I took the summer off. Sorry? Did you miss me? I'll admit, I missed this platform, but something in me needed the space, Dear Readers, and I hope that's okay.
Actually, I took the whole summer off from all sorts of responsibilities besides writing. I stopped adding books to the Little Free Library (it's still operational, but not super aesthetic or well-stocked). I finished up a freelance developmental edit, and took a few months off side-hustling for my mental health. I delved deep into my day-job to produce a health textbook (DE, CE, proofreading, writing alt-text for images, etc.) and that took up A LOT of bandwidth in my brain so I wasn't feeling super motivated for anything else.
I turned 40 and took a somewhat last minute trip to Disneyland. I kayaked A LOT. I attended county and state fairs. I went camping. I enrolled my daughter in multiple local camps. I worked on home improvement projects and/or home-related crisis's. I celebrated my daughter's 8th birthday and she started regular-ass public school for the first time.
So, a lot happened on the personal front.
WHAT ABOUT YER WRITING?
I revised Rosita Ruins the Heist like mad. The word count has ballooned to a WILD and shameful amount and has pretty much stuck there, despite at least two full-scale rewrites. I'm in third draft mode and have handed Rosita Ruins the Heist over to my close beta readers.
Beta readers. Huh. That's a thing. I have been struggling with this part of the process because I don't have too many people who I know for sure ACTUALLY want to read the rough draft of a book I wrote.
One of the best pieces of advice I've come across recently, in terms of beta readers, is to hand over your book (at least, at first) to people who you KNOW want you to succeed. And who actually want to read your writing. Although I am loved and cared for by many people in my life... on a personal level the pool of people who want to see me succeed and ACTUALLY read my writing is quite small.
I wish I could find the perfect reader who both loved my books and was able to give me objective advice but I'm floating in nebulous territory. The person I started writing the Metal Heart series for did not, in fact, like it very much and removed themselves from my beta reader list entirely. So it goes...
The current person who best fits that bill is my spouse, but he only absorbs my content if I read it to him and quiz him about it. He's great when I want to bounce completely out of context plot notes/points off of him but getting him to read an entire manuscript, especially more than once... well, it just doesn't happen.
I've joined and dropped out of so many writer's groups in the last few years, I don't even want to prevail upon those folks to read my heinously bloated 130k word manuscript until I've had a chance to get some trusted outside eyes on it and find out where the pacing is off so I can make the deep and painful cuts that I can't seem to make on my own.
So, the Grandmas in my life are my beta readers until further notice. My lovely Mom and MIL who read all three of my other completed works without complaint and who don't mind my badgering them with many, many, MANY questions. Too many, probably.
They'll have Rosita back to me by the end of the month. Then it's another round of revision, and then off to either second-round beta readers or a legit editor. SCARY. A real professional editor giving me notes? Who wants that job??
For the moment, I've moved on from Rosita, but haven't started actively writing anything else yet. I've outlined two different projects, and neither of them are Astrid. I love Astrid and her world, but there's just nothing compelling me about that story right now. Believe me, I wish it was. It's painful that I haven't completed the first freaking draft of that book yet. PAINFUL. But there are some pains we just must endure, Dear Readers.
Astrid is shelved for the time being and I won't be mentioning it in updates or making plans for that manuscript unless something changes. I figured out one possible ending, but it involves massive rewriting and taking the book in a whole new direction. I'm not ready for that.
IN HAPPIER NEWS
I found a fantastic FREE YouTube writing series created by Abbie Emmons that I've been mainlining over the last week, and I feel like when I'm EVENTUALLY ready to rewrite Astrid, I will be in a good place to restructure and interrogate the manuscript.
I'm making plans to restart some of my writing group memberships in 2023 and rejoin writing communities in the real world. I'm even toying with the idea of taking some comics writing courses. Imagine it! There's also low-key plans to table at a local, Salem-specific comic book convention in 2023 to peddle my wares but that's still in very early planning phases. I'd love to share a table with some other local indie scifi/fantasy writers.
I am VERY excited about Casualties (scifi zombies!) and Ghost Story (scifi ghost!). I've been working on outlines for both in my "not currently writing a book" downtime and I'm pleased to announce that Life Goes On will be my 2022 Nanowrimo project. More on that soon!
A rough outline of these upcoming last few months of 2022:
It might NOT surprise you to learn that after the new job, chaotic move, and being plagued with various rounds of COVID plus some vacations and side hustle work, well it might not surprise you to know that I spent two months NOT writing on my book. Literally nothing happened on Rosita Ruins the Heist between March and April.
And then, I sat my happy ass down in front of a computer and was like, you know what? You know whaaattt? What if I just wrote a few words everyday? No strings attached. No particular timeline. Just wrote a little bit, even if it's a single sentence or a whole paragraph or a whole page. Just a tiny little bit of something to advance the story forward.
What if I did that? Well, that's what happened.
AND THEN WHAT
Slowly, by not adhering to the confines of a daily word count or structured goals that felt unachievable, a chapter came together. Another one fell apart. I wrote myself into a box. I pumped the brakes and stewed for a minute, and then decided to start in media res and work from there. I finished up the big heist. I wrote the aftermath. I wrote THE ENDING.
I finished the book.
It was on a Sunday I think. It was very anti-climactic but it mattered a great deal because last year when I wrapped up the third book in the Metal Heart series and was unable to finish even drafting Astrid for an entire summer, and then when I started Rosita with such high hopes and just couldn't seem to get the ending written despite toiling with great effort through some serious life curveballs...
I started to think, somewhere in the muck and mire of the two month hiatus, that I might not ever finish another book after the initial three. Not that I didn't have more books in me, just that---with all my struggles to just be a human existing in the world---that I might not BE ABLE to write another book to completion.
I had started, somewhere in my back-brain, to accept this reality. And the other corresponding realities seemed to coalesce: I am not a traditionally published author, nobody will actually read what I write, nobody cares to suggest that maybe the world would be fine if I never finished or published another book again. And I imagine it will be fine, the world, if I didn't write anymore books. They're not world-changing or life-shattering or even, objectively THAT GOOD but... I am not the world. I'm just me. And I know for a fact that I won't be fine if I stop writing.
So I didn't, not permanently. And I won't probably ever stop.
I hit a wall somewhere in my thinking recently where I was like, when someone criticizes the thing you love or the morals and values you hold dear or the art that sustains you---the best response is just to fucking LOVE THAT THING MORE. To crow loudly and publicly about the very thing that someone would shame you for loving or being or enjoying or thinking or feeling.
Why should I give anyone the power or let them think for one second they could shame me? The world is in fucking shambles and I like what I like and I write what I write and I am who I am. There are things I can and should change about myself, absolutely. But being a writer is not one of them.
So, one day I sat down in front of the computer and I was like, "just write as much as you can RIGHT NOW." And then I did that consecutively for several days in a row until I had a completed first draft in very rough shape.
I am done. Another completed manuscript has joined the ranks. Welcome, Rosita Ruins the Heist. If that is really your true and given name. Lol just kidding. I plan for that to be the title unless somehow it is traditionally published which I highly doubt.
Right now, it's in second draft status. I did the unthinkable thing that you're absolutely not supposed to do and went IMMEDIATELY from first drafting to second drafting. There might have been a day or two where I was like, "I'm going to set this aside and finish up Astrid now." And then, I didn't. I BROKE THE RULES. I knew exactly what I wanted to change and how and had the desire and motivation to do so. And thusly, with only an extremely short break, I'm knee-deep in second draft mode.
That means adding chapters, deleting chapters, and patching together some loose scenes that were always destined to end up together. What's most helpful is that I've kept copious notes as I've written and went back through them right after I finished the book---color coding them based on what KIND of edit/revision needed to happen, and that's roughly the formula I've been following, in chronological order starting at Chapter 1. Start fixing right at the heart of it.
I can absolutely tell you though, when the second draft is done? I'm putting it away for a few weeks. It will need to be cleaned up considerably (the word count bloat is WILD, dear reader) and I just don't think a third round of editing/revising immediately after the second is within my grasp. I'll need some distance and perspective to come back and do the hard work of trimming dialogue and ensuring consistent and correct character arc, and pacing and tension.
This round of second drafting is really about building more time with the characters and getting to know them better and hammering the plot into something that makes more sense---connecting all the elements. I'm so happy to be here. I'm happy that I was actually, really, for reals able to complete a fourth novel.
Big things are on the horizon for Astrid and Casualties, my next projects for the last half of 2022. I was hoping to start the horror anthology this Fall, but I'm thinking that's going to consume my 2023 instead.
As of right now: I've logged 109,211 words. My current hope is to finish up the second drafting this month and then set it aside. I'm guessing word count will fluctuate wildly in that time (it already has). The third draft will involve making big cuts to dialogue, smoothing character arcs, and tightening pacing. Right now I'm still in the sandbox, building castles.
It's gonna be a good summer.
It might NOT surprise you to learn that in the last two weeks, literally nothing has happened on Rosita Ruins the Heist. There's been literally no forward momentum. No additional word count. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
SO, WHAT NOW?
My plan, now that I've finished my side hustle CE for the month and am ramping up for another one, is to still find some time to write.
But THE PROBLEM IS... I spent this weekend up in the attic of my old house, sifting through boxes and as much as humanly possible, downsizing. And the end result is that I stumbled upon some old writing, a zombie screenplay, to be more precise, and it's VERY ALLURING.
That's the neurodivergent in me CRAVING the excitement and possibility of something new, but it's at war with the part of me that understands the only way I will be successful in making "art" and/or publishing a book IS TO FINISH WRITING THE DAMN THING.
That's honestly the most challenging part of any project for me and now I have two books that are basically 80k words that are not complete and SO HELP ME... I don't want to follow this little new, inspirational beacon to it's inevitable conclusion because I have two whole books that are demanding my limited attention right now. You know, and all the other things!
I AM DOING THE HARD THING
I'm NOT pursuing the itch to turn this screenplay into a manuscript... yet. I've decided that will be my Nanowrimo project for November 2022. I've already taken some mental notes which will soon take the form of physical notes, but ultimately there are just a few tweaks (plus, translating small bursts of description into prose narration) to be made to turn this completed story into a book. It's a pretty easy win that's literally already done which is WHY IT IS SO TEMPTING.
Anywho. Finishing up another 5k words on Rosita by the end of the month. That will not be easy because...
MORE BAD THINGS
After three weeks of bearing the brunt of our packing, moving, and unpacking---my spouse sustained a significant injury to his back. He is out of commission for packing, moving, unpacking, building furniture, cleaning, doing ANYTHING really. The poor guy. We don't really know yet the full extent of the injury but he's had spinal surgery before and well, we're just hoping it's not that.
But it could be. I don't really know what my current emotional state is... numb but determined?
Tonight, I have to unload a POD because it's due to be picked up tomorrow. Today is my spouse's birthday and he's barely able to move. I haven't gotten him a present or a cake (I got a card), but I also haven't even unpacked the car from yesterday's Salem to Portland, Portland to Salem grind.
I spent yesterday morning tearing boxes open in our packed-full garage, desperately trying to find muscle relaxers/pain killers only to give up hope, drive to Portland, and find them in a bag that was tucked up next to the door, ready to travel down in the next POD or car load.
Meanwhile, gas prices have lurched over $5 a gallon. What a time to be alive!
But you know, at least we're alive. I'm currently drowning my daily sorrows in pickles and Schitt's Creek and re-applying myself to the new job and side hustle work and desperately trying to put together a functional household in a new city whilst cleaning up my old home of 20+ years and trying NOT to drown in nostalgia (but, my god, I do LOVE nostalgia).
It's been quite a time. Full of joy and euphoria and deep sadness and adventure.
I feel in my bones that SOMETHING is going to happen by the end of the month, but I don't know what that will be yet. Stay tuned, dear readers?
I left you all with a bit of a cliff hanger last time dear readers, because my daughter had two negative COVID results and we'd set up an advice nurse visit and were desperately trying to still keep everything on track whilst things were decidedly going off the rails.
My daughter got COVID--her PCR test came back positive. Both Dan and I took our own PCR tests just to be sure (even though we'd both been testing negative) and somehow, despite having ALL THE SYMPTOMS, we have continued to test negative via home tests and a PCR test.
COVID crud severely limited our packing activities, and other assorted house closing stuff took us even further off course so we ended up rescheduling our POD delivery date for this week (TODAY, actually). Our seller was gracious enough to give us the key this past Friday so we were able to move a few items via our cars (we've taken about six trips to Salem in the last five days).
Some weird issues with the Title company meant that we had to hire a traveling notary to sign the papers at the house and then, despite HAVING THE FUNDS in our account, the company won't accept them until this Wednesday?
I don't know. Don't ask me. The point is WE HAVE THE HOUSE KEYS and are now officially home owners again. It's a very intense thing.
Very emotionally and physically draining. I'm still recovering from COVID which means some days are better than others. Trying to pack and clean and unpack and paint whilst having COVID is perhaps the most physically miserable thing that has happened to me in quite some time.
I cannot recommend it whatsoever.
Other silly little bits that have happened... yesterday when we needed to do the big final push to pack our PODS with all the bedroom furniture (beds, mostly) there was severe rain and flood warnings. Because of course there was. OF COURSE THERE WAS.
It really feels like the Universe is intentionally making this difficult and we're getting tested here. Always getting tested. But I'm bound and determined. I didn't come this far to give up and there's literally nothing that will stop me from moving into this damn house. It's ours now. And we're gonna make this happen.
IT'S NOT ALL BAD, IS IT?
Of course not! We've had lovely moments of sincere help from my in-laws (ALSO recovering from COVID, mind you). Our realtor left us the sweetest "Welcome Home" gift basket and we were happy to share it with our loved ones. Audrey has been an absolutely trooper not only through COVID but through the first (and perhaps biggest) move of her young life.
Our big-little house has continually given us good surprises, including a dormant laundry chute (aside from built-ins, I really wanted a laundry chute of all things). It's been a joy to add little bits of personality to it, and even to do boring things like weatherize the basement windows. We've updated some of our furniture as well. Just, little moments of joy and pleasure when you're personalizing and putting a stamp on something that you've worked hard to achieve.
We had to hit up Home Depot for a few things on Sunday and wandered past the "make a key" station and in a fit of inspiration, Dan and I made keys for everyone that will be inhabiting the house. We personalized them--Audrey received a cheetah print, my Mom a Mickey Mouse, Dan got a skeleton key, and I got a Spiderman themed key. Everyone was thrilled to receive theirs.
It was a nice little moment in the swarm of chaos.
The general lawlessness of COVID + moving has definitely contributed to moments of euphoric disruption where I take a strange and giddy pleasure in breaking the rules. It has shaken up our Coronaworld routine to completely new heights, but it's also been difficult to grasp at the straws of somewhat normalcy during this time.
I'm grateful that everyone around me seems patient and understanding and I'm really just muddling through as best I can here.
WHAT ABOUT ROSITA?
Unfortunately, the reality of moving to a new city while battling COVID has meant that I have paused additional activities like writing on Rosita Ruins the Heist at least until we've officially moved in (likely this weekend, perhaps next as well).
What I have done, is loaded up the current draft of the book onto my Google Books and listened to it when I'm in solo transit between Portland and Salem. It's helped keep me in the world while my physical body and mind are otherwise occupied. I continue to listen to my playlists and build out characterization and motivations in my head. I'm just sort of visiting in the world right now and it's been helpful.
We all must have realized how impossible it would be to conduct a move and write a book while having COVID, right? I mean, WE MUST HAVE KNOWN, right? Anything else was starry-eyed optimism, which I am prone to fits of, now and then.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
It's March now, a new month, and I COULD continue on with my 100k goal. Or I could take stock of all that is ahead of me--and feel confident that I can hit 90k by the end of this month. With the pressures and responsibilities and joys of a move, a CE, a day job, a funeral, and a wedding to attend to--netting only 5k words this month is likely the only sane outcome.
These past few weeks have been incredibly hard. There are lots of swirling emotions and it's all just been quite A LOT on top of national and world events. I've got to give myself a break where I can, and this, right here, is where I can. Sometimes we must suffer for art, and sometimes the art must suffer. But it all shakes out in the end, doesn't it?
As of right now: I've logged 84,870 words. My current hope is to hit 90k words by end of March 2022. That seems like the only reasonable course of action at the moment. I love Rosita and I haven't abandoned her in the slightest. I'm still firmly entrenched in her world. I just have to close out this particular chapter of MY life, before I can finish hers.
FEBRUARY HAS BEEN SOMETHING ELSE
Now that the chaos of January has passed, things are starting to settle into more of a "routine" of sudden fits of stress brought on by things like... the IRS misfiling our taxes for multiple years, random requests for house-related paperwork, and plotting out the logistics of moving an hour away.
We don't have to house hunt every weekend, and we actually spent brief windows of time over the last two weekends socializing with other humans. Imagine that! And packing, of course. Consistent packing of the things that it makes sense to pack a month/three weeks/two weeks in advance. Let's not talk about how little we've packed already, okay? Let's just focus on the positive things. We've packed stuff! We've gotten rid of things we don't need. We have purchased cute new things for the house that we do need. This is all good stuff. GOOD STUFF.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE OUR FAVORITE CRIMINAL MASTERMIND, ROSITA?
In pretty good hands, actually. With a reduced goal of 15k words for this month, and more pockets of time now that we're not flitting down to Salem every weekend and refreshing Zillow every few minutes... I was able to net a considerable number of hours toward writing on Rosita Ruins the Heist in the last few weeks. Can you even believe it? Well, it's true. I'm slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, inching closer and closer to the finish line of a completed manuscript.
I even took a few FREE lunch-break writing workshops last week, and they provided some nice motivation and/or opportunity just to learn/relearn craft. It was nice to have a chance to be in community with fellow writers/editors who are also committed to making good art and that's just the kind of energy you need to cultivate when everything is crisis and chaos, isn't it?
I also have to shout-out my buddy Brian Parker of Believe in Wonder Publishing for contacting me this weekend about exchanging some editorial services for his brilliantly beautiful artwork, which led me down a rabbit-hole of renewed interest in Metal Heart (pulling together character descriptions and visual references will do that), and now I'm feeling inspired to visit that world again in the next few years. It's nice to collaborate, and it's nice to spend time with my favorite imaginary friends. It was a bright spot in an otherwise turbulent time and I'm grateful for that.
THE BAD STUFF
Doesn't that all sound great? Doesn't it seem like everything is coming together? We booked our PODS and were making a plan to enlist friends and family members to help us move and unpack the weekend of February 25-27.
AND THEN, COVID hit the family. My daughter spent this past weekend with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law so Dan and I could concentrate on some of the grosser parts of packing (our individual sheds and cleaning out/packing up the inflatable hot tub). This past Sunday, my BIL started exhibiting signs of COVID --- fever and nausea. He was confined to his room once the symptoms hit, but likely the exposure had already happened.
My daughter and MIL arrived back at our house on Sunday evening for dinner. We sent my MIL home with two boxes of at-home tests, and kept our fingers crossed. But about an hour after she left, we got the dreaded news... my BIL tested positive (TWICE) for COVID. Uh oh.
Yesterday, my daughter started complaining about having a sore throat. This morning, she woke up with a fever. We conducted one COVID test, despite her pleas, and weren't quite able to get high enough into her nostrils, so the test came back negative. The second I managed to get a little deeper, but it also came back negative. There's no denying that she's actively sick after a prolonged, multi-day exposure to a COVID positive individual. Weirdly, my MIL's at-home COVID tests also came back negative and she's had no symptoms.
We contacted my daughter's advice nurse and have a virtual visit set up for later this afternoon. Not sure what the results of that will be, but it's something in the face of nothing. Humans are so funny that way---the way we try to exert some semblance of control as we're battered about in the winds of constant change and catastrophe. It's cute. It's adorable. We're such a dumb species.
In the interim, we're all just kind of hunkered down and quarantined and have notified our various people about the potential upset to our schedules if we end up dreadfully sick. It's nice that we're all working from home still, because THAT aspect doesn't change too much for us.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
We plan to just keep trucking and doing what we can, when we can, to the capacity that we can. Our PODS will be delivered this Wednesday 2/16 (tomorrow) and we've already packed up dozens of bags and boxes which we can start loading. There's more and more things to pack, and we can do that until we can't. We have a backup plan, if we're COVID positive in the next week or so, to hire movers to unpack the boxes on the Salem end, so we don't expose a bunch of friends/family to a potentially deadly virus. We've been pretty organized with our labeling system and that might be helpful in mitigating interactions once we're down in Salem for the unpacking part. *fingers crossed*
On the writing end of things---I'm actually in a pretty good place in Rosita where I'm setting up for the third and final heist. I'm basically in the last third or final quarter of the story, nestled somewhere in the grey area between the two, which is aligned with hitting the 100k word mark to end things (probably end of March 2022), and then going back to cut that down to 80-85k (as close as I can get to that).
Other factors that are coming into play, besides moving and COVID: I have a legitimately fun CE on my plate, an exciting partnership with Brian Parker creating some artwork for the Metal Heart series, and just lining up more editing work for my side hustle. The new day-job is kicking up with some larger scale projects and I'll actually be doing final editing on some chapters of a textbook (a new skillset unlocked).
Everything was feeling insanely overwhelming yesterday and yagirl had a bit of a breakdown + stomach health issue flareup. But I'm feeling a bit better today, as I predicted I might. Just focusing on what I can with my current time and not trying to have a larger plan for tackling everything all at once.
Despite all of the odds stacked against me (us), I feel like, at least with writing, I put myself in a pretty solid position to meet my goal for this month and that's no small feat when everything towering up around me is monumentally, sky-scrapingly large.
As of right now: I've logged 84,870 words. My current hope is to hit 90k words by end of February, with an expanded goal to hit 100k words---and the ending of Rosita---by March 28, 2022. Not sure how many curveballs the move and COVID will throw at us before the end of the month, but I'm fairly certain I can knock out 5k words by that time, writing in the only way one can... by putting one word after the other. One word at a time. One crisis at a time. That's the current rate at which I'm approaching life.
JANUARY 2022 ENDED MUCH AS IT BEGAN
Pure, unadulterated chaos, dear readers. CHA-OS. I'm glad that, even before this month started I realized that the audacious goal of reaching 90k words (30k words for the month) on Rosita Ruins the Heist was just that---audacious, and I eventually determined it would be easier on my spirit if I just resigned myself to half that goal. And what do you know, I was able to achieve it and feel some semblance of productive.
DO YOU THINK I MADE IT?
I did. I DID. You didn't doubt me, did you? I wrapped up my DE mid-month and had a lovely debrief meeting with a new writer friend (hello Anders!) and that inspired me to WRITE MORE and ACHIEVE GOALS. Writers are such gorgeous, gorgeous people because we inspire and motivate one another in our work that is largely solitary and thankless and at times can feel so brutal and unrewarding.
But when we get to talk shop and validate one another and be passionate about our craft and celebrate genuine works of art? That's THE BEST PART. I wish there was more of that for the silent majority of the writing community that hasn't yet been published or heaped with praise from the outside world.
THEN BAD STUFF
Anywho... it wasn't all sunshine and roses. We did experience a COVID-related death in our extended family and that grief and mourning is sure to resonate throughout the upcoming months. We'd known about her illness for a few weeks and unfortunately, her body wasn't able to fight it, even if her spirit was willing. She was an incredibly supportive and compassionate person, and she did not tolerate bullshit nor did she bullshit you. A very amazing soul to have in your corner, and she was in the corner of everyone she loved. She will be fiercely missed.
AND NOW A LITTLE BIT OF GOOD STUFF
The sunshine and rosy part, though? We did actually have an offer accepted on a house. That is both scary and very frightening. The Salem, Oregon housing market ended up becoming quite volatile as soon as we started our search in earnest (lucky us) and there was plenty of heartache and frustration and depression and malaise.
This was actually only the second home we put a legitimate offer on, so scoring it so quickly and having everything finalized/closed and moving in within the next 30 days feels like some kind of dream. A fever dream, for the amount of money we're paying.
But the upswing is that it's an adorable 1944 bungalow in a nice neighborhood close to work and in a good school and also close to downtown. The house itself is deceptively large (2200 sq ft.) and has these quirky retro elements, and is a solid/not in a horrendous state of disrepair house that is affordable given the market/supply of houses in Salem. We were incredibly lucky and fortunate to get it (our realtor, Ron Brister, was THE BEST) and I'm going to keep that in mind every time I go to make the ungodly mortgage payment. WHY is home buying so heinously expensive?
WHAT ABOUT NEXT MONTH?
I am shooting for another 15k words for February 2022, which would land me at 90k, but that might be asking a lot given that we'll likely be packing up our home over the next few weeks and doing things like home inspections and appraisals and signing paperwork and eating Top Ramen for the rest of our lives. That last one's a joke. Maybe.
It will also require me to make DECISIONS about the current chapter I'm on and my brain feels like it's already hitting peak decision making because of home buying/packing and all that jazz... so it's going to be a bit brutal. I'll re-assess where I'm at near the middle of February and see if I'm truly at the halfway point. 15k words might not seem like much, but working a new full-time job + conducting a CE + packing/moving + all the other life stuff... I'm just going to be limping by on fumes over the next 30 days.
As of right now: I've logged 75,706 words. The current hope is to hit 90k by end of February. I'm not sure if that will actually take us to the completion of the manuscript, so I might need to bump that up to 100k, which means it will carry over into March. That's fine. Five months to write the rough draft of a book isn't THAT much time, is it?
2022 IS HERE
Quicker than the blink of an eye--2022 has arrived and with it all the chaos that I predicted. Completing a DE, ending one job, beginning another, and through it all, house hunting. Also, that puppy I talked about earlier (Dunkin Donut: half Boston Terrier, half French Bulldog). He is the source of much joy and near constant cleaning. He loves socks (just to cuddle, not to chew?) and eating napkins/tissue paper and torturing our older Boston Terrier, Oreo Cookie. He is PURE CHAOS personified.
So, what's the possibility/reality that I got ANYTHING written on Rosita Ruins the Heist in the interim? Slim to none? Well, you're wrong again. When will you learn not to discount my Herculean efforts to do all the things? Perhaps today.
BUT, ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT?
Sadly, that remains to be seen. I don't have any clever week-long excursions to the beach where I can stash myself away in a room with a door that locks and shut out the world.
I had one long weekend, this past weekend, but that proved to be the transitional time between jobs and also involved a day of house hunting and then a day of cleaning and then a day where I sat in various poses in front of my laptop with the cursed cursor blinking and very few words happening. Oh let me tell you, the first part of that day was pure torturous agony.
I wrote. I WROTE SOME STUFF. It's... not great, that bit of writing. But it was finally SOMETHING after two solid weeks of nothing and it is FINALLY moving the plot along, and happily giving me insight into a character that had heretofore been shrouded in mystery. Intrigue! Motivation! Character development! Action Adventure!
WHERE YOU GONNA BE COME END OF JANUARY?
Honestly? Not at 90k words. I can tell you that, straight up. While last month I had the confidence of a known-quantity job and copious amounts of PTO, this month I have basically one week left and it will only be the second week of a new job.
No PTO in sight.
I'm going to hedge my bets and say that I can comfortably meet HALF the original goal for January, and net about 10k more words before the end of the month. And then I'll probably shoot for something like that for February, as well. Ideally, I would be cranking out the rough draft in three months but I'm realizing that's just not feasible in the middle of a global pandemic while acclimating to a new job AND house hunting.
I'll give myself four, possibly five months for Rosita. BUT I will get to the end and it will be glorious.
The constant shuttling down to Salem has inspired me to consider purchasing a travel writing device that would allow me to continue writing without internet, and not attempting to do so on a Google Doc on my phone because I'm trying to be a PROFESSIONAL. lol
I love my little baby laptops but they aren't great for actually getting work done in a moving vehicle (who knew?) and I want to get work done during the wasted hours in the ugly space between Portland and Salem (that particular stretch of I-5 is most aesthetically unpleasing).
I just need something that is basically a Kindle with a keyboard. My only wish is that this device were like $200 cheaper and then I would be able to reasonably afford it. $500 is A LOT and I don't think I'll be able to purchase it before it's rendered obsolete in my life, I think.
THEN AGAIN, the allure of distraction free writing... the temptation to shut out the world on the digital level... readers, I am INTERESTED.
As of right now: I've logged 65,327 words. Reaching 75k words by the end of January is the more reasonable, manageable goal here that won't make me feel like a total failure at my earlier efforts. Some things in life are unpredictable and so we adjust, adjust, adjust.
I mean, all the things I'm currently experiencing are 100% entirely predictable and chaos of my own making but I am going to ignore that for right now. What I need is MORE TIME IN THE DAY. That's all. That's what I keep telling myself and it always makes me feel better. How about you?
After the major highlights of 2020 (and you know, the bitter dregs of a global pandemic), I'll readily admit that 2021 had big shoes to fill in terms of life achievements and the highs/lows really cancelled one another out so it was neither the best nor the worst year of my life. It was definitely a catalyst to a whole mess of needed change.
You'll see how that unfolds over the next few months. ;)
Spring 2021 saw the publication of the final book in the Metal Heart trilogy, Iron Curtain. It died a quiet death and I'm guessing from the lack of response from those who did read it, that it didn't quite hit the mark in terms of wrapping up the trilogy. I guess, eventually, I will go back to the books and re-edit/re-release them.
Mostly, I got to a point where I just wanted the trilogy DONE so I could move on to something else. Which didn't end up being Astrid vs. the Asteroid like I'd predicted and hoped.
Actually, 2021 sort of sucked in the first half, not gonna lie. I FINALLY got vaxxed (whee!), self-published a book (whee!), got fired from a job I hated (whee?), moped around on unemployment and DID NOT write ANYTHING (wait, what?), got another job that paid more than my last one (well, alright!), started my editing side hustle in earnest (Okay then!), was invited to a writing group (yay creative friends!), wrote 60k words of a NEW book (well, that's more like it!), and got a puppy (omg! A PUPPY!).
By the end of the year things were definitely looking up but also REALLY chaotic and the first half of 2022 is going to be sorting through some amount of mess. But, that's an entirely different story...
So, what's on the writing docket for 2022?
Resolution #1: Finish Drafting Rosita Ruins the Heist (Winter 2022), Revise (Spring/Summer 2022)
My lovely little heist book about a memory stealing bank robber. I'm sitting pretty at 60k words at the moment, with plans to hit 90k by the end of January 2022 and keep on rolling until the book is finished. I've already made notes about what to chop (cut, cut, cut, and SAVE THOSE SCENES), and what to alter (SO MUCH), and I'm feeling pretty good.
Not gonna lie, it's a whole lot easier to write a single stand-alone book than to try and plot out three books and do I regret writing a freaking trilogy my first time out the gate? A little bit, yeah. But it also means that I'm hitting a way better stride and feeling more confident in my storytelling abilities for everything else that has come after.
Perhaps it's false confidence. How the hell am I supposed to know? I just feel the drive/pull to create.
Resolution #2: Finish and MAYBE Publish Astrid vs. the Asteroid (Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall 2022??)
Or maybe shop this one around to an agent/publisher? I'm sort of on the fence with the best approach to Astrid. I was asked to submit a whole MS way back in 2019 at a writing conference, but it's been SO LONG, and I just don't really feel like I know where the publishing industry is at anymore, as a whole. I've read rumors on the Twitters it's steering away from YA in general and unless someone is gushingly enthusiastic about it--I'm not sure I want anyone else to have it. I am very selfish that way.
I'm excited by the prospects of writing two endings (the good and the bad), and I've been considering doing some blind tests on beta readers to see which one really resonates. That could be fun! Who wants to sign up to beta read?
But first, it does need to be completed, which is the goal for Winter/Spring 2022. Then revised. Then beta read (blind testing both good and bad endings, tho). AND THEN, once I've decided it's fate, I will be hiring a DE/Copyeditor before self-publishing. I might even hold off on self-publishing if I decide to submit to the Library Writers Project for 2023. Who knows?
Resolution #3: Draft Untitled Horror Novel (Fall/Nanowrimo 2022)
I have a handful of different horror novel ideas, and it's about time one of them floated to the surface and saw the light of day. My biggest beef with most haunted house stories is that they take place in these GIANT labyrinthine mansions with endless spooky corridors with doors that open to giant dusty rooms. They're almost always situated on huge sprawling estates with tunnels and trapdoors and haunted greenhouses or something. I say thee nay! Give me seedy, creepy little houses in a neighborhood littered with needles and condom wrappers and graffiti and poverty. I want a story set where the bus line ends and drug dealers hang out on the street corners and everything smells like weed.
Those are all the writing goals fit to print at the moment. As always, they are probably loftier than their practical and realistic application. I will be lucky if I can finish Rosita, finish and polish (and publish?) Astrid, and maybe draft another MS in late fall. I'm still committed to my goal of publishing at least one book a year.
Rosita is destined for 2023.
Horror novel is destined for 2024 (with a possible horror anthology sprinkled somewhere before or after).
And that's, of course, not counting any of the other goals I have for my editing gigs and we can't forget the writing workshops and critiques and social media marketing, blog posts, eventually putting out that newsletter I keep teasing/talking about, plus thinking about converting some of the books to audio...
There is always a lot to do. But without the writing first... none of that other stuff matters as much.
DID YOU WATCH ME?
Do you remember the chaos of the first part of December 2021? Did you know that the chaos of the last part of December has included multiple medical procedures, attending and hosting holiday events, preparing to bring home a puppy, house hunting, AND a trip to the coast in wintery weather?
And remember how I said haters and rational people would say that I couldn't possibly write 60k words this month, THIS PARTICULAR MONTH??
WELL, I DID
I did the damn thing that no one thought could be done (I mean, I figured I could work hard and make it happen). Insert Snoop Dogg "I want to thank me, for believing in me" quote here. I've learned a ton of new things about my characters and the direction of the book. Some new ideas surfaced. Some old ideas were abandoned. I am now eleven chapters deep into this exciting new world and at the point where I'm REALLY ENJOYING spending time with these troubled, lovable goofballs.
I underwent those medical procedures which involved a ton of fasting. I survived the holidays (got a sweet-ass record player and Beatles albums). We are at the tail end of our beach trip, tomorrow we're driving to Springfield, OR to pick up our new doggo, and I'll be hosting at least one more event this weekend.
Yes, the madness forever continues. Would that I could hole up in a cabin in the woods and spend all my days writing like some forest hermit. Tis not possible, I'm afraid.
WHAT HAPPENS IN 2022?
The next phase in my evil plan is to reach the 90k threshold with Rosita Ruins the Heist by the end of January. This might be a little bit trickier as I have two editing side hustle projects to complete, the housing search continues (seemingly in vain), and I may or may not be taking a work trip depending on what my work status is (that is still TBD).
I'm also unsure if reaching 90k words will actually complete this novel. The goal is to hit 90k, but I'm starting to wonder if this draft might surpass that final word count. I'm definitely aware of where I need to trim the fat. But sometimes you just need to write the words. I find myself, most times, feeling like I'm writing things at a snail's pace within the manuscript itself. Does anyone else feel like this? I don't know why all the scenes seem bloated. There's so much bloat!
Every time I finish a chapter, I can't wait to cut it down. Create and destroy. No, that's not quite it. Create and recreate.
As of right now: I've logged 60,799 words. Reaching 90k words by the end of January is feeling a little bit shaky as I move into 2022. Stay tuned, dear readers. Things are somehow about to get EVEN MORE interesting?
A PROMISE WAS MADE
Late in November 2021, feeling good about smashing my revised Nanowrimo goal of 30k words, I decided that the only way to ensure I achieved a properly completed first draft was to continue the goal of writing 1k words a day on the manuscript through the end of January. A lofty goal, but one that seemed attainable. I'd even logged a few words over the 30k mark and had some extra padding in case I missed a few days or the holidays went sideways.
What a fool I was back then.
WELL THEN, WHAT HAPPENED?
It started to go horribly wrong fairly early--the last day of Nanowrimo even--when I knocked out a job interview. The wheels were set in motion for this opportunity to possibly coalesce into a straight up job offer (still pending).
I'd also submitted an adoption application at the Multnomah County Animal Shelter for a bull terrier named Scarf. So, the first weekend of December, I had another interview for the role of adopted dog mom and got the job. My spouse was gone for about five hours playing DnD and arrived home to quickly prep the house for the arrival of a 50 lb. dog who was deemed not appropriate for interaction with our rabbit. We had to install gates, build a crate, and purchase a few other dog related items. *phew*
Scarf met our boston, Oreo Cookie, at a neutral location and they seemed to get along fairly well outdoors. That changed a bit at the house, so we were monitoring their interactions. He was a big dumb idiot and bowled over our daughter a few times, so we were monitoring those interactions as well.
It was all going swimmingly until Scarf developed some serious sleep and territorial aggression that was a complete 180 from his previous personality. It all ended in my husband being attacked (with multiple bites) and Scarf being removed from our home by animal services because post-attack he was still highly aggressive. It was just no longer safe or reasonable to have him in a home with our seven year old. It was an extremely heartbreaking situation (we were all so excited to have him join our family) and I spent the next two days crying intermittently.
AND THEN WHAT ELSE?
At the very same time, I was getting closer to a job offer at a location south of where I live--Salem, Oregon--and my therapist declared that she wouldn't work with me on an ADHD diagnosis until I moved out of my current location (for a variety of reasons).
So, we drove down to Salem this past weekend to scout around the neighborhoods and get a "boots on the ground" lay of the land. The housing market is much more affordable than Portland, Oregon--but not THAT affordable. We are still considering our options and putting any serious efforts at moving on hold until after the holidays.
A trip to the emergency room last month kick-started a bunch of appointments with my GP and some specialists to determine what the heck is going on with my GI system. I now have an endoscopy and an imaging appointment set up for next week--both of which include TOO MUCH fasting. I've also undergone serious dietary changes which means there are more foods I cannot eat than foods that I can eat. It's hard--I love to eat. This all very much sucks.
OK, JUST GIVE ME THE TLDR
We adopted a dog that attacked my spouse and he had to be returned and I cried for two days straight. I might get a new job and move. I'm undergoing multiple medical procedures next week. Also, it's the holidays? I mean, all the other life stuff applies like hosting multiple birthday and holiday events, raising a child, decorating/wrapping gifts. Keeping our LFL stocked (AND FESTIVE). Also day-job has been WILD the last few days. Like, cut me some slack Universe?
BUT DID YOU WRITE?
I did. And I didn't. Mostly, I didn't. But the act of not-writing didn't stop me from playing around with cute graphics for Rosita. It didn't stop me from logging over a page of notes during the mental/physical health walks I tried desperately to take every day with no regard to weather conditions (bring it, PNW).
I managed to pull myself away from Reels long enough to tap out an additional 3k words last night so I'm not anywhere close to 60k right now but I'm closer than I was this time yesterday. I will write more. I am actually enjoying the dorky little chapters I'm scribbling away at right now. I am giving myself permission to just fucking enjoy it because everything else is chaos.
I also had a great writerly meetup with my buddy Giacomo who gave me the ultra GOOD suggestion on how to break my block for the ending of Astrid. The idea is one I've been batting around, but it was nice to have someone outside myself confirm and support it. I'm going to write TWO endings--a "good" ending and a "bad" ending because my head and heart have been battling.
It's lowkey a metaphor for our current times and I've been feeling low about our optimistic outlook and couldn't bring myself to write something that cast such a glowing light on humanity. Giving myself permission, and having someone else support/reinforce the idea, has given me a lot more motivation to knock it out when I'm FINALLY done with Rosita Ruins the Heist. Which means finishing Rosita. Which is, A LOT.
Honestly? It's all been a lot and in my life, it will probably ALWAYS be a lot. That's just my particular journey. BUT--I'm still here, doing the damn thing. 60k words by the end of the month. Haters will say it can't be done. Rational people will probably also say it can't be done. But I'm neither. ;)
As of right now: I've logged 37,661 words. I should be at 45k right now, so I'm operating at a serious deficit at the moment. BUT I'm gonna hit 60k by the end of the month (taking the week between Christmas and the New Year off for a trip to the coast). JUST WATCH ME.
Melinda Jasmine Crouchley, YA supernatural science fiction author and professional editor.