Crisis on Multiple Dans

I’ve been on vacation that last two weeks with the family. There was plenty of rest and relaxation. Also some stress and aggravation from trying to herd three small children to “HAVE FUN”. And driving. Lots of driving. So many car arguments.

My lowest moments? I transformed into a capital “D” Dad on this trip and had to say dad things like “I’m turning this car around and we’re going home!” and “Now NOBODY gets a movie!”. It’s awful. My kids turned me into a monster. But aside from that, it was a pretty fun trip. We went out east to visit my parents for a week and then drove south to surprise the kiddos with a secret Disney World trip the following week. So it was kind of eventful.

Two weeks away also meant two weeks away from writing. And in those two weeks I received a couple more rejection letters.  You’re never going to make it as a writer if you can’t handle rejection and boy have I gotten some letters over the years, but these two hit kind of hard. They were some final nails in the coffin of a particular work and I was realizing that it just wasn’t going to sell.

So in the midst of the Florida sun and Disney World I was also experiencing an existential crisis of what to do with my career.

I’ve always had this dilemma of striving for traditional publishing versus self-publishing. There are good reasons to go either way. Bad ones and pitfalls too. Even more than that, I’ve written seven novels now over the course of seven years and the last four books I’d say have had somewhat open endings or at least room for a sequel but I’ve never written any followups.

The life cycle of my books tend to go something like this: outlining and writing the first draft takes a couple months. Then polishing and editing takes the second half of the year. Usually while it’s taking me a year to write one book, I spend that entire year pitching and querying the last book. Once the new book is ready, I rotate the old one out, start pitching the new, and start writing something else. Thus the cycle continues.

My way of thinking was why write a sequel to a book that no one will read. Well, a lot of self-publishing thrives on series. Even my own Fairfax Cleaners I’ve envisioned to be a Hidden City series. I was going to hold off and publish those intermittently with other works. At least that was the idea, but down in the Florida sun I’ve come to a new decision. I do want to write a series, but while I love Fairfax Cleaners, Altered Egos is nearer and dearer to my heart. I’m going to finish editing my current manuscript and then I’m just going to dive into the Altered Egos sequel. I’m not going to lean into self-publishing anymore, I’m going all in. I mean, I wanted to write a series anyway so why not? What’s stopping me?

I’ve come full circle on this. I originally get into novel writing because I wanted to write comic books and got tired of convincing other people to draw stories for me. With that notion, if I love something and think its worth reading, well then maybe I should do it myself again and get it out there.

The writing industry is about the market, but the writing art is about passion. And right now I’m passionate about writing about a supervillain protagonist in a world of superheroes so that’s what I’m going to do. If I think these stories are worth reading, then there’s probably a couple people out there like me who’d appreciate them as well.

The Finish Line

The holidays ruined my NaNoWriMo.

I’m only half joking.

Due to travel plans around Thanksgiving to see my wife’s half of the family and then my family coming into town the very next week meant I lost quite a few days being a productive member of my family and not a productive writer. Now, I could have squirreled away somewhere to crank out some words, but we were in Disney World for crying out loud and I couldn’t figure out how to sell to a couple of three year olds why Daddy would rather play on his computer than play with them in freaking Disney World.

I’m not going to hit that fifty-thousand word mark and that’s okay. I write year round, not just November. Sure the challenge of hitting a high word count is fun. So’s the camaraderie during that time period, but truth be told, that stuff happens day in, day out throughout the rest of the year too!

Honestly, the most fun I have with NaNo is inputting all that data and watching a bar graph. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the estimated day of completion get earlier and earlier. I don’t need a contest to do that. I can do that with Excel. Okay, so the graph might be an extra step, but I’ll manage.

My only real goal this November was to take a nice sized chunk out of my current manuscript and that’s just what I did. So, mission accomplished.

For those of you who’ve hit that fifty thousand word mark, way to go! I’m proud of you.

Writing isn’t a hobby for me or a contest, it’s a lifestyle, so I’m just going to keep on trucking. I won’t always want to write fifty thousand words a month, but I’d like to give it another shot. Maybe February. Sure, it’s short, but there’s nothing going on in February to pull my focus elsewhere.

I don’t rely on a writing app to track my progress, but for the purposes of the monthly data it’s pretty fun. So, if anyone knows of something similar to the NaNoWriMo input, please let me know in the comments. I’d appreciate it!

There and Back Again

Hello, everyone!

I’m back from Florida. After driving back and forth to a wedding in Pennsylvania the other week and then to Florida and back, I am sick to death of being in a car. But it was definitely worth it. At a good clip, it’s a 14 hour drive each way and definitely something that can be done in a day. But with the wife being super pregnant and all, we split up the drive and stayed in a hotel on the way there and the way back again. That said, we pushed ourselves to do most of the driving on the first day so we could get down there on Sunday and make the most of our annual pass before it expired the very next day.

After having an annual pass and visiting about 3-4 times a year for the past couple of years, it was strange to be down there knowing we couldn’t just waltz into a park whenever we wanted to. Not that I had any real desire to wait for the newly refurbished Splash Mountain or anything – although it was pretty freaking hot – but just knowing that I couldn’t even if I did was a little irksome. I’d grown used to the luxury.

It was a great trip though. We stayed at Saratoga Springs due to its proximity to Downtown Disney. Most mornings were spent out by the pool and then we’d stroll over to DTD to do a little shopping or something. The highlight of each day was usually dinner. In the past, dinner was always planned in advance but we usually showed up as sweaty messes like everybody else from spending all day out in the Florida heat, but this time we could slow it down. You know, take a shower. We wined and dined. Well, she couldn’t wine and I scotched but only back in the hotel room.

The trip was bittersweet. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time and I’m so happy we went. I’m rested and recharged to do what needs doing, but it also marked the end of an era. Yes we may never get annual passes again, but we’ll also not ever vacation just the two of us again. Next time, we’ll be carting around two little dragons. We’re going from a 3-4 times a year cycle to a maybe we’ll go next year? … Probably wait until they’re older. The drive back was spent discussing the line between when do little kids start to get something out of a vacation versus how much work it now takes Mom and Dad to take them in the first place.

So we’re back and that means it’s time to kick my other work into high gear. I spent most of yesterday swapping cribs out of the nursery and putting together a changing table. I have a lawn that needs mowing too, but I’m upping my word count to make sure the novel is finished by August. Ideally, I’d love to knock it out sometime in July so I can clean up a draft or two and get it in the hands of some alpha readers. That way when I’m not sleeping, I’ll at least rest a little easier knowing that some work was still being done on it.

Summer Coat

There’s been some debate about the emphasis of story structure before you even begin writing over the years. As usual, it comes down to what kind of writer you are. The biggest knock against it is that having too much of your story beats planned out takes the fun out of writing it in the first place. It becomes too formulaic. Too dull. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I need to label myself into a writing category, I’m probably most like a “plotter.” I need an outline to show me where I’m going and as a resource to collect all of the random scraps and pieces and I can’t use in my current scene but I know will show up later. My outlines tend to be detailed in some places and incredibly vague in others. It’s my road map that gets me where I need to go.

This is the first time that I built in actual story structure beats right into the outline. Up until now, I’d like to think that I had an intuitive notion of what needs to go where. I wasn’t always right, but that’s kind of the point. So this time, I have the thing divided into the four typical parts with a few notes to myself at each junction to remind me not to make the protagonist too awesome yet or remember, the guy should be scared at this point.

It’s definitely helping keep the story on track, but more than that, all of these beats give me something to shoot for. Normally, I’m driven by A.) the ending and B.) at least one really cool scene that I’ve been thinking about since I’d even begun writing. But now, in addition to A and B, I have all of these smaller destinations to gear up for. If anything, I feel that it’s helping my pacing and lets my story breathe as I work up to such and such and then fall back down again for the effects. Established writers, you may be smacking your foreheads right now and saying “duh,” but I wanted to point this out for anyone else who’d been teetering on the fence with me. This whole novel so far has just been chock full of revelations for me.

So much so that I was able to convince my wife to let me write when we go away next week. When it comes to our Disney vacations, I write like a maniac beforehand and then make up my lost work afterward. Usually, we’re too busy during the trip for me to get any time to actually sit down and write. If anything, the only battle I pick is to go running a few mornings before whatever else she has planned starts. This time around, we have next to nothing going on. That’s the whole point. We want some rest and relaxation and with her being uber pregnant, she’s going to want to take it easy. It was her idea for me to bring the netbook this time!

Another thing I wanted to mention …

It’s shedding season, so that’s awesome. I pulled all of this off of my dog last night.

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Here’s a closeup and a sandal to show the scale.

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I’m seriously considering saving all of her fur and stuffing a pillow. Then I will send that gross pillow to my brother because who really wants a pillow stuffed with dog fur?

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Regardless, she looks pretty happy.

I probably won’t be posting next week. All of that time will be used for writing, running and probably eating instead. Hope you all have a good week and I’ll see you when we get back!

To 11 … well maybe 9

I’ve been going strong now for a while with the latest book. I’m just shy of the midpoint. A few thousand more words ought to finish the current scene and then its off to the antagonist to ratchet up the stakes a little 🙂

In books past I’ve hit various walls that needed to be pushed through in order to continue. But this time around, I’m pretty much excited all the time. I’m taking that as a good sign. I’ve been aiming for 1k words a day, but I haven’t be religious about it. Sometimes I go so far as to write my word count down. If I’m 50 words shy today, you better believe I need to make that up tomorrow. That said, I think it’s time to crank it up a notch.

Work has been interesting to say the least. There’s this big scheduling deadline that’s been looming over my head for months now. I need to get the spring 2016 schedule of classes over to the Registrar’s office by June. It’s felt like a tightening noose for a long time. First, scheduling isn’t actually my job anymore and second, I’ve been waiting around for the department to hire a replacement. This replacement needed to be trained so SHE could turn in that schedule. Anyway, that’s a lot of back story to try and explain that this week and next one are the two weeks I’ve been dreading for ages. It’s my last hurrah as a scheduling officer, my last trudge through the trenches while I train the new person with all of the wisdoms I can muster. When it’s finally over, the wife and I are going to Disney World!

Seriously. We love it down there. We’re taking another last hurrah before we’re never alone again. Don’t worry, we’ll bring the little dragons back with us.

So I think I’ll wait for all of that to die down before I crank up my word quota. If I can get more in next week, fantastic, but I’m not going to make myself nuts about it. Otherwise, as soon as I fall into the groove, we’ll be off to Florida where I doubt I’ll get much writing done. Although, long car rides are great places to work on some outlining in my head and snippets of prose always seem to spring to mind. I whisper things into my phone while my wife naps in the passenger seat. She wakes up sometimes and asks who I’m talking to.

Oh, you know. Just the voices in my head.