On the Stepping Up of Game

Summer has definitely settled upon New York’s Capitol Region, and I’m feeling it. Not my favorite time of year, by any means. There are now two fans in my office: the big ceiling fan, and the small fan I repurposed from another room, and that makes a world of difference. In protest, my office chair has added “amusement park ride” to its job description, as I have somehow unlocked the mechanism that keeps the seat at its optimum level, and am now prone to sudden drops in altitude at unexpected moments. For this one, I am calling in reinforcements, aka Housemate and/or Real Life Romance Hero, who are better at figuring out mechanical things than I am.

This week, I am not slumped in front of a box fan, in full slug mode, because I would honestly rather be writing. Monday was not a marathon, and half of the pages I brought to critique session with N were printed on pink paper instead of white, my reminder that these are notes/outline only,  not what is going in the actual chapter. I will admit to some part of my brain making grabby hands at those pages and vowing I could fix them in only a couple more hours. Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Nice try, brain. I filed the pink pages under “good enough” and actually slept.

There are words a writer doesn’t want to hear in a critique session. Pointing and laughing (unless the pages submitted are comedy, then, in that case, pointing and laughing would be the desired outcome) do not count as words. “It’s okay,” however, do count as words. “It’s okay” is obviously better than “this is utter dreck, and you should give up writing,” but they still aren’t the best case scenario. They are, however, a starting place, and the right critique partner can do a lot with them, as in point the writer in the right direction. More over here, this part was the writer talking to themselves, move this thing where the other thing was, and go deeper in to Character X’s reaction to Character Y, instead of giving readers only a taste. Give Character X some sympathy to Character Y, because they are going to want to lock lips with them in a few pages, and right now, they sound like they don’t like the other person much.

Okay, that gives me some direction. Later today, I will plop my overheated self next to the box fan next to my comfy chair, not in slug mode, but with Big Daddy Precious notebook open in my lap, green Marvy Le Pen pen in hand (because it was the favorite pen of the writer who got me into historical romance in the first place) and, quite possibly, some DVR’d TV shows playing, if I don’t have my earbuds in and my playlist for Her Last First Kiss. I will kind of sort of halfway background watch the show, but my actual brain will be back in 1784, and the story will find its way from brain to page. I’ll transcribe later, fit it in with what I already have, or substitute, if this goes in a different direction. Second drafting can get into uncharted territory on occasion, and this is one of those occasions. Which is fine.

At the same time, I have a voracious appetite for planning and organizing. What other habits can I track? How can I use my planner/my office/my time more efficiently? How can I make my planner spreads prettier? How many new art techniques can I cram into my brain, because, right now, my brain is hungry for this kind of stuff. Famished, the same way it’s been sorting my TBR pile in order of how much I want to read certain types of books. Give me more of this, a grace note of that, pile all of that other thing on the plate, as high as it will go, because this hungry brain needs it.

I am taking this as a good sign, this overall desire to step up my personal game, and follow that hunger. The more I take in, the more I want to put out. This probably falls under my mother’s “the more you do, the more you’ll want to do” maxim, and she would probably not tell me she told me so, but she’d think it, and that would be okay. Right now, I’m not looking at the big picture. Not thinking about where this book is going to go when this draft is done, not thinking about marketing or future books or anything other than this scene, this chapter, applying the notes I got on my good-enough pages, after a decent night’s sleep, and, after that, we look at what work needs to be done on the next section.  Summer is still out there, but it’s not my main focus.

Instead, the focus is on my current assignment. Everything else can go grab a popsicle and a paperback and wait its turn, because that turn will come. Right now, I have two people and one moment of vulnerability that requires my full attention, so that’s where it’s going to go.

Sprints vs. Marathons

It’s Monday once again, but not, this time, a marathon. Nope, done with those, after last week’s events, so if I’m not doing that, then that means I have to do something else. Easy logic. Thankfully, the weather forecast has flipped from its previous brutal high eighties all the time forecast, to a more moderate lower to mid eighties deal. That, I can handle more easily. I’m stocked with sports drinks as well as water, planning smaller, more frequent, lighter meals, there’s a second fan in my office, aimed at my feet, and a new ice pack at the base of my spine. Quite comfy, really, which means there’s only one thing I need to get the second draft of this chapter done, which would be…the first draft of this chapter.

There is one, I should mention, but it’s short, and, now that I know more about Ruby, her Hero, and their story, these scenes are going to require something more. I don’t mind that; it means that the story is real and alive, and it’s going places. That’s all good stuff.  What is not so good is the old  “oh crap, what am I doing, I was supposed to work this all out over the weekend and now it’s Monday” feeling. Which would normally turn into “welp, guess it’s an uber-marathon in that case. Put the previous versio aside, start from scratch, keep pushpushpushpushing no matter what, even if it takes all night.” Which, after last week, no. Not doing that.

Which means new approach needed. Long term solution, better time management, enforcing boundaries, and keeping track of what environmental factors are in place on especially successful/productive days. Looking back at the time, a few weeks ago, when I shot far past my page count, the habit that sticks out to me most is that I took short, frequent breaks. So, this time, sprints instead of a marathon. Marathons are necessary sometimes, and there are days when I don’t want to stop and would happily chug on long into the night, and into the wee hours, but that’s the difference, and it’s an important one.

This past week, I got current on season two of Poldark, and I have a lot of feelings about that. Mostly, impatience, because I want season three to begin now, thankyouverymuch, but also anger at Ross, and the very firm decision that, if things come to that (no spoilers, please) I am firmly on Team Demelza about the thing Ross did at the end of Season Two. There will always be a part of me that will forever blink at the screen in disbelief. but A) Poldark is not a romance novel, B) the story isn’t over yet, and C) while I hated what happened, I loved being surprised.

Though I’m currently reading a YA that has my attention, Poldark gave me a thirst for historical romance with the same flavor. That sort of story that could not possibly take place in any other place or time, or with any other people. It’s not comfortable, and bad things most assuredly do happen to good people, but that’s what makes it interesting. Doesn’t hurt that the story takes place in the same era as Her Last First Kiss, so, in a way, it was pretty darned close to a trip back into HLFK world. I love to drink in the use of light, the subtle differences in clothing, not only between classes, but the more traditional styles and those more fashion-forward. The social interactions, how characters behave differently among their intimates from how they behave to newly met acquaintances, the modes of transportation, the way they use their leisure time, family celebrations both big and small.  That’s what I want to see in a historical romance, both those I read, and those I write.

Which brings me around to the sprints vs. marathons thing.  Rather than have a “must get at least x amount of pages ready,” focus on this scene. Take the time to feel the temperature, not in my room, but the room (or outdoor location) where my characters experience their “now.”  What can they see, hear, smell, feel, taste? How do they move through the space? I connect best when I write longhand, so this translates well to the non=marathon way of tackling a bigger section at once; break it down into smaller bites. Write longhand, away from the desk, break, transcribe and tweak, break, next bit, bit after that, and so on.

Is this going to be a foolproof technique that will work forever and ever and ever? I have no idea, but I don’t expect every book or every day to be exactly the same, so I expect variations. I expect interruptions. I expect some therapeutic housework, to sort out whatever it is on the back burner of my brain, and know that these things have a way of working themselves out. I know where my characters are going, and I know where they came from, and, since we’ve been through the initial draft with each other already, we’re going to figure out this slight detour. Not because pages are due for critique meeting, but because it’s fun.

The writer of commercial fiction, by and large, are in a funny place. We know what readers of our genres want from a story, we know what we, personally want to read in such a story, so writing the story we want to read should be a blast (and often, it is) but then the market has its requirements, and there are production schedules, and and and…. Which is why there are headphones and playlists, and a list of rewards I get for completing, not onebigmonsterthatMUSTBEFINISHED by a certain time ORIANDTHEBOOKWILLBOTHBEDOOMED, but a collection of shorter bursts. In eighteenth century terms, a turn around the garden. (Spoiler: nobody takes any turns around any gardens in this book. Maybe next time.)

Right now, I can cross “blog entry” off my list, and then I get to noodle with my art journal for a few minutes, then take one of those turns about the garden. If that means I end up taking something rougher than I like to critique meeting, that’s fine. Still counts. The same amount of ground gets covered either way.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: On Top of The Milk Crate Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This has been an interesting week in our home, but then again, I think every week is interesting. Either I really do have an interesting family, or I am very easily impressed. I am not sure which, maybe both. Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, though, I have to talk about where you can read Anty’s writing on the interwebs, besides here, so let’s get to that.

First, as always, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about the importance of friendship in romance fiction. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURfriends

Please pardon the awkward cropping. These things are hard when one has special paws.

 

This brings us to Anty’s Goodreads activity. Anty will tell you more about her reading habits in the video below, but I am happy to report that her reading challenge progress now looks like this:

GR4690

Anty is now 51% of the way through her goal of 90 books read in 2017, and she is now only one book behind schedule. Considering that this is the weekend, I have every faith that she can not only get back on track, but maybe even pull ahead. That would be very exciting. This week, the books she read were these:

 

Click on the links below each picture, to read Anty’s reviews of these books. In case you are counting, that is one historical romance this week, and one contemporary inspirational category romance. I should point out that, even though “category,” has the word, “cat,” in it, there are no cats in this book. I may have to have Anty talk to Miss Jean about that, because they are in the same RWA chapter. Can a book without cats truly be all that inspiring? Maybe there are cats in other books by this author.  I will give Miss Jean the benefit of the doubt. She does have a lot of books, so odds are that there should be a cat in one of them. I suppose we will see.

This week, Anty had a surprise during her Monday marathon session for her work on Her Last First Kiss. The actual second-drafting went pretty well, but Anty learned an important lesson about how to get through hot, muggy days and nights. She found out, the hard way, that it is indeed possible to drink too much water at one time, because it makes humans sick, which does not help with the writing process. I think this may have something to do with her drinking water out of a travel mug and not out of a bowl. I have never had too much water at one time, and I always drink out of a bowl. Just putting it out there.

Needless to say, this has given Anty serious thoughts about how she can best avoid the need for these Monday marathons. The obvious answer is to do more of the work over the course of the week, so she does not have to cram it all into one day. That makes a lot more sense, and it also involves her keeping better track of how she uses her time. Anty believes that we can always find the time to do what matters most, and in her case, that is writing. I suspect this may affect my routine somewhat, but I am willing to take one for the team if it makes for a happier Anty, and as long as it does not affect my treat schedule. Anty and Uncle know that I always know when it is twelve noon and ten at night. I find time for what is most important to me, too.

Today is cool, gray and rainy, (well, rainy off and on. Right now, birds are chirping.) which is Anty’s favorite summer weather, which generally means good things for her writing. That may not always show on the writing tracker, because, well, Anty does not like this particular writing tracker. I will let her tell you about that, and how her writing has gone this week:

Thank you, Anty. That was very interesting. I will not tell the people how many takes it took for you to get that video made, or the backup video you made on your phone, but I will keep it safe, in case of emergencies, like me needing more treats. What I will tell them is that Mama had a very good suggestion, that Anty should prop her laptop on top of a milk crate, instead of the makeup case and all of those books. As it happens, Uncle gave Anty a fancy wire milk crate for Christmas (it did not have milk in it, unfortunately, but it did have other things. Uncle is not a monster.) and, while she is still figuring out what she wants to do with it for real, it works very well as a booster for the laptop. She still has to use the binder to correct the angle for the screen, but this is a lot easier than the other way, so there may be more videos.

I should note that Anty has not been getting out of the house as much as she would like, and so she  may be going a little loopy with the whole needing people thing. Having an extroverted writer does present some challenges for even the most dedicated of mews, but the internet is a big help.

That is about it for now, so, until next week, I remain very truly yours,

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

 

 

 

On Getting There

Today is Wednesday, almost the middle of July, and so muggy that I think I saw air fish in the kitchen. Real Life Romance Hero took an umbrella with him when he left for work, as we might have rain later on in the day, but then again, maybe not. Weather forecasts are funny that way.  Monday night’s marathon session did turn out a full second draft chapter of Her Last First Kiss, but also cemented the fact that marathon sessions like that are not good for body, mind, or spirit. Which means spreading the love, er drafting, in a more equitable manner, around the same seven days everybody gets in a given week.

On the one hand, this is a smart decision, and it does mean I get to hunker down with calendar and planner and pretty colored pens, to figure out a better way to get from where I am, which is in the middle of two second drafts, to where I want to be, which is two completed second drafts, and, beyond that, two more books out there in the world. On the other hand, I want to be there already. What the heck is wrong with me? Other people are there already. Friend X has a new book, Friend Y has a new book, Favorite Author A has a new book, Favorite Author B has a new series, and me? Still getting there.

Getting back there, really. Sometimes, that feels like more of a climb than starting from scratch. Either way, it’s the same thing. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, or pen on paper. Keep mind on the story, figure out what works and does not work, do the stuff that works, do not do the stuff that does not work, and if Hypercritical Gremlins start mouthing off (mine have been relatively silent of late) do what’s needed to shush them, and keep on going. One page a day is a book in a year. Bare minimum, do that, and this time, next year, look what happened.

Yes, there is pressure. Some from outside the writer, some from inside the writer, but, news flash, everybody has that. Do the superstars have pressure? Yes, they do. That’s not going to go away. Do they have families? Yes, most of them do. If we expand to include families-of-choice, then all of them do.  All of us do, whether this is a writer’s first book, or their hundredth (or beyond) and we all get there the same way. Get up. Write stuff. Go all the way to the end. Get feedback. Make it better. Put it where other people can see it, whether that means traditional or indie publishing, or a combination of both.

If I could have picked any time to have a successful career writing historical romance, I would pick the mid-1970s, when the genre was the new kid on the block, stories were sweeping, and excitement was high. Romance authors appeared on talk shows, and there was an image involved in the whole thing. Underneath that? Same thing we have now, for the most part. Those writers had to write the books before they could promote them, before readers could devour them and name kids and/or pets after the characters. Seeing as how I spent that actual period of time in elementary school, and have not yet mastered the art of time travel (shoot, even my time travel manuscript is locked away where it can’t hurt anybody) that’s probably not going to happen.

Been a few changes in the industry since then, not to mention my own life, and yet the same desire to tell these stories and share them with readers hasn’t gone away. If it hasn’t left by this time, it’s not going, so we are going to have to find some way to live with each other, day by day. Would I like to say I’ve found the perfect way to allocate my time and connect with each story and keep the confidence meter at least over the halfway mark? Yes. Am I going to actually say I’m there right now? No, because I don’t want to lie. Some days are harder than others. Some days are easier. It’s a balance. No matter what kind of day it is, though, I can put my butt in the chair. If there’s an ice pack behind said butt, or an afghan atop…okay, not the actual butt, but you know where I’m going with this…that’s okay. The butt is not what does the actual writing.

This feels like a defensive post, and maybe it is. That’s okay. What I want to do with this blog is show the whole journey, and these days are part of it. Yesterday, at critique meeting, N and I discussed how we’re going to handle looking over each other’s manuscripts when we’re done with our respective drafts (first for her, second for me) and that brought up the question of what’s next.

When she asked me, I said I didn’t know. After Chasing Prince Charming, comes Drama King. Melva and I already have dipped toes in the water on that, and we’ll be raring to go as soon as we put this second draft to bed. Pun unintended, but it can stay.  After Her Last First Kiss? I don’t know. N asked if maybe I could write another book about Ruby and her Hero, but this is a romance, so the romance would have to be the center of the book, and they’re going to be happy at the end of this one. If I were writing their story back in the 1970s, it wouldn’t be that unheard of to make them unhappy, drag them through more trials, and make them happy again at the end of that book. What I told N was, “probably something else.” Some of those stories on hold may bubble to the surface, or I might catch a spark of something new.

Right now, I’m not thinking about that. Somewhere, off in the back of my mind is the fact that, right now, linked books are where the money is, so that might be a general direction, but that’s for later. Right now, I have these two books that need me, and that’s good enough for now.

Another Monday Marathon

So it’s Monday again, and critique meeting is Tuesday. The weekend was a good one, filled with friends and family, but, alas, no writing time, so that means we are, once again, staring down the barrel of another Monday Marathon, in which our intrepid author crams several days’ worth of second-drafting into one day. This will usually result in crankiness on Tuesday, somewhat counteracted by the benefits of a mutually satisfactory critique meeting, which will also fill said author with even more enthusiasm for the next chapter’s work. Normally, I like to tackle these marathon days right from the early morning, but this was also a critical laundry day, so the plan looks like this:

  • Do laundry 
  • write blog entry
  • lunch
  • work on actual book

I already have one item crossed off that list, and the blog entry is, as of this writing, currently underway. I can blabber for a minimum of 700 words, easy. Lunch, that’s easy, too. The kitchen is a mere few feet from where I’m currently seated. Granted, I will have to get past the extremely patient kitty (hello, Skye) waiting for me to feed her first, but after that, I can have lunch put together in a matter of minutes, and consumed in short order. Optional break to debate whether I should risk taking a break to read or view an episode of Poldark (spoiler alert: I know myself; Poldark will have to wait) and then into the trenches.

The original plan was to have spread the prep out over the weekend. but that’s not what happened, and so I’m facing down another marathon day. Not intimidated by that; it’s become the norm by now. Maybe not the healthiest thing, but it’s what I’ve got, and I do like the focus on Ruby and her hero and what they’re up to this time. Last week, N gave me a project folder like the one she uses to keep her current ms with notes from our sessions, with a chart where she can track what scenes she brought to what session, and on what date. Let us recap: there is an office supply that has a tracking system built into it. I am going to want to have some time with this wonder, especially because the printouts have long exceeded the slender pink folio in which I used to carry them to our meetings (prior to my finding the glittery pink folio I now use for that purpose.) That’s for tomorrow, though.

Today is for diving into that first draft, reading what I already have, and noting what needs going over, smoothing out, reimagining, moving around, all that good stuff. I love that stuff. Love it more, even, than some of the first drafting, because, this time, I actually know what I’m doing. I know where the story is going to end, and how, and who’s still standing, and where, and all I have to do now is make it look pretty/make sense/flow together, etc. Sometimes, this involves doing a quick bit of research to estimate what X would cost in 2017 US dollars, then transpose that into 1784 Russian rubles, then into British pounds for the same year. The results of said research may result, not only in a ballpark figure that will work for the purposes of the story (writing historical romance does not normally involve this much math, but there are exceptions) but a mental sticky note on what the numbers have to say about the contrast between the economies of the two countries. I am not writing a book about Anglo-Russian economic parity, but it is nice to know that the reason I had to look into the matter does bear out what my imaginary friends have to deal with on this one.

Today, my Spotify “discover” playlist (I like starting Mondays off with a chance to find new music) is overflowing with wedding songs. While it is entirely possible that Spotify has figured out I am a romance writer, I am not at that part of the book yet, so dial those songs back a while. Few more chapters to go before we can think about weddings. For today, I am focusing on the chapter in front of me, which will probably be my lunchtime reading, and then it’s on, baby. I’ll probably start out poking things with a metaphorical stick, while I circle the extant chapter, eyes narrowed. It’s probably sizing me up, as well, so I need to be alert.  Never can tell when it’s going to spring some forgotten bit of dialogue at me, or that thing I was going to look up but never did (:points to above Anglo-Russian currency question:) or, trickiest of all, one of those moments where something entirely new stands up, waves its arms and whistles at me, because of course that’s what should have been there all along, and we have got some work to do to make that fit in with the rest of the chapter, the one before it, and the one that comes after.

I’m not complaining. This kind of thing comes with the territory. I would far rather do the feint and parry with a first draft, and segue into an Errol-Flynn-Robin-Hood swordfight that spans banquet tables, staircases and parapets, until we both collapse in utter exhaustion in the wee small hours. Then it’s time to print said pages, while the rest of the house sleeps, slam down some caffeine, and head off through the park to swap pages with N and put the first pair of eyes-not-the-author’s on said pages. Two hours and change of that, and it’s time to head back home, ostensibly to grab a nap before diving back into the fray once more, but there’s momentum in this kind of thing, and, at the very least, I can read through the chapter that follows this one. Once I’m in 1784 for that big a chunk of time, I kind of want to stay there.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Cheaty Cheaty Cheat Cheat Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I have mostly recovered from the Festival of Explosives (the humans call it Fourth of July) but I do not know if I can say the same things about the humans. Having a weekend, then a Monday, then a holiday, then Wednesday acting like a Monday, followed by Thursday where Tuesday usually goes, has Anty off balance. Some might argue she is already off balance, but I mean more than usual. I will talk more about that in a minute, but first I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week, apart from here. I will give you a hint: it is an unusual week when I get right to that stuff in the first paragraph, but more on that kind of thing later.

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, and this time, she talked about how romance novels can be fluffy or gritty or any point in between. This is not, to my disappointment, about the amount of cats found in books. I think she should write about that, one of these days. This is not that. This is about the tone of books. That post can be found here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURwhynothaveboth

Warning: does not contain actual fluff. 

Since this is the start of a whole new month, it is time to check in and see how Anty is doing on the historical romance challenge. Let’s have a look at that, shall we?

GR070717

We are burning daylight here, if we want to get this blog up before Anty has to go out of the house again, so I will not search for the historical romance challenge graphic. Cat’s prerogative.  So far, in 2017, Anty has read almost 44 books (she is within 25 pages of finishing her current read, so I will give it to her) and 21 of those have been historical romance. 22 and 1/3, if we add in historical fiction with romantic elements. I am feeling generous today, because Uncle is home today and that makes me happy. So, basically, 50% of Anty’s reading this year has been historical romance, which is the goal, so well done, Anty. Keep at it. She is still three books behind schedule, soon to be two, because, again, fewer than 25 pages to the end of the book counts. This is acceptable. Toss in a couple of novellas or graphic novels, and boom, back on track. Make it happen.

Here are the books Anty read this past week. Click on the link below the pictures if you want to learn more about them.

 

The book Anty will be finished reading in literally minutes after this entry is posted is Ripe For Seduction, by Isobel Carr.  It is a historical romance, set in Georgian England, which is very relevant to Anty’s interests, and it looks like all the heroes are second, or at least younger, sons, which is also relevant to Anty’s interests, because Hero in Her Last First Kiss is himself a second son, in Georgian England. Anty thought this was the second book in the series, when she got it out of the library, and figured she would be fine, because she had already read the first book, but then she went on Goodreads to add it, and found out she was wrong. It is really the third, and now she has to go get the second, because reading out of order bothers her. As Uncle says, that really frosts her cookies.

Anty has been doing a lot of writing on both Her Last First Kiss and Chasing Prince Charming, so she does need to refill her well at the end of the day. This blog entry is coming later than usual, because Anty had a Skype meeting with Anty Melva, to talk about Chasing Prince Charming, and then had lunch with Anty SueAnn, where they talked about writing and blogging, and, thankfully, pets. Funny story, but Anty SueAnn’s doggie, Bailey, and I are on opposite sides of the smooth vs not smooth floor issue. He prefers carpets to tile/wood/linoleum, whereas I am the exact opposite. Must be a dog thing. I will not pretend I understand, but I accept that is the way he feels.

To be able to talk with Anty Melva, Anty had to do a bit of fancy footwork, to raise her laptop to the right level for video chat. Anty’s laptop works fine, but the screen will go black if opened at a 90 degree angle, so here is what Anty had to do:

LaptopTower

Laptop supported by: makeup case, three novels, binder, and reference book under the writing surface.

Anty noticed that this is the same height as her desktop monitor, so she will be looking into getting an external webcam, so she does not have to do that again. That also means that she can get back to making video blogs again, like this one:

If you would like to know when Anty has a new video blog up, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel here. She hopes to get at least one video blog per week, so please stay tuned.  She did make a very short film starring me, this morning, which you can find on her Instagram. If there is anything you would like to ask Anty, that she can answer in a video blog, please let her know in the comments, or send her an email, using the handy form below:

That is about it for this week, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Inside-out Week

Today is my marathon day. On a Wednesday. That basically never happens, but here it is, smushed together with #1linewed on Twitter, for which I have precisely one instance of the word of the week, “loyal,” from which to pull a quote. I made up for the lack of multiple quotes by whingeing. If this were not my marathon day, I would be sorely tempted to dig through files on my old laptop and ancient USB drives to see if I could find any of the notes for the Redcoat romance I noodled with some years ago, because “loyal” (and “loyalist”) would be all over that thing. Today is my marathon day, however, and that means I am going to mainline caffeine and cram a whole week’s worth of work into one day. One of these weeks, I will not have the need for marathon days, but this is not that week.  I am okay with that.

First thing on these marathon days is to get everything that is not related to creating a second draft of these pages out of the way. There. Done. Off my back, unable to whisper in my ear about how I really should answer that email or do that household chore, because they are already done. Once this blog entry is posted and publicized, I get to diver headfirst back into century eighteen, and play with my imaginary friends. Planner and cookie are sure signs that this is going to be Serious Business, and, while the chances that I am going to find my bed in the wee small hours are high, I’m also excited. This is only partially due to the fact that mainlining of caffeine has already begun.

Most of it is because Ruby and her Hero really do feel like friends (though I would like to think I am nicer to my real life friends than the fictional ones) and I actually do like spending time with them. Time away from them makes me edgy. The whole tracking system I’m trying out right now is, at present, a huge belly flop, but I’m going to stay the course and see how it goes for a full three weeks. That’s what experimenting is for, after all. For today, it’s get this entry up, do some longhand freewriting, reread the first draft of this next chapter, and then jump in and make it better.  As my mom used to say, the more I do, the more I’ll want to do.

This holds true even when life doesn’t want to keep to a schedule. This week, we had a weekend, with lots to do, Housemate out of town, a Monday that wasn’t really a Monday, but not really a holiday, either, and an actual holiday. Toss in there a holiday for another country, which is a special day for certain friends, and has a connection to Her Last First Kiss, and it’s no wonder I spent a good deal of that time getting the day of the week wrong. For a marathon day to happen on a Wednesday, when there’s already a blog entry and #1linewednesday, and plans for the evening, makes part of me want to ask Skye to shove over from her hunker spot under the bed (Skye did not like last night’s fireworks, especially since our neighbors were astonishingly well stocked for the holiday. To their credit, they did have a lovely display, but could have stopped a few hours before they actually did call it a night…which was actually early morning.)

Pressure to crank out a bunch of pages in one day is kind of scary, but the scariest part is the anticipation. Once I get in there, I’ll fall into my characters’ heads, and the minutes and hours of 2017 fall away, replaced by the world of 1784, which is “now” for Ruby and her Hero. They don’t know they’re in a historical. They think they’re in a contemporary.  The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc, of 1784 are different from what we have in the modern day, but it’s their modern day. This is their world, and their reality. This is their day-to-day, and they couldn’t care less about what some random person hundreds of years in the future is doing in that tiny green room all day.

Well, Hero would, because I have new art pens, and he would want them. His affinity for my pens is what got us into this mess in the first place, so I may take said pens out for a spin on one of my breaks. The breaks, I have found, are essential. Get some of the work done, get up, move around, get some water, do something to refill the well, and then back to it.

The farther I get into this second draft, the better I know Ruby and her Hero, and the better I know their story. I want to get it right, for them. It’s not always pretty. It’s the stripping away of images they try to present, the defenses they’ve erected around themselves, and letting the other in, to see the real them. That’s scary, because showing their true selves has garnered only rejection in the past, or put them in situations where there are no good choices. Even so, there’s that pull that tells them things might be different this time, that there is someone who actually does understand, that they aren’t the only person who’s ever felt the way they feel. It’s not the story I set out to tell when I went looking for a new story to tell, but it’s the one that found me, and, when I have a marathon day, I’m not running it alone. The characters and the story run with me, all of us, even when a Wednesday is actually Monday. I’m calling that good company.

Habit Tracking, in Theory and Practice

Happy belated Canada Day to all who celebrate(d.) For those of us south of the US/Canada border, the big summer holiday is tomorrow, July fourth. I, personally, will observe the holiday by changing my desktop wallpaper to something more appropriate (but the maple leaf flag is pretty, and there is a Canadian connection in Her Last First Kiss, so it really is work related,) listening to selections from Hamilton, and getting a flame grilled burger in my stomach by whatever means necessary. Some things are non-negotiable, and that is one of them.

I am not a summer person. I never have been. When I got heat stroke at 22, that sealed it. This fair-skinned, heat-sensitive body does not do summer.  Give me some ice water, a nearby fan, and an ice pack when needed, and wake me in September.  I’ll be fine, really. I have books and notebooks and pen and paper.  Depending on what day it is, I am actually in March of 1784, (okay, verging on April by this point, because I am now thisclose to the halfway mark on draft two of Her Last First Kiss) or in, well, spring again, in the eternal now, in Chasing Prince Charming. Kind of easy to forget what’s going on outside the office when I am elbow deep in one book or another.

Because I did not write “take picture of writing tracker” on my daily task list, I did not get a picture of my writing tracker in my daily carry notebook, but Banastre Lobster did help me get a better shot of my reading tracker.  I’m kind of proud of this one.

 

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reading tracker, with lobster

 

Three days into July, and how am I doing on the reading front, now that I have a tracker? Let’s take a look:

July1st3days
on track so far

 

Knowing that I get to color a teeny tiny square if I read 25 more pages actually does seem to be working.  I always think I can draw a straight line on graph paper without a ruler, but then I try actually doing it, and remember I can’t, so that is why I have multiple rulers on my desk. The other months look a lot neater, and I look forward to turning them into colorful checkerboards, when their turn comes. For right now, though, I’m keeping my eyes on the day at hand. If, okay, when, I read more, that can carry over into tomorrow’s tally, because there are going to be days when I don’t get even 25 pages read, and I want to color all of those squares. Do not ask me why this is the motivation that works; it is, and that’s enough.

Since I now have a reading tracker, it made sense to make a writing tracker, but I can’t do it exactly the same way.  Story time:  one of the RWA chapters proposed having members report their monthly word count on the chapter loop. Many members thought this was a great idea. One other member and I, however, sat there, consumed by immediate panic. Cue Hypercritical Gremlins. Our then-president was quick to assure us that participation was voluntary, not mandatory, but it took a while for pulses to stop racing and the walls to stop closing in around us two unicorns. Word count doesn’t work for every writer. The key to tracking my writing, then, lies in finding out what does.

So far, the plan is to proceed as normal for the next three weeks, and then look back at what I did, then figure out how I did it.  How much did I produce, and what were the conditions around that? What prep work did I do on the days when I produced more, and what were mitigating factors on the days I produced less? I will probably count pages instead of words, because that’s how my brain works, and, by the end of the three weeks, I will probably have something that looks neater (and probably prettier) than this, but it’s a good place to start:

 

WritingTracker1stTry

1st try at writing tracker, with lobster

 

 

Is this going to have any effect on my productivity? I have no idea, but if all this experiment does is rule out this method of tracking, it’s still time more spent. Here’s the deal: I want to get more books written and out there, in the hands of readers. That means I have to produce more books, and get them out there, into the hands of readers. After far too long a time without a new release, and having two second drafts going at one time, (a third waiting sometimes patiently, sometimes not, if I count the medieval novella, which I usually do) this means that, theoretically, I could have three new titles on their way to readers next year. That’s pretty exciting.

Although six-year-old me would undoubtedly scream and kick the back of the Rambler my mom drove my protesting self to first grade in, on a day when I’d tried my best to convince her to let me stay home, her voice remains clear in my head: the more you do, the more you’ll want to do. If that means I get to uncap a brush pen and fill in another tiny square on a piece of graph paper, I am there, baby.

This also has a connection to Her Last First Kiss.  Ruby also keeps meticulous records that relate to her work and her interests, so I think she’d approve of me charting her and her Hero’s progress this way. Dominic, the hero of Chasing Prince Charming, also keeps a notebook close at hand, and makes use of it a few times during the course of the book, and his heroine, Meg, is a writer with a goal of restarting her own career, so I feel close to them when I’m planning and tracking, too.  If this method of tracking doesn’t work, then I’ll try something else, but the destination remains the same: get both books to The End of draft two, and embark on the next great adventure.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Planapalooza Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is a gray and sometimes rainy day here in New York’s Capitol Region, which is the best kind of summer weather for Anty.  There are still a few domestic tornadoes to wrangle, but Anty is making use of planning and organization to take care of most of them. I will get to that later.

First, as always, before I can talk about anything else (which is usually related to Anty’s writing, anyway) I need to talk about where you can find her writing on the interweb, besides here.  As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week. This time, she talked about author websites. Do you like to visit author websites? Have a favorite? Have different expectations for websites from veteran and debut authors? That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

 

BURComputerDog

Buried Under Romance

 

This week, Anty was very excited when one of her favorite bloggers, Rose Grey, blogged about her. Well, one of her blog entries, but that is basically the same thing. Some readers may remember that Anty blogged about one of Miss Rose’s entries, about writing rituals, a few weeks ago, which made Miss Rose very happy. Anty’s post on that is here.  Imagine Anty’s surprise when she got a private message from Miss Rose, telling Anty that Miss Rose had returned the favor. Miss Rose mentioned Anty’s post on brush pens and planning. That post is here, and it looks like this:

 

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Rose Grey Books

 

Now it is time to look at Anty’s Goodreads Challenge. If you would like to follow that, you can do so here. Anty said some grownup-only words when she saw that, although she had read another book this week, she was now three books behind schedule. Anty does not consider this acceptable. At first, she thought she could cram in a few rereads and get back on track before this post, but that was not realistic, so she turned to her planner. She does not have the tracking system ironed out yet, but here is what she came up with for a manageable reading plan:

  • She wants to read more books. (this is too vague, so she made it more specific.)
  • She wants to read two books per week. 
  • Assume that each book has an average of 350 pages. 
  • Each week has 7 days.
  • 700 pages, divided by 7 days, means Anty needs to read 100 pages per day. 
  • This can be broken down into 4 sessions of 25 pages each. 

That feels a lot more specific than “read more books,” and Anty can zip through twenty-five pages, easy. She plans to record this for a month and see how the plan works. If it works well, she will continue it for two more months. If that works, then it becomes part of the regular routine.  So far, it seems to be working pretty well, but she only devised that plan yesterday, so it needs more time before anyone can make that call.

Anty’s review of the book she did read, The Shattered Rose, by Jo Beverley, is here, and it looks like this:

 

ShatteredRoseReview

The Shattered Rose, by Jo Beverley

 

This week, we have a special request. Anty Sue Ann, who readers might know as blogger/author, Sue Ann Porter, read Anty’s post on brush tip markers, and asked what the tips of those markers looked like. I am not purr-sonally  allowed to touch Anty’s art or planning supplies, but I can share a picture.  The tip of a brush marker looks like a pointy paintbrush, as you can see here:

BrushTipPenTipsTombow

Tombow Brush Markers

 

Okay, I think that is it for updates. This has been a week of domestic tornadoes, for Anty and also for those around her. Both Anty Melva and Miss N had changes in their schedule this past week, which means that there needed to be changes to the regular schedule, because regularly scheduled meetings would not work. They are still figuring that out. This coming week has a holiday in it (I do not like Fourth of July at night; it is too loud, but Anty and Uncle like to watch the fireworks from the balcony. I hide until it is over. Fireworks cannot find me, if I am under the bed.)

To figure out the best time to plan the times to meet again, after disruption in the routine, Anty needs to look, not only at her calendar, as well as Miss N’s, and Anty Melva’s, but at the time it will take to deal with domestic tornadoes, and time to rest and refill the creative well. As usual for Anty, this will mean getting out pen and paper and putting all the information where she can see it in one place. Then, she will be able to make good decisions about how to best use her time.

Even when life gets interesting, writing is still Anty’s happy place, and that makes it very easy to focus. Her goal is to get both Her Last First Kiss and Chasing Prince Charming into the hands of readers, whether that mean traditional or independent publishing. She is still looking at what needs to be done with the book that is currently called Ravenwood (that is her postapocalyptic medieval romance novella) to get it ready to find its way to readers, so that is going to mean more work, but that is the kind of work she does not mind one bit.

That is about it for now, so, until next week, I remain very truly yours,

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Brush Markers and How I Use Them

Earlier this morning, a writer friend asked if I could talk about my experience with brush markers. Good thing, because I needed a topic for today’s post. Disclaimer: I still do not technically have a bullet journal, but I have written about what I have as my daily carry, here. I’ve swapped out the handmade journal (I’m keeping it for swatching new pens/inks) for an unlined Moleskine, but otherwise, the system remains the same.  I’m still incredibly new to the world of brush markers, as in it’s only been a week since I ventured into these waters, but I’m already finding them useful.

I’ve been using highlighters in my notebooks for about as long as I’ve been using notebooks, but I don’t always want the traditional highlighter colors. They can be harsh on my eyes, and, sometimes, they don’t fit the mood of the page or notebook I’m using, so I wanted to try an alternative. After a brief spin with colored pencils, I saw many of the contributors to Art Journaling magazine, and figured I’d give them a try.

First up: American Crafts Bible Journaling markers. I am Christian, but I don’t know what Bible Journaling is, besides pretty, from pictures I’ve seen, so can’t speak to that use.  My goal was to find markers I could use to take the place of eye-searing highlighters. Price point was low on these, so good place to stick a toe into the water, right? Well….

 

Book pictured is a Markings journal, with gridded pages. This is for daily tasks, and I am still figuring out the color coding I want to use. Original coding was:

  • Yellow: Problem Solving, aka anything I needed to get out of the way before I could get down to business, or could affect my ability to write that day.
  • Orange: Essentials, aka, anything with a hard deadline for that day. Blog entries, domestic responsibilities, emails to return, online critique sessions, etc.
  • PinkChasing Prince Charming related tasks; writing/editing, Skype sessions with Melva, anything that gets this book closer to a complete second draft.
  • BlueHer Last First Kiss related tasks: writing, editing, research, again, anything that gets this book closer to a completed second draft.

I waffled off and on with using green for Heroes and Heartbreakers things, and purple for well filling/self care, but they morphed into a more general “notes” section, which I don’t always use, so that may still change. In this iteration, peach is for problem solving, green for essentials, then pink and blue remain the same. These markers are very subtle, and might work better for their original purpose; I haven’t tried them that way. There is also a fine tip on these pens, as well as a brush tip, but I haven’t had use for them.

Tombow Dual Brush Markers were next, bought from open stock at a local art store. These are the ones I have heard recommended the most, and there are a lot of colors, both in open stock and prepackaged. I fell in love with the pink and the blue when I swatched them in my daily carry book, and then grabbed the tan and green to complement those.

 

The meteor-shaped black blob is a leftover from me re-inking a fountain pen. I think it adds character. These are also double-tipped markers, brush tip on one end, fine tip on the other. I don’t get a lot of use out of the fine tipped end on the lighter colors, but maybe I haven’t found the right use for them yet. Nice to have, anyway. I like the pink and the blue for my daily task book, and the tan is a nice alternative to yellow, though I may want to try a lighter green next time around. Still pretty, and the colors all have similar value, so it feels harmonious, which actually does matter for me. Will definitely try other colors, maybe in a prepackaged assortment next time. These can be a bit pricier, but, I think, worth the investment, and chain craft stores often run coupons that can make for a very nice discount.

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens also have an excellent reputation.  I have one (1) black Pitt pen, for art journaling, after hearing a lot of good things about it (all true) so when I wanted to branch out into brush markers, these were a natural. I might have picked a different assortment than the basics, but the store that had the fifty percent off coupon had only basic and gray packs (I will probably get the gray pack later, because I am me.)

I love the packaging on these, and the feel of the pens in my hand. I can come closer with these to my original color coding system (I love color coding; artist’s kid, so that started at a very early age) but still not sure on the actual colors I want to use for my daily task pages. This may require more research in open stock. I do like that these pens are only brush tip, as I don’t use the fine tip on the other markers, and the wallet they come in makes for a durable carrying case. I have not used them in my task book yet, but took them out for a spin as art markers yesterday, and found them very easy to use.

Biggest difference I have found between using brush markers and highlighters, besides the degree of eye-searingness, is that I need to put down the brush marker color first, and then write on top of it, and that after it dries. That takes about ten to fifteen seconds, which isn’t all that long, so I like to do all the color first, and then list tasks.  The markers also let me doodle borders on the pages, instead of using washi tape. Using tape borders in the same place on succeeding pages means that builds up bulk on those places only, which results in sunken writing surfaces. Sunken writing surfaces are very seldom efficient, so brush markers help keep the page bulk uniform. Plain, undecorated pages make me antsy, but if I can put down even a streak of color, then that anchors my brain.

All swatches above are done on ivory paper, but I can swatch any or all of the markers on white paper, upon request. Again, I am very new to using brush markers, so tips (pun unintended, but it works) from more experienced users are welcome. Those who use brush markers in your planning, what brands/colors do you like?

TheWriterIsOut