Resolutions, part 20

I make resolutions all the time.  Some don’t last as long as it takes for hot french fries to cool.  A few take hold and stick.  Some (like get healthie) are so big and vague that they are doomed for failure.  Organizing my work area is transient, an ephemeral as lasting as a morning fog.  The tricky part is making good ones, meaningful ones, that lead to gradual improvement.

Holiday street light decorations shining along the river

image by Jack on flickr at [https://flic.kr/p/5LPmyy], under Creative Commons 2 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]

I start off every year hoping to grab aspects of my life that are both important and doable.   The ones that last longer are ones I want to do.  “Shoulds” never last, and in fact rarely have any impact.  Forcing improvements, just creates stress, disappointment, and inadequacy… then no matter how noble the improvement it dies in bitter dregs of failure.  The change, the resolution, needs some tangible benefit to become self-sustaining.  One long term resolution I renew every November: to write more steadily again and finish story drafts.

The problem is that writing original stories doesn’t result in as many tangible payoffs as writing fanfiction. Fully original stories have so little payback for the effort.  Professional editing and marketing costs way more than I have the resources for.  The stories I have released have not generated commentary or sales, which are the only feedback you get.  Fanfic can easily track hits, subscriptions, likes, and comments.  I’ve gotten more of all four metrics for a single short story fanfic I posted two weeks ago than dozens of originals I’ve put for sale or released for publicity.  I can resolve every year to do more original stories, but there just isn’t any payoff for the time and effort.

But yet again I’ve resolved to work on that rewrite of my novel draft this year.  I made some changes last time I started the revision, but I really have to stop trying a major new effort in the holidays.  I still love the concept and have a good character or two, but the nitty-gritty of deep revision is like writing from a detailed outline and my muse chokes.

That time of the year by Evan Wood

Shuffle them words!

I don’t know how to fix that and so I’ve set some simpler resolutions, some are non-writing and some are not very significant but boost confidence, like crossposting a well-received story to another site.  (that’s turning out not as helpful as it’s just not generating much feedback compared to the first place– confirming that changing sites when I did had been a good move)  On the good side, NaNo crazy resulted in eleven posted stories, which has also boosted hits on older stories.  But now I have like six unfinished stories with recent chapters and a challenge I really want to post.  There just are not enough hours in the day to have more than two active stories.

Send help, or at least a cookie!

The clock of NaNo Doom

Every year I reserve the last two weeks for NaNo prep. Some years it goes better than others.  2019 has achieved an abysmal low.

On the 17th my computer’s power supply cacked out. Would not recharge.  To make it extra fun I had some governmental paperwork, that could not even be done over the phone as the governmental eforms also cacked.  A rushed search for a new universal power supply and then a second universal power supply and I was good or a day and a half.

black whirlpool in the water

Whirlpool by David O’Hare. Attribution under Creative Commons 2.0

Then then that stopped charging.  Holding it in hard made connection, but not enough to charge.  The socket to the motherboard came loose, and my tech said that people don’t do that kind of welding any more.

It was a five year laptop, that had already had 3 fans and 2 keyboards.  Some keys were starting to stick again and the case grill had cracked off.  I’d used it hard, but I was going to have to suck it up and finally leave Win 8.1 for the supposed bliss of a touch based interface.

That is actually why I don’t want it even after 48hrs of working on set up.  There’s hidden settings, and control panel is NOT default present in the start menu.  I’ve been having an ongoing issue that mouse ro;;over in both sometimes desktop and very frequent browser acts like a right mouseclick.  It’s not an ad and fussing with settings didn’t help.  I reduced the issue about 75% when I disabled touch screen in my browser.  But it still happens, with a syster right click blocking what I’m working on.

It is a more powerful machine, but the ONLY neat feature was that my active desktop background appeared automagically when I logged in on the first boot.  I’m still waiting for that burst of enlightenment and joy Win10 promised.

Make sure you back up into the cloud, its way better than any of the old hardware solutions.  Backup your bookmarks and anything you do creative. Expect to take days to weeks to recover.

And try not to have a disaster near NaNo.

Temptation…

I am very tempted with the DC Universe service. I have a long fondness for the characters, and I am very intrigued by the Doom Patrol trailor.

But I really don’t believe in subscribing to more than 2 services. I was interested in getting Disney service due to the Clone Wars… but my faith there is not strong.  DC already crashed and burned when bringing the dark, nihilistic Batman into a shared universe. It almost had to go up. Diana and Arthur did it right, and Billy has the right optimism, too.

The issue is that I am fond of my cable lineup and I am not sure I can convince anyone in my family to drop a tier.

Nano lesson #8: The Final Sprint

The good news is that we are now in that final stretch of NaNo. If you have been diligent, or did extra ahead of time to allow for Thanksgiving feasting and Black Friday madness, you should be in good shape.

I mean 1,667 words a day isn’t that much? I’ve seen plenty of comments on blogs from ethics to manners that roared past that number. I’ve seen run on sentences that sent on forever. How many of us finished that thirty page research project in three days for high school? Fiction can be way easier because you can make up shit. That’s why it’s called fiction.

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

I easily average over a thousand words a day writing. I switch from project to project when one gets blocked or a plot bunny bites. Usually I do comments or blog entries, and write for two active fiction stories every week.

But doing nearly two thousand every day for NaNo lasts long enough that I have to prune my other activities just to get it done. The later in the month, the more has been has been pruned. TV and movies are much lower. Socializing too, but that’s been on a downward trend since college. Sleep has been hard hit, but that’s back to holding at six to seven hours. Some years, plot bunnies from EVERY other unfinished story attack to distract me, leaving fang and claw marks everywhere. Shopping for the holidays takes a big hit, even ordering online doesn’t help when the online system at Michaels told us they were out of stock three days in a row, but a friend walked right in and bought several from a flat. By the end of the month, family is a little better at not bothering you. A little, and only for humans. The four leggeds do not understand NaNo anymore than they get daylight saving time.

If you have made use of all this scavenged time, you should be over 40k words by today and hit 45k by tomorrow night. You may be tired and hate the story, but at this point you’re so close it would be stupid to stop.

And if you have fallen behind, you have only five days including today. Cut out more and write more. If you never really got rolling, write anyway. Write about the problems you had this year and how to avoid or lessen them for next time. Make it about a learning experience instead of about your lead.

Even after multiple successes, it is rarely any easier. The first draft is easy for a very, very inspiring idea that won’t let go. I think that has happened maybe twice in the last twelve NaNos for me. Twice were total wrecks and did not finish. The others were hard and sometimes brutal. But I made it through them. A majority of the stories were posted online as fanfic, or sit in a trunk hoping for effective editing and revision.

But there is always next year. There are also two Camp NaNo sessions where you can practice the pace or pick a different goal. Just keep at it. Someone will love your story, the tricks are to be clear in telling it and find your fans.

Get to it! And good luck!

Nano lesson #7: Burnout, aka Thanksgiving

Resting and adaptability sometimes just are not enough, the last few days are usually brutal. The various Thanksgiving hosting and food issues, plus even limited shopping for the holidays are not just distracting, but exhausting. This year Thanksgiving was early. You might think that a full week after the holiday means you have massive time, but no. It’s just that you only have three weeks for prime writing this time before the holiday, instead of closer to four.

There was a major illness in my immediate family this fall, so food and even cleanup had to be reconfigured. (Turkey breast in the slow cooker and dropping the stuffing) We also had a panic attack when sibling announced that all the leftover potatoes fell on the floor! But the bigger disaster was that a new helper eagerly rubbed pepper on the turkey, for a house where no one uses pepper at all and we only keep a little for guests at the table. The family attacked the turkey & gravy, mashed potatoes, and asparagus and took a communal nap. (forgot the fresh cranberry relish again!)

Holiday street light decorations shining along the river

image by Jack on flickr at [https://flic.kr/p/5LPmyy], under Creative Commons 2 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]

Of course the culture seems to have decided to replace watching football with competitive shopping, in stores that barely close for the longest holiday travel weekend of the year. I have some shopping done, but will make cards after NaNo ends. One issue is that shopping for normal things is about five times as as slow and exhausting as normal, like for just plain soda out of stock on Tuesday. I’m not buying a TV or phone, so the door busting doesn’t even open my door let alone bust anything. I will be looking at laptops real soon now as my 3rd fan is very noisy. It seems to work fine, but apps to monitor heat add extra overhead. I’ve been watching it for heat and stress for over a year, but noise is the only issue and gives me a headache sometimes. Researching a new one will take time, time I can’t afford during NaNo. Even if prices will be very good. I don’t know how long I can nurse this one, as much as I love it. All things pass.

But later.

The holiday + Black/Cyber/Giving brouhahas make even normal business a challenge. And writing something intentionlly thoughtfull? Concentration and time are near impossible for a couple of days. A day and a half away doesn’t seem like that much, but it is.

Getting started and back in the mindset is like an opening night. You have to ignore the butterfllies and all the little imps that remind you the slowcooker is stained with smudges of dried glaze at the top and you need to order and collect dogfood. They can wait a couple of hours.

Better yet, see what you can offload to other family members. But down on rec reading and even checking the news. Anything really big and family will tell you.

Use an idea you were doubtful of earlier. Add something lighter, as too much angst is a drag! Recast a favorite piece for your world if it doesn’t break the setting. I may look for a random plot or prompt list to do a scene. Write a tabloid reporter or newspaper like National Enquirer reporting of story events, even more fun, have the characters see the story and have them react big!

The first thing is to just start writing again.

That’s what editing is for later.

Just write! And let the devil take the hindmost.

Nano lesson #6

Well, the good NaNo news is that I am making slow progress against that deficit after that crash and burn. I should catch up by Saturday. You might be wondering if I got the ‘much better progress?’ I have. Instead of taking two or three sessions totaling about eight hours of struggle, I’m doing a trifle more than the 1667 quota in three of four hours in the evening. The extra hours immediately went to other things: A long-delayed roof repair became possible yesterday, an excellent idea as we are supposed to be getting five inches of snow today. Right now in fact. The other thing was that an invitational flash story for a collection is due today, so I chopped a fifth out, rewrote, and begged for some beta comments to do final tweaks. Twenty hours I really don’t have during NaNo.

I also think that teaching writing/inspirational people should not plan major seminars during NaNo, especially when they make great steps to make sure it won’t be available after NaNo is over and cannot be downloaded… It’s not like the dates for NaNo are unknown after this long.

Recharging

Albert Anker's Eine Gotthelf-Leserin, 1884

Wolf G photo of Albert Anker’s Eine Gotthelf-Leserin, 1884, creative commons 2

It is important to not get so obsessed with writing that you stop reading, especially for pleasure. Research reading really should be put off for later, something quick and easy when sweating over revisions. Else you fall into the rabbit hole of research and you look up with your writing time is gone. [Describe what detail you want or need] and just keep going!

But reading for fun is important as a piece of pie is to your eating. It may not seem important compared to that word quota, but it does far more for your mental health. The first and most important thing is that it brings joy and humor after whatever frustration your NaNo project is feeding you. It reminds you of why you want to write, why you love the written word and good characters. And thirdly, there is usually some serendipity, something you read will trigger an idea for some problem area. Last night I realized I was missing an evil temple in my story when I was commenting on another’s posting. I hurried off to record the idea for my own chapter. Should get there about Monday!

A half hour off to read something else is a very valuable expenditure of time in NaNo, Just don’t go wild and avoid the writing. Make it 30 minutes or so and use a timer like your writing sprints if that helps.

Nano lesson #5

Determination

The worst thing about NaNo usually happens around the 17th. It’s not the sleep deprivation, though that contributes. It’s not the greater isolation, I’m already isolated because of many RL issues. It’s not when essential people and appointments fall through, those happen anytime. It’s not the cold and mystery thickener that left you sicker than a dog for days. It’s not even any one aspect: plotting, block, or incomplete worldbuilding reaching back to bite you.

It’s the depression when the story is coming to a screeching halt. And words are coming so slowly an hour of writing, a mere three hundred words, make you want to beat your head against something. You hate the scene, the characters, and the plot and you’d rather write an essay on muclear meltdowns than even look at your story you loved and were so optimistic about two weeks ago.

The story idea is good.

I did a draft about four years ago. It fell apart. The villain was a purposeless trope. A bunch of characters were bland and the climax just sort of petered out. Despite attempts to revise there just was too little to hang the good parts on.

So I put the great idea in a mental trunk until I was skillful enough to tackle it again. Now, I’m taking a class in novel writing and I thought I conld do both at once. After all, I already had the bones of a story I believed in.

No such luck. Despite some parts of the lesson showing me where I’d messed up the first time, another part was loathed by my muse.

Writing came to an utter stasis by Nov 2. Keeping the guidelines in mind seems to be enough to put my muse in a vise, a straightjacket. I even tried writing a separate prompt piece like the NaNo people suggest to clear the decks and resume the original novel. Almost 6500 words of that diversion and the original story’s air has cleared up.

I write a few thousand more if the original booj idea before I get to another crash and burn yesterday, bleeding every word.

swirlsof neon light

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

Today I had to face that the new noveling techniques are derailing how I wrote before, but the writing of it painful and has no joy. That diversion, a pantser with loose demi-outline but no deep planning flowed as normal. With the speed needed for NaNo, I cannot afford to use any technique that slows me down. So I’m switching projects… to that diversion one.

1800/day for the rest of the month will be challenge enough because of intractable RL issues. All this for these lessons: a) Even crashes and burns can be redeemed, that stories you are starting to hate can be set ashore before it’s too late. And b) Pay attention when your muse is not happy. You cannot force it to do what your logical side, your ego want it to do.

Tomorrow I anticipate much more progress…