is partly for the workshop’s participants, and partly for my own use. Probably my own use first. After that, then we’ll see. Could be a cool Patreon perk, could be an indiepub, could be a couple of other things. That’s not what’s important right now.

Right now, what’s important is the accepting and embracing of what I love, and seeing how I can take what inspires me and make it my own. There are some tropes I am always going to jump on like a starving hyena with an unattended hot dog stand. Heroines disguised as male, especially if there are seafaring adventures to be had, yep, I’ll take that. second chance at love with the same couple, especially if there has been a decent length of their intermission. Mention of Bedlam Asylum or Newgate Prison. Tudor, Stuart, Commonwealth, early Georgian, skip up to the Belle Epoque/Gilded Age era, I am in my happy place. One or both lovers with a creative talent or profession will guarantee a second look on my part, and those are all things I either have or would love to include in my own writing. Angst. I love angst. Give me all the angst, as long as there is an HEA at the end of it all.

Grit in my settings, I want that, too. Also in the people. Life isn’t easy, and a love story where the hero and heroine have to fight more than their feelings, that adds a whole other dimension for me. That’s one of the reasons I’m keeping track these days of my media habits, of specific traits of the books, TV, podcasts,. etc, I consume, of what I love and why I love it. Will that be ready to share in some form by the time of the workshop? I am not sure, but I think it could be fun.

There is a quick and dirty version of this in the workshop in its current incarnation, so the idea is not totally unrepresented. Thing is, I’m feeling the itch. I want to know why it is that I’m bingeing the Council of Geeks podcast reviewing Cowboy Bebop. I have not (yet) seen the anime, so I have no idea what the host is talking about, but I fell in love with his analyzing style on the Council of Geeks YouTube channel. Do not ask me how I found the channel, since it largely talks about fandoms of which I am not a part, but I feel welcome, and that goes a long way. It’s the excitement and unabashed delight in a story, yet still able to discuss what could have been better yet, or what could have been different.

I want to do that for the romances I write, make them accessible both for those who already love the genre and those who may be new to it, or even merely curious. Fans of SF/F franchises have an enthusiasm I would love to harness that enthusiasm and do some high powered cheerleading for all the things I love most about romance. Maybe that starts with my own stuff.

Typing With Wet Paws: Weekend in New England Edition

Hi, Storm Troopers! Your eyes do not deceive you. It’s me, Storm, coming at you on a Monday. That’s because Aunt Anna and Aunt Linda took me on an adventure for the weekend, to Aunt Linda’s mom’s house, the same place where we spent Christmas. We got to see Uncle Bob and Cousin Kristen again, and this time, I got to explore the kitchen and living room. So. many. Smells. I even found the kitchen window that was a favorite sunbeam spot for many cats who came before me. I cannot tell you the importance of that kind of tradition. That was also the traditional place of food bowls, but mine were still in the bedroom I shared with Aunt Anna. Go figure. Maybe next time. Aunt Linda’s mom has moved to an apartment, so we are helping get the house ready for its next adventure.

Right now, there is no interwebs there, so that is why no updates over the weekend. The humans may be working on that. I am not allowed in the place called “basement” which I hear has really cool stuff in it, like cardboard boxes, shelving units, and the washer and dryer. It is also the place where Michelangelo, a kitty who came long before me, once famously got locked in overnight, and made a BIG MESS until Aunt Anna sprang him and rescued him. It is a historic site. Maybe I will get to see it next time.

Anyway, we are all back in NY now, and Aunt Anna is ready to get back to work. Part of this can be attributed to the benefits of a good digital detox, part of it to a notebook sale, and part of it to feline inspiration. Okay, also wanting to get moving with the writing thing already. I guess that’s a thing.

Please note that the unicorn book is cat-sized

Buried Under Romance was also buried under maintenance (see what I did there?) this weekend, but don’t fear, Aunt Anna will be back there this week with some fun questions for you.

Since we are now in a whole new year, it is time for a new Goodreads challenge. Aunt Anna is already trouncing it this year. She is four books in already, which is not only four percent (is that right? I am still learning math.) but one book ahead of schedule. She is going to the library this afternoon, to pick up some more books, so that number is going up. Right now, all four titles are YA, but one look at her currently reading shelf will show that she is still gobbling the historicals. I will help by sitting on her and doing my loud motor purrs. I think that helps her read faster. I think it helps her write faster, too.

Anyway, that’s what we were doing all weekend, but we are back in business now, so Aunt Anna will probably be writing her own blog on Wednesday. I’m still here if she needs me, though. The only thing on my schedule is a bunch of naps, and my daily midnight Parkour session. Other than that, I am at her service. Furvice? Purrvice? Eh, I’m up for all of it.


Beginner's Mind

A few days ago, Housemate informed me that while she very much likes her mini size planner, the classic size, eh, not so much. Did I want all her classic size stuff? In a word, um, yes.

Housemate’s old planner, aka my new notebook

With only a few pages marked at all, this opened up a huge amount of possibilities. Ever since I’d accepted that the discbound system works really well for me, and that I want to keep one notebook to track my progress on various projects, could this mean that I had that very thing dropped literally in my lap? With a little ingenuity, I’d have a gorgeous notebook with twelve distinct section. The only setup I’d need to do would be to glue paper over the obsolete calendar page on the back of each divider (easy peasy; paper, I’ve got) and change the labels on the tabs from the names of the months to a more descriptive label of what would be in each section. I also have stickers, so this works out well.

“Beginner’s Mind,” in this context, is a synonym for “let’s see what happens.” That ties into the whole wanting to write like I did before I knew any better. Before I even knew that wordcount could apply to anything beyond school essays. Before I had a working grasp of the state of the historical romance market, and the shift from single books to series, almost all the time. Before, certainly, the romance writers’ organization I couldn’t wait to join turned into a tire fire. Before a lot of things.

If I had to pick one passion beyond writing and reading romance, it would be planning, and I have always done better with pen and paper than direct to keyboard, so plopping myself down at a motel room desk, with an old planner, a bunch of paper, and a couple of pens, really does seem like the most natural thing in the world. What could go wrong? Better question, what could go right?

Back in middle school (aka junior high) I had the ide that the only genres open to me were hard science fiction and mystery. Neither of which cranked my motor, though they of course do it for a whole lot of other people, and wonderfully so. If I’d taken that at face value, I’d still be listlessly going through the selection in that school library, wondering what the fluff I was doing this for, but knowing that hunger in my gut wouldn’t go away until I wrote my stories. What made the difference was thinking, what if that assumption isn’t true? Enter historical romance. Oh yes, motor most definitely cranked.

Now, this master notebook (mistress notebook?) has a section for viable future projects. There’s the Regency I tried to write, that I still love, but need to repot into an era that I also love. There’s the blacksmith’s daughter who becomes a duchess, by way of a stage career. There’s two historical romance that are mine once again, since their first publisher retired. There’s the postapocalyptic medieval that I absolutely love, and got really, really good rejections on, that editors/agents loved but couldn’t sell, so didn’t buy. Well, okay, what if…what if I did it myself?

I don’t have to please or appeal to or attract every reader. Nobody can do that. But get the attention of my readers? That, I can probably do. That’s why I’m launching my Patreon in 2020. It’s also why I am excited to undertake an Abundance Self-Assessment. This is not a sponsored post. I met Eryka Peskin at a local RWA chapter meeting, and we clicked instantly. Lucky me, she is an abundance coach (and writer, among other things) and her workshops are a big part of how I learned beginner’s mind means more possibilities.

How much do I know about starting a Patreon? Not a lot. About the same as I know about self publishing commercial fiction, more or less, but everybody has to start somewhere. Let’s find out together, shall we?

Plan as We Go January

Hey. Hi. Hello there. Here we are in the second week of January, first full week, and for those of us who are into the whole planning thing, this is the big show. This is where the rubber meets the road, or rubber cement meets the paper. At the very least, where the pen meets the paper. While some aspects of planning tick all the tried and true boxes, this year, there is also some uncharted territory.

Last year, I waffled between ring binders and traveler’s notebooks (rings vs strings, the eternal struggle) and was admittedly snobby about discbound systems, including but not limited to Happy Planner. This year? I am actively designing my own discbound planner. Probably printables at first, because manufacturing these things is far outside my pay grade at the moment, but the fact that I am researching tools and costs and components, that’s a very new thing.

That kind of makes sense, because this year is full of a lot of new things, so doing new things the old way is probably not the wisest approach. I have one notebook for current projects that are active: my contemporary romances with Melva Michaelian, my historical romances on my own, and the uncharted (for me) wilds of starting a Patreon. How much time do I have, how can I best spend it, and what has the chance of being a decent return? Since my chosen field is that of commercial fiction, there is a real chance that the right answer is “ahaha, none of it,” but it could also be “never try, never know,” and that’s the view I naturally take.

2019 was, in many ways, a dumpster fire. That’s in the past. 2020 is only six days in, and the better I plan, and carry out those plans, the better I feel. It’s not so much finding a system that works for me so much as creating it as I go. That means paying attention wo what comes naturally versus giving myself headaches trying to shove myself into some sort of box that I think I’m supposed to do. Beginner’s mind is essential in endeavors like this.

What seems to be working best for me when I start a new notebook or planner, is to carry the thing around, empty, for a few days, and then take note of what I wish it had inside it. Using a system that I have never used before, aka discbound, fits well with that mindset, at least for me. I love that the pages aren’t stuck in place, and if I want to move something to a different section, or a different book, I can do that, no problem.

Yesterday, Housemate came to the conclusion that she is a mini size Happy Planner person, and gave me her classic size planner from last year, mostly unused, and the classic size Happy Notes (same system, notebook paper instead of planner paper.) I sat there, looking at them for a minute, with a little bit of a Christmas Morning feeling (what planner geek doesn’t want this sort of thing dropped in their lap?) before I started to think about possibilities.

What was I going to do with a notebook that has twelve sections? Well, take the old planner pages out, obviously (and set them aside because there is this cool tutorial by Sarra Canon) and then stare at the empty tabs and think about what I want to have in there. At the moment, I’m thinking it could be a catchall for future projects that are still in the idea stage, where I can put notes, pictures, etc, as they come to me, and then they’ll be there when it’s time to actually start the writing.

That’s the thing that’s newest about how I want to approach writing this year. It’s time to Get Stuff Done, push past the Hypercritical Gremlins as best I can and remember what it felt like to throw the movies in my head onto the page, without paying attention to what could go wrong. That’s still kind of scary, but it’s scarier to think of never getting the stories and characters who are as real to me as people I can see and hear and touch, and introducing them to readers.

Since I do well with this kind of structure, my plan (hah) is to focus on one slot per month to give a closer look into what I’m doing, planning/notebook-wise. Some of that may end up on Patreon, and we’ll figure out what works, together. One area I’m keeping in focus for this early stage is to record the ideas that I’ve been carrying around for a while, that I would like to see all the way through. Something tells me I may surprise myself along the way.

How about you? What systems do you use for reading or writing? Pull up a chair in the comments, and share.