jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
I just discovered that a bunch of people friended me and I hadn't gotten around to friending them back, so sorry about that! I'm glad to have you here, and if you want to introduce yourself in the comments, I'd be most grateful ;)

Two days ago I shelved The Dreaming for a while and started work on a new draft of a novel I'm calling Dale Shepard and the Bug Aliens. It's a YA novel, which I'm having a great deal of fun with, about a teenaged boy from small town Arizona who gets the chance to attend an alien flight school on another planet.

It's near....ish? future Earth, so I'm having a few fits with fiddling around with upgrading the technology to the point where humans have interstellar flight, without making Earth seem too completely different. I can't wait to introduce the aliens, either.

I'm sort of mentally calling it my "Harry Potter in space with aliens instead of magic" series. It's planned for four books, but we'll see how the first one goes, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if it expands out to a longer series than just four as I develop it. I'm expecting it to have lots of fun characters and awkward romance and action.
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
Mortis Unbound is now up online and rolling and I'm working each day on trying to get reviews and get the word out without being utterly obnoxious about it. So my plan was to get back to The Dreaming and get that draft finished.

I'm about 80,000 words into the novel and it's about 3/4 done. But I've been trying to get back into it for about two months, and it's been a struggle. Part of that struggle has been life-related - the stress of buying a house and some work-related stress of trials and craziness that took a lot of energy. It's hard to keep up on writing every day when all you want to do when you get home is collapse on the couch and watch Lost. (Yeah, I'm a bit behind on pop culture).

But after a lot of thinking, I've come to the conclusion that there's more going on here than life stress.

Last week, I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses, a podcast I've kept up with pretty religiously over the last four years. Dan Wells was talking about his new novel, Hollow City, which has a lot of things in common with Dreaming. As I was listening to what he was saying, I realized that there's quite a few things about the novel that just aren't coming out the way I want them to. A lot of things that are making me dissatisfied with how it's coming together.

Now, I could plough through and get the last quarter finished, then go back and edit, but I feel like until I figure out how to fix the problems I want to fix, I will be wasting my time, writing a lot of things that I'll just throw out later. I've been struggling through this novel for two years already, and I'm fearful that if I stick with it right now, it'll be another year before I finish the draft.

So I've decided to put Dreaming on hold and work on a new novel that I'm more excited about, edit the hell out of OtherWhere, and then come back fresh to Dreaming and rework it from scratch.

I feel a bit bad about the decision. I don't want to be the kind of person who drops projects when they get hard and go with the next shiny thing - professional writers are not like that - but I talked it over with my wife and she agrees that this is the right thing to do. So hopefully there'll be more frequent updates as I set this project aside and free up my mind to work on something new and fun.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I was going to do just a basic update today, but then I thought I'd talk about something that I've been struggling with lately, and add a bit of an update at the end.

I'm a multitasker. It's something I'm pretty good at. I'm capable of writing while doing something else - like talking to people over instant messenger and keeping up on my twitter feed, even with the television on in the background, so long as it's not a terribly engaging show.

I'm also a very fast writer, I think, compared to many people. If I focus and do nothing else, I can pump out 1000 new words in 15-20 minutes. And they're generally decent words.

Over the years, I've gotten really lazy with this. If I spend the entire evening switching between writing and other tasks, I can still pump out a good 1000 words, but it's in snatches. A paragraph, then check my email. Another few words, then I respond to a message. This is not a good way to write. I feel like I've spent the whole night working and not accomplished much, and the writing never flows and gets going - it feels like a chore.

Last October, we moved from a one-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom townhouse. I finally had a desk, an office, for the first time, literally, in my entire writing career. I literally did all of my studying for law school on my bed. I wrote on my sofa, or my bed, or at a coffee shop, all these many years.

In November, I did NaNoWriMo for the 10th time, and I was determined to hit that 50,000 words, since I hadn't managed it for a few years. It had been a long time since I was really able to keep up with my 1000 words a day goal that I used to break routinely (mostly because law school took up so much time I used to spend writing) I made a pact with myself that I would go to the office, turn off the internet and write until I had done my 2000 words each day.

It worked fabulously. I had some 3000 and even 4000 word days, and even though I took some full days off, I beat NaNoWriMo long before the end of the month.

After so many years of telling myself that I was still being productive if I spent an entire evening "writing" and struggling to make 500 words in a night, I was often easily passing my 2000 mark in an hour.

Then I got lazy again. Sure, I could write that much, but did I need to retreat to my office when I could hang out with my friends online and still get some progress?

Well, the answer is, yes. I really should.

Since November, I really haven't been that productive. I've had days when I was productive, especially on weekends, and many - too many - nights when I really didn't accomplish much at all. It's just so hard to tear myself away from the internet when it's sitting right there, so shiny, begging to be looked at.

So a couple of days ago, I pulled out my netbook. I stopped using it after I graduated from school, and got myself a new laptop that's got a lot more memory, allowing me to multitask to my heart's content. The netbook chokes if I try to run firefox and liquid story binder at the same time.

It's perfect.

When it's time to write, I head upstairs, plug my iPod into the speakers on the shelf (the netbook chokes on iTunes, too) and close the door. The netbook is so tiny that I have plugged a keyboard into it, and I'll be purchasing a simple usb mouse as well. I have Dropbox, so all of my files are automatically shared between my laptop and my netbook, so I don't have to worry about version issues or file transfer problems. I can write on my laptop (and do) but on the netbook there's little temptation to multitask because it becomes so frustrating to try to run more than one program at a time.

My productivity is so good in this setup that in an hour or so I've reached my goal. And then I can go have fun or even spend the night continuing to try to write-while-multitasking, without guilt. Today I wrote for an hour and got over 2000 words.

The lesson I've taken from this is, it really is worth it to do a few things to maximize your productivity and create a good space to work in. I might want to spend an evening relaxing with my friends online, but if I know I only have to take fifteen minutes or half an hour and I'll be able to do that guilt free, it's much easier to take that time and do it. It doesn't have to be forehead bleeding for the whole night, after a full eight-hour workday, if you can get yourself into the right mental space and really focus.

Obviously there are nights when it doesn't flow, and I could bash my face against the keyboard all night and still not manage to accomplish much. But if I get myself in the zone, without anything to distract me, the chances of accomplishing something go up substantially.

What do you do to get yourself into the proper frame of mind to write? How do you eliminate distractions?




For the promised update, I'm continuing to work on The Dreaming, and it's going at a good clip. I completed Chapter 19 today and started on Chapter 20. There are 27 chapters in my outline, and I've gotten through some pretty tricky emotional scenes, so I'm exited to get into some pure action adventure stuff, which will be dominating the next little bit. I've gotten to know my characters, as well, which feels wonderful. When I get into Sam's head, it really flows. Of course, he's a lawyer, so he's verbose. I'm probably going to have to cut a third of the words of this book, when I edit.

I also submitted a short story to an anthology today. I stumbled across the contest quite by accident, and since the short story I recently finished fit the criteria, I tossed it in. They had an option where I could pay about $10 to receive some feedback from the judges, regardless of whether I win or not, so I paid for that. Even if I don't win, it'll be interesting to hear what they have to say, so I'm looking forward to that.

My plan is to focus on Dreaming until I get The Sleeping Death back from my editor. My beta readers are also starting to trickle in with comments, though none of them are finished reading yet. Hopefully I can get all of their comments back around the same time as I hear from my editor, so I can incorporate all of the feedback at the same time.

And that's what I'm up to!
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I reached another turning point in projects, so I thought I'd do an update.

Today I finished the first draft of my [community profile] originalbigbang story, which isn't due until September or something, lol. I wanted to get it written and out of the way so I wouldn't have it weighing on my mind as I work on other projects, and I'm glad I did.

It's called Grim Opera, and is the fifth instalment of my Hunter Grim short story series, which is a series of gay erotica stories set in a post-apocalyptic world, depicting a love story between a vampire hunter (who is also a vampire) and his shape-shifting apprentice. I'll probably release the stories as an anthology someday. It was fun to revisit this world, and it definitely won't be the last time I do.

I got a little positive feedback from one of my beta readers for The Sleeping Death, which was nice to hear. I also got back into contact with my editor, who had been on vacation. I signed my contract, sent my deposit and my manuscript, so now all I have to do is wait.

I'm pretty excited. I feel fairly confident that the book will stand up generally to scrutiny, and I'm very interested to learn where I can improve it. I'm sure that my editor will have things to say, of course, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal and that my writing generally will improve because of this experience.

I'm also a tiny bit nervous that it'll hurt a lot to get the feedback, but I have faith that Marie-Lynn will give me constructive criticism gently, and that it won't be in the vein of "this sucks, start over". Anything less shattering than that I can probably handle. After all, I've been writing fanfiction for over 13 years. I've gotten lots of unhelpful negative comments in my life.

In the meantime, I've started work on my draft of The Dreaming once again. I started this book quite a long time ago now, and I keep making a lot of progress in short bursts and then putting it down to work on other things. I'm determined to get it done without getting distracted this time, partly because I'm really getting excited to get started on my next project, which is my "Harry Potter in Space with Aliens" series. I'm doing character profiles for that series, whenever I don't feel like writing.

So that's where I'm at!
jessicasteiner: (Default)
It's been a productive morning!

I set up a twitter account, which I'll primarily be using for quick writing-related status updates, boosting the signal on reviews and posts here, and for retweeting random things I enjoy. Follow me at [twitter.com profile] steiner_jessica if that link works...

Secondly, I cleared out my email and did some administrative things.

And thirdly, I finished my line edits on The Sleeping Death! What a painful process that was. I mostly was trying to focus on tightening things, getting rid of extraneous speaking tags and adverbs, especially, and it was really fiddly. I found that I couldn't really do it for very long before my concentration started to flag, so I tended to do about 2 chapters a night. For a story with almost 60 chapters, that was a slow pace.

So now I'll be sending it out to my beta readers and hopefully get their comments within a week or two. After that, it goes to my editor!

I'm looking forward to a rest from editing for a couple of weeks, to be honest. Time to focus on my [community profile] originalbigbang story, which is the fifth instalment of my Hunter Grim series, as well as getting back to The Dreaming. So it's going to be a bit of a pure writing stint for now.
jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
I replied to a discussion in [community profile] writerslounge about motivation a few days ago and it got me wanting to write a proper post about how I keep myself motivated around writing. Motivation is something that I think a lot of people struggle with, but I've managed to keep slogging along for many years, with ups and downs, but mostly making progress each and every month. I thought I'd share some of my techniques.

Have a goal

The most important thing in staying motivated is having something to be motivated to do. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I think a lot of people miss this right off the bat. They want to be an author, or they want "to write", but that's about it.

I could write a whole post about goal-setting - and I probably will - but for now suffice it to say that it's absolutely vital to have some clear-cut goal in mind. For example "publishing a book" is at least more clear-cut than "being a writer". "Writing a novel this year" is even better. If you have a specific idea in mind that you want to actually write, that's ideal.

The more measurable a goal is, the better. Being measurable means that you will know when you've achieved it. If your goal is "to write" that could be accomplished by tweeting about that pretty flower you saw. But writing a 5000 word short story for that contest you read about is very measurable. You know exactly when you've completed it.

Goals should have not only a thing you want to do, but some idea of when.

Goal-setting isn't just a thing you do and then walk away. You can have big goals like "write a novel" and smaller goals like "outline my novel by the end of the month" and even smaller goals like "spend an hour on outlining today". In fact, you should have goals at many different levels, each smaller one supporting the next biggest one, and so on. I'll talk more about this in a minute.

I set goals all the time. I have a goal of spending at least 1 hour per day on writing-related activities, and writing at least 500 new words per day. I have a goal of spending 30 hours per month on writing, as well. (Which means even if I miss a day, I might still be on track for my other goal!) I have a goal of getting The Sleeping Death ready to be published by the fall. I have a goal of getting The Dreaming written by the end of the year. I have a goal of writing at least one meaningful blog post each week. Some goals are soft, others are more firm. These are just examples.

Keep track of your progress

It's a hell of a lot easier to stay motivated if you can look back on your accomplishments and realize that you've made progress, as well as see how much further there is to go before you complete your goal. There's nothing worse than those days when you feel like you'll never accomplish your goal, and it's vital to have something to look at that can remind you that you have made progress, even if it's not as much as you might like, and even if there's still a long way to go.

Unfortunately, this means that you have to start tracking things at the beginning, before you realize that you need to.

I have a spreadsheet. Each of my writing projects is listed in the spreadsheet, and each time I do work on a project, I record how long I spent. If I'm writing, I record the number of words I wrote, as well. I total up the number of hours and words each week and at the end of the month. It takes only a couple of seconds to track each day, but the amount of value I get is incredible.

I can easily see if I'm neglecting one of my goals, or neglecting a project, if I haven't touched it in a long time. I can also look back - for years if I want - and see just how much work I've done and how far I've come. When you see how much work you've already done on a project, it's easier to keep going, so as not to let it all go to waste.

Break it down

Big goals are way more exciting and motivating than small ones like daily writing goals, but they are intimidating. It's incredibly important to break down each monster project into small, manageable chunks. This not only makes the goal more achievable, but it helps to keep you motivated.

If you have a big, intimidating goal, it becomes overwhelming on those days when motivation is hard to find. But it's a hell of a lot easier to get yourself going if all you have to do is write 500 words. Or 300 words. Or 50 words.

Finding the right balance of forward progress that works with your lifestyle can take a lot of experimentation. You might start off with a daily goal that you just can's sustain because of work, kids, pets, social lives, etc. If you have a big dream you might have to sacrifice a bit to get there, but you need down-time, too, and some obligations can't be ignored for years while you work on becoming the next J.K. Rowling, like children.

You might also be tempted to give yourself an ambitious goal, like say 2000 words a day because you're afraid of not achieving your goal in a reasonable time. But if the number of words is too large, such that it demotivates you, you won't achieve your goal, either. Slow but steady generally wins the race.

And just think, if you started today writing just 500 words per day, in a year you'll have written over 180,000 words. That's a pretty big novel! And a lot of authors write about 1 novel a year. Consistency wins over big numbers, and a consistent habit is easier to motivate yourself to continue over the long haul.

Play mindgames with yourself

Riffing off of that concept, don't be afraid to lower your goal on a particular day if you're having a bad day, if it's what it takes to get you going. There are days where 500 words seems impossible, but I feel like just maybe I could crap out 100 words.

Do 100 words, rather than zero. 100 words is nothing! Tell yourself that, and just crank out those 100, telling yourself that maybe after that you'll go do something else.

Then when you get to the end of 100 words, see if you can manage to bleed out another 100.

And so on.

Before you know it, you've got your 500 words and you feel good about yourself. Maybe you've even gotten over your funk and feel like you've gotten yourself on a roll and can manage another 500. Or maybe it's really just a bad day, and you just can't keep going. Either way, you can feel good that you achieved your goal - basically by tricking yourself into doing it.

I do this all the time. It works.

Don't feel bad

Above all, don't get down on yourself if you miss your goal. Whether it's a big deadline or just a daily writing goal, there is nothing more demotivating than telling yourself that you suck because you failed to hit your goal.

You can always reset your goal and try again. It's amazing.

I find that I need to take a day off each week, to keep the juices flowing. But that day isn't always predictable, so I just allow it and don't sweat it. Whether it's a Wednesday or a Friday or a Sunday, I just say "Yep, that was my recharge day" and just keep soldiering on the next day.

Missed days happen, but that's okay! Overall I'm still making progress, and I can see that I am, because I can go back and look at my spreadsheet. So long as you try to stay positive, keep your eye on the prize, and pick yourself up when you have a bad day and try again tomorrow, you can keep yourself motivated to keep going.
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo)
No sooner are Kendra and Sam bedding down in the creepy laboratory castle in Zhen, but someone on a gryphon comes flying down to Sam's balcony and snatches him away. Kendra tries to stop him, but the kidnapper does something to knock him out, and off they go.

Thankfully, Kendra is no damsel in distress. While Damien makes his way into the castle to try to rescue her, Kendra engages in a magical battle with the centaur. Though Blaise is stronger on his home turf, Damien helps Kendra overcome a sound-based magical attack that nearly knocks her out, and Kendra recovers her broomstick. They head off to rescue Sam.

Meanwhile, Sam wakes up again. At first, he thinks he's back in the hospital, but it's a different sort of prison cell - and a much comfier one. Within minutes, the King of Gen finally shows himself.

He's Landon. No one is likely surprised at this point.

Landon tells Sam that he needs his help, and takes him on a tour of Gen, to show him what a wonderful place he's built. The tour is marred by an incident of mob justice, as a vampire is dragged bodily from her house and ejected from the city. Landon explains that while vampires are probably nice people in general, they are considered 'undesirables', because they prey on other citizens. He wants to keep his people safe, so vampires aren't allowed in his country.

Sam finally loses patience and demands to know what Landon wants from him. Landon admits that he wants Sam to perform a spell that will allow Landon to become the King of Kun. He wants, ultimately, for the entire world to be united under his rule, and claims that this will make everyone happier and safer.

Sam is horrified by the murderous and power-grasping behaviour of someone who looks like his best friend, and flatly refuses to help. Landon isn't happy.

--

I just finished Chapter 13, and I'm now just over 42,000 words into NaNoWriMo. Sitting on November 25th, with 5 days left to go, I'm feeling really good about winning this year. In fact, I'm going to see if I can polish off the last 8000 words this weekend.

While I'm feeling accomplished and excited about my success, 2000 words a day is a pretty difficult pace to sustain, and I'm looking forward to backing right down in December, though I intend to keep moving forward, just with time to work on other things.

I'm thinking of giving myself a goal of 500 words a day here on out. I've always had a daily goal of 1000 words, but on days when I don't set aside at least an hour to write, it's difficult to meet. I wind up writing nothing unless I have a good chunk of time to devote to it.

It also gives me little time to devote to things like research or editing. I have to do one or the other, so there are many days I don't get any words at all.

I have been struggling for months to figure out how to sustain working on my current draft - Dreaming - and also work on editing The Sleeping Death so I can start querying it. Ideally, I need time to work on researching Sengoku Era Japan for my next book series as well! Somehow, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do it all.

So instead, I'm thinking that if I have a goal of only 500, then even on days when I go out and don't get home until late, I could still meet the goal. In a 15 minute stint, I could easily hit that goal, and that means that if I got home at 10:00 after a movie or something, I could still take 15 measly minutes and get my words in.

It's an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes!
jessicasteiner: (Default)
So the last time I updated was... Day 12. It's now Day 20. Go me. I am the slackiest.

I can't feel too bad, because I have been writing since then. I wrote about 8000 words since my last update, actually. But I just haven't really felt like writing blog posts afterwards, I guess.

In fact, I feel like I hit my Week 2 slump in Week 3 instead. No clue why. But I've only missed two days of writing since my last update, despite feeling...slumpish. I'm hanging on to my lead by the skin of my teeth, as well. My stats aren't looking quite as pretty on the site, but I am not behind, and that's important.

Also, I woke up this morning with an exciting idea that I think is going to break me out of the slump. I've been struggling with this whole section of the story for some reason, and I'm not entirely sure why. At least, I know that my centaur/psychologist character isn't interesting me nearly as much as I wanted him to, and I feel like at some point later I'll need to go back and jazz him up, make him more quirky and terrifying. So I guess that's a big reason why :/ But I think this idea will give me an opportunity to let this character flower into the terrifying mad scientist I originally envisioned, and I think that'll make it a whole lot more fun.

---

On another note, I've noticed that the timer thing in Liquid Story Binder is both motivating me and screwing me up at the same time. It's really quite fascinating.

If I'm committed to writing and get rid of all other distractions (like plurk, livejournal, rping, aim, etc.) I can write like the wind and the timer keeps me plugging away.

But if I don't feel like putting all those distractions away and instead I want to just pick away at writing, doing a few words here and there (which I know is bad bad bad but sometimes I want to do it anyway, because I'm a masochist and like making myself miserable, I guess) I hesitate to open LCB at ALL because I know the timer will be ticking away even though I'm not looking at it.

Even when I'm planning on doing a writing session with no distractions, I don't open LCB until I'm ready to drop everything and go, and sometimes that means I don't start writing until hours after I intended to, because I keep getting distracted, doing other things, without that window open and staring at me from my computer. I used to open Microsoft Word and just have it sit there while I did a bit of email and such, and then it would keep sitting there like "You were going to write, remember?" until I finally surrendered and went "Oh yeah...better...close my email and get to that".

None of this is coherent, I know.

--

When we last met our intrepid heroes, they had just been attacked by a horrible monster in a lake, and Damien left because things were getting too hot for him.

Sam and Kendra continued on their journey and passed the border into Zhen. This is a rather pretty country with lots of grassland and gently rolling hills.

And thunderstorms. Lots of them.

And also horrifying mutated creatures who try to capture them.

They run from the mutants, and Damien appears out of nowhere to distract them long enough to get out of Zhen and back across the border into Shun, where the mutants won't come. They rest for a bit, and decide to try flying over Zhen instead. They only have one broom, but Kendra has wings. She says if they rest frequently, and don't go too fast, they can make it. The broom definitely can't support the weight of all three of them (it can barely handle both Sam and Damien), and Damien wants to come, though he won't say why he's changed his mind.

So they try it, flying deeper into Zhen and avoiding the mutants, until Kendra calls for a break. Again the mutants show up and encircle them, cutting off their escape, but instead of attacking and eating them, one of the mutants explains that their King has requested their presence at the castle, and is offering them a place to rest and assistance on their journey.

Reluctantly, Sam, Kendra, and Damien climb into the coach that's provided for them, and are brought to the castle in the middle of Zhen. Damien manages to give everyone the slip, and Sam and Kendra are welcomed to Zhen by a majestic (if I bit oddball) centaur, quite different from the ones that Sam ran into way back in Chapter 1. His name is Blaise, and he looks exactly like Sam's psychiatrist at the hospital in the real world.

Back in the real world, we see Kendra and Landon coming to visit Sam again. Blaise the psychiatrist tells them that there's a problem - Sam won't wake up, no matter what they do. Something is very wrong, and he believes that Sam's mind is retreating from reality.

In the dream world, Sam and Kendra are offered assistance in getting over the Gen mountains, which lie on the far side of Zhen. They're also offered dry clothes and a meal and a night of rest. Though neither of them is comfortable here in this creepy stone castle, they agree to stay. It's not like they really have any choice.
jessicasteiner: (Save the World)
It's now day 12. I think last update I was on day 9 and had just started Chapter 10. It's now day 12 of NaNoWriMo and I just finished it. It was longer than Chapter 9. Sob.

--

Kendra, Sam and Damien succeed in eluding the Thief King in the dark and head West towards the country of Kun, which is supposed to be peaceful. Little do they know that the Queen is already dead.

They pause to get supplies in a city in Li, and while Damien goes to get food and money, both of which were stolen by the bandits, though they thankfully do have the rest of their belongings, Kendra and Sam browse at the market. A gang of cat-headed thugs try to surround and capture them, and they manage to elude them, meeting up with Damien and flying away before the thugs can catch them. Damien has heard rumours that the King of Gen has offered a reward to anyone who brings them to him, hence the near-capture.

Then they reach Kun. Or at least, the border. They can't get into Kun, because the entire country is encased in a magical, fluctuating storm. Kendra explains that the Kings and Queens aren't just died to their country in certain magical ways. The country shapes itself according to the personality and desires of its monarch. If there is no monarch, there's nothing to tell the country how to be, and that seems to be the situation with Kun. They can't explain how it's possible that a monarch could have died without passing their Queenship on to a successor, but that's a question for later. They have to turn back.

Instead, they go north, to a lake that dominates the central part of the whole world. The lake is dark and foul, and is apparently inhabited by something called a Shiketh, which makes it impassable.

They see a lonely cart drive up to the very edge of the lake, and begin pitching bodies in. When Sam stops to watch this, horrified, he sees the bodies attacked by some kind of enormous monster. All he can see are the claws of the monster, which can cut a corpse in two with ease. Then a claw attacks him, and his broom is destroyed, though thankfully he isn't eaten.

Damien decides that things have gotten far too dangerous for him, following around with these two, and leaves. Kendra can't blame him, and she and Sam head on towards a country called Zhen, which is apparently not much better than what they've just left behind.

--

I've had some days of major productivity - as much as 4000 words in a day - and some days of nothing, but I definitely can't say that week 2 has been difficult. I'm almost through it, and I hope I can keep up the pace in week 3. I'm at about 23k right now and considering trying to push forward to 25k by the end of the night. We'll see how it goes after I've gotten some dinner in me!
jessicasteiner: (Procrastination)
So yesterday was my birthday. I received a new laptop, so I made the executive decision to spend the evening a) having a lovely dinner and drinks, and b) loading all of my files and programs onto my new laptop, instead of writing.

I can't say I regret that decision. But as of today I'd got all of my files transferred over, I've got Liquid Story Binder loaded up, and I was ready to go.

--

Today I decided to call Chapter 9 finished and add a new scene onto the beginning of Chapter 10, instead of continuing the longest scene ever. It had a pretty decent cliffhanger the way I had it, so I think it worked, and it meant that Chapter 10 starts with a bang.

Literally.

With a little smart thinking on Sam's part, Kendra manages to incapacitate their two guards. Then Kendra uses her magic to cause a lot of chaos, and Damien sneaks into the supply tent to rescue their things, his things, and their broomsticks.

They fly away, but are being pursued by an angry Thief King with powerful magic, and a whole lot of bowmen trying to bring them down. Obviously Anju doesn't want them dead, but she is trying to force them to land and come quietly, and is keeping the sky lit up with magical flame.

Sam remembers the amulet that had been used against Kendra to block her magic while she was being held prisoner. He's got it in his pocket, and he loops back, rides his broom straight at the spider Queen from hell, and drops it right onto her.

This causes her magic to fizzle, and the three escapees are able to lose their pursuers in the dark by heading in a different direction.

--

After I'd gotten that written - and in mid-sentence - I got interrupted by my roommate coming in to talk about some stuff he'd done tonight. I've got about 1920 words for the day, so I decided once he'd gone to bed, that I'd leave the rest for tomorrow night.

I have about 17,000 words now, and I'm still well ahead of the necessary pace. Week two seems to be going well so far! I usually have a really hard time motivating myself to write in the second week, and I did feel a little bit of that malaise tonight, but I forced myself to get going, and it went well. I just have to keep on myself and not let myself get distracted.
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo: Logic)
This is the longest chapter in the universe.

The last two days I've been working on Chapter 9. Still. It's still not done.

--

When we last left our intrepid heroes, Sam and Kendra had reached the desert country of Li. They were attacked by a band of raiders, who brought them down off their broomsticks and took them prisoner.

The leader of the raiders is the King of Li, a fearsome creature with one eye and eight legs. His lower body is like a spider, but with a human torso. He turns out to look exactly like one of the partners at Sam's firm, Anju Singh, who is a woman. Sam is convinced this means the 'King' is actually a lady, though what this means is unknown.

Anju plans to either sell her prisoners into slavery, or sell them to their enemy, the King of Gen, for whatever reward he will give her. They place an amulet around Kendra's neck that makes it impossible to use magic, and tie them up.

Meanwhile, the King of Gen attacks Kun, the country where Sam and Kendra were headed. He murders the defenceless Queen of Kun in cold blood, and carves a large gem out of her body. It had previously been revealed that each of the Kings and Queens has a similar gem somewhere on their body and it gives them great power as part of their position.

Things look bleak for Sam and Kendra, but then a dog enters their tent. The dog turns out to be a werewolf, who looks exactly like their son in the real world, Damien. Damien offers help in escaping, in return for taking him to Kun. Why he needs to escape from the raiders, and what he's doing there, disguised as a mutt, is currently unknown.

--

I got a LOT of writing done on the weekend - over 6000 words. Tonight I stopped at around 1800 words, because it was a natural stopping point, but after the hard work I did on the weekend, I think I deserve it XD Also I didn't get to start working on writing today until past 8:00, so it's getting late now. I'm excited to get going on the Grand Escape, though! I have some fun ideas about how they'll pull it off.

I've passed 15,000 words, so this year's NaNoWriMo is looking really doable at this point. My toughest part is always week 2, which is why I've been working so hard at giving myself a healthy margin to work from, but if I can keep up some momentum, I'm sure I'll be fine.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Welp, today I came back to Dreaming, refreshed and ready to tackle it again after my break. I had a sort of tentative goal of 5000 words for today, but I didn't get started until late, had an interruption in the form of houseguests for an hour, and then hit a slight wall when I realized I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to do the next bit and needed to have a bit of a think. So I topped out a little over 3000 words for the day.

I still feel really good about it, though XD 5000 words in one day is something I've only managed a couple of times. It was an ambitious goal and I'm happy with 3000, which puts me over 10,000 words for the month so far.

--

Today I wrote Chapter 8, which turned out to be pretty short. The first bit is from Sam's best friend, Landon's, POV, in third person. He reflects on his own perspective on all of this. While he cares about Sam, he also is determined to get the partnership at the firm, and feels he's likely to get it anyway. He thinks it's probably best for everyone if Sam just gives in now, instead of working himself into a nervous wreck competing with him for the spot.

Kendra comes out of the room, distressed, and Landon gets perhaps a bit too intimate while comforting her. Is he just a close friend? Or does he have designs on Sam's wife as well as his promotion? We find out that it was Landon's idea that Kendra sign Sam's rights over.

Then we're back in Sam's POV as the doctor returns. Sam is angry and shouts a lot, and finally takes a swing at his doctor. This has predictably poor results, considering Sam's in a mental institution at the moment, and they sedate him.

This sends us into Chapter 9, where Sam wakes up in the castle where he had gone to sleep earlier. He dresses in native clothing with the help of invisible, magical servants, has breakfast with Kendra in the huge, empty castle, and then they depart, using broomsticks to travel faster. Riding a broomstick and dealing with all of this magic is disconcerting to Sam, but also fun.

Right now he questions whether the whole episode in the hospital is even real. Maybe everything he's experienced has been a dream up to this point. He has a hard time believing that there's a real world where he could have a breakdown like that, and where his wife would betray him to such an extent.

They reach the borders of the country of Shun and enter Li, which is a vast desert. And that's where I stopped for the night, because they're about to be attacked, and I have to decide if I want them to land first ;)
jessicasteiner: (Default)
So yesterday I decided to take a day off, lol. I know it might seem strange that I would take a day off only four days into a 30 day challenge but:

1) I desperately needed it. Not because the writing was stressful, but because the week as a whole was and I was on the edge of a general stress-related meltdown of epic proportions.

2) It was Friday, and I think Fridays are a good day to choose to have a regular day off. Writing 7 days a week, 365 days a year is a pretty harsh thing to set yourself. From what I've heard, most people do take one day a week off. Most of them seem to choose Sundays, but the idea of sacrificing a weekend day gives me the shivers. Those are usually my best days. Whereas it's nice to come home after work on a Friday evening and know there's absolutely nothing that you need to do.

3) I'm ahead in my wordcount so it wasn't a big sacrifice.

So I think I made the right decision. I plan to write a bunch today and tomorrow to make up for it and take advantage of the weekend, as well as giving myself a solid cushion heading into week 2, which is always a tough week for me. More updates to come.
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo: Logic)
Today I finished Chapter 7 of Dreaming. I wrote about Sam waking up in the real world again. He's been placed in a hospital, and his wife, Kendra, signed his rights away through her Power of Attorney, so the hospital has the right to keep him until they can be sure he's not a danger to himself or others.

We meet a new character, Dr. Chevalier, who is to be Sam's psychiatrist. He is an intelligent man, and more than a match for Sam's stubbornness, rather mule-like in his determination to keep Sam here for a while, for his own good.

Sam, of course, has no idea what caused the hallucinations, but he's not about to admit to any sort of mental deficiency, even to himself. He's afraid that he really did have a nervous breakdown of some kind, but he's not about to stay in a hospital. He really wants to get out of here.

He and Kendra have an argument over it, and she leaves in tears. Sam's home and work situation are definitely going from bad to worse.

--

I had a rather tiring evening and wasn't really in the mood to write at all, but I did force myself to and I'm glad I did.

Part of the reason why I found writing a bit daunting at first was because I felt like I really didn't know what it was like in a psyche ward. But I talked to a friend of mine who had spent a stint in a psyche ward at a hospital and asked a bunch of questions about what it was really like, from the smells and sounds to the procedures. It was super valuable, and I felt far more capable of tackling this part of the chapter after I talked to her.

The next chapter will continue in the hospital, so I guess I'll get started on that tomorrow.

When I first counted my words up I was at 1985 for the night. I've been giving myself a multi-tiered goal each day, which is my usual strategy for NaNoWriMo that has served me well in the past. 1667 is the absolute minimum, I-will-force-it-out-no-matter-what daily goal. But if I can, I want to hit 2000 words or exceed it each day, giving myself a cushion for days when things get hard and I really don't have time to write at all. The nice thing about the multi-tiered system is that once I hit 1667, 2000 doesn't seem that far away, so if I write towards what I absolutely have to do, I usually can go further and hit the second goal as well. But I don't have to do it, so it's less intimidating.

So I could have stopped at 1985 and achieved my minimum goal. Since I was kindof feeling low, I might have given myself a pass and not bothered to try to reach 2000. Especially since I had reached the end of a chapter, I was tempted. But 15 more words...?

So I went back and massaged a paragraph into being longer and wound up with 2020 for the night. Yay!
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo)
Every year (this is my 9th) I participate in the National Novel Writing Month event, or NaNoWriMo. Some of you may have heard of it, some not. Let me explain.

NaNoWriMo is an international event in which people attempt to write 50,000 words of an original novel in the month of November. It's a hell of a lot of fun, a huge challenge, and I've used it to make leaps forward in my drafts each year, though I'm not always successful at writing the full 50,000 words. The last two years, exams really got in the way, for example, though I did win the three years before that.

Since I haven't had as much time to do reviews (or even listen to podcasts) for the last while - mostly because I moved and now have a 5 minute commute instead of an hour - I thought I would shift the focus of my blog more towards writing and my experience. To that end, I'm going to blog quite often this month about my NaNoWriMo experience.

So last year at this time, I started writing a novel called The Dreaming. Dreaming is about a lawyer, called P. Samuel Cox, in Toronto. He's a driven guy, really involved in his work, and very close to becoming one of the youngest partners in his firm. He has a wife named Kendra and a son, Damien, who is entering difficult teenage years. Both Kendra and Damien feel abandoned by Sam, who is letting his home life suffer because of his work, but Sam figures it's a temporary situation, that when he reaches a certain point in his career, he can slow down and take time for his family, whom he loves very much.

But Sam's biggest problem is that he has a special ability. When he dreams, he, in a very real sense, travels to other worlds. Worlds that really exist. What he does in those dreams actually affects real people in other dimensions, some of them worlds where magic exists. While the people in these worlds are often similar to the people in his own world, Sam is special, and unique.

One day, a mage living on one of the worlds Sam has never yet visited, performs a magical spell to summon Sam and force him to remain on that world. He wants to use Sam to affect his world and allow him to accomplish certain goals. Sam starts to have the same dream over and over, and for those dreams to affect and invade his waking life, such that he can't really tell what's real and what's not. At that point, his life really starts to fall apart.

--

I wrote the first 30,000 words of Dreaming last year, and I intend to do another 50,000 this November. I don't know if that'll mean the book is finished (likely not) but hopefully I can get enough momentum to finish it off in December.

When I began writing again yesterday, I was about halfway through Chapter 6. Kendra, Sam's wife, had told him that she wants a divorce, and he had spent the weekend at a hotel. Meanwhile, every time he falls asleep, he is encountering a fairy version of Kendra, who is just like his wife, only magical and has never met him before, in this magical world of Ching that he can't seem to get away from. He's been told that the King of a country called Gen is trying to capture him, and they've had some narrow escapes from the King's forces already. He still believes that this world is only a dream, and he and Dream!Kendra slept together one night as they hid in the forest.

Sam has an important divorce case starting on Monday morning, and in Chapter 6 he arrives at the courthouse after a horrendous weekend in which everything seemed to go wrong. Two of the firm's partners are there to watch his performance, so it's extremely important that he do well.

As he starts to give his opening statement for the trial, he begins to hallucinate. He sees magical creatures around the courtroom, and sees a little pixie creature stealing his files. He's bitten or stabbed by the pixie, and the hallucinations grow worse. He ends up passing out, and returning to the dream world once again. That was yesterday's writing session.

Today I wrote about Sam and Kendra in the dream world. They travel through the forest to a rundown castle, which Kendra says is safe and magically protected, and there they try to figure out what to do next. Sam is okay with basically hiding in his dreams, and is hoping that the disastrous incident in the courtroom was a dream, too. He's still not taking anything in the dreamworld seriously, and that's pissing Kendra off.

Sam learns more about Kendra's history, and about the King of Gen, whom they scry in a pool and see him casting a magical spell to try to find Sam. They decide to travel halfway across the world to the country of Qian, to seek help.

--

So far I'm finding the writing basically effortless as I'm doing it. I don't always know what's going to happen in the scene, though I know what I want to accomplish, and that's always both fun and scary for me. If I let myself go, Sam's inner monologue is fun to write and flows well, and magical things seem to happen. I wrote over 2000 words in less than an hour tonight, which is about twice my usual pace.

I really hope I can keep this up! I'm feeling really good about it, though. I hope you find the concept interesting and will stick with me as I go through this journey this month.
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
I've always been a great multitasker. I'm one of those people who is nearly always doing at least two things at once - answering email while watching a movie, listening to podcasts about some topic that interests me while driving to work, or chatting with a friend online while reading cases for a class.

It's one of those things that's both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because you seem to be getting so much done in a shorter period of time. But it's a curse because quite often you actually aren't - you're just taking the same amount of time or even longer to do both things, because you're constantly interrupting yourself.

It's a vice that I'm actually trying to break myself of to a certain extent. I'm trying to get out of the habit of pausing while writing to answer just one email and "give my brain a break". I'm also forcing myself to turn off the internet while I study so I can get it all out of the way quickly and get back to doing something more fun.

To be honest, it's been surprising to me just how quickly I can get things done if I don't multitask, because I've always been a great proponent of multitasking.

I also multitask while I write, and always have. Now, I don't mean the kind of multitasking that makes you die in Write or Die, where you interrupt your flow to reply to an email and such. That's bad multitasking. That's the kind of multitasking that, as I said before, I've already been actively trying to train myself out of doing.

The kind of multitasking I'm talking about now is working on more than one project at once. I've always felt that this is good multitasking! For example, while writing a novel, I might also be planning the next one. So one day I might be in a writing mood and put a good 2000 words into my draft, but the next day the well is a little drier so I put a few hours into research and working on my outline for the next novel. This seems great! By the time I get my draft done, I'm pretty close to starting my next novel, while I let the first one sit, and then maybe when I get the next one done I start editing the first one, and there's always work moving through all three stages.

I think to a certain extent, I have to do this. You have to have days off, to think about things and let things percolate. When a draft is finished, you have to let it sit a bit, get some distance, work on something else for a while, so you can edit it objectively.

But where I've been running into problems lately is that I have too much going on. It wasn't so bad early on, when I was writing a draft and planning the next novel, and that was really all I had to work on. I could flip back and forth between the two without letting either project drop too far from my consciousness.

However, adding editing into the mix is messing me up a bit.

My current situation is a great illustration. I'm heavily involved in editing The Sleeping Death. It's weighing on my consciousness nearly all the time and I spend a lot of time poking at it mentally, scribbling down notes, or just pondering different options. Occasionally I take some time off to prod at the planning for my next novel, whose working title is Tris.

The problem is, I'm 30,000 words into a new draft of a book called Dreaming, and I haven't worked on it since November! I started it for NaNoWriMo, and I'm still excited about it - this isn't a dead draft or anything. I have a full outline. I know where I'm going and it was going well before I was forced to put it aside for exams.

It's something I fully intend to work on, but since I was interrupted and pulled out of that world so long ago now, it's going to take me some time to review, refamiliarize myself, and get back into the writing groove with this novel. And I just don't feel like I have the mental space to do that when I'm so heavily involved in editing The Sleeping Death. Especially since I already have two completed manuscripts, editing and getting those ready to publish logically has higher priority than finishing a third one or starting a new draft.

Poking at the outline for Tris seems to be easier than working on my Dreaming draft. I can do a little research here and there, or fiddle with notes, without having to sit down and really immerse myself.

This is a pattern that, upon reflection, I've suffered from many times. I'll start a novel and it'll go great for the first while, but as the middle happens it gets slower going, and something that took me a month to get 30-50,000 words will take six months to get to 100,000 words, or longer. It happened with The Sleeping Death. It happened with Otherwhere. And now it's going to happen to Dreaming.

I think it's a matter of priorities, and staying committed. I'm fortunate that, unlike many first-time writers, I do have the staying power. I generally don't start to hate a novel or drop it and start something shiny and new. But when I let it sit for a while, it is harder to pick back up, and by the end of the whole process it's been so long since I started the beginning of the draft that there are inconsistencies, forgotten details, and my writing ability has improved.

What I feel I should have done when I finished my exams was put real effort into getting back into Dreaming, finished that off, and then committed not to start a new draft until I had completed the edits on The Sleeping Death. I need to start working on things one-thing-at-a-time, with only short (like one day) stints into other projects if I'm just really not in the mood or stuck. I need to commit to working on the priority project even if it's hard, and not let myself get distracted.

It's an experiment at this stage, but I'm hopeful that this will be something that will work better for me.

So how about you, do you work on many projects at once? If you do, how do you keep all the balls in the air? Do you have any tricks you use or do you just let them all fall as they may?

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Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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