Derailed

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Photo of the 1895 Montparnasse derailment (via Pexels)

It seems that when I am working on a novel, especially during an intense stretch like NaNoWriMo, I should not be allowed to read, watch, play, or listen to anything that does not contribute in some specific way to that project. I get derailed way too easily.

For example, I was plodding along pretty well through most of NaNoWriMo this year, and stayed more or less on topic. I wasn’t actually expecting to reach 50,000 words this month, but I had hoped to reach at least 40,000. (Instead I got almost 37,000, which is still quite respectable, but a bit less than I would have liked.) If you follow my LeNoWriCha Logs, you’ll notice that I made two mistakes that severely cut into my word count. The first was at the beginning of the month when I watched Star Wars Rebels. That put me in the mood for Star Wars fan fiction, and my FC Tenko is very persistent in taking over my headspace. I managed to shake that off, and then made the mistake of going on Steam during their Cyber Monday sale. I got completely and utterly mentally derailed by an otome game called Amnesia: Memories for the last week of November. Like, the staying-up-until-3:00am-staring-at-the-computer-screen-until-my-eyes-felt-like-they-were-going-to-burn-out-of-my-skull kind of derailment.

It’s a little frustrating that I have to think twice before exploring any media because it can quickly blossom into an obsession (albeit a short-lived one) that drags my attention away from what I’m working on. But is that because I have an addictive personality, a short attention span, or am just bored by my current project? All of those reasons are a little depressing.

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Crazy May

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Jorge Cham at PHD Comics (07/28/2014)

 

Maybe all this pollen in the air has addled my brain, but it seems like May 2018 has been the month for me to engage in some crazy writer shenanigans. Three, to be exact:

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DIY MFA Book Club: Prompt #1-4

 

Being a hermit of the literary kind, I tend to not join things. But I’d enjoyed Gabriela Pereira’s panel “Rock Your Revisions” at the Writers Digest Annual Conference last August and joined the mailing the list for her online newsletter. So I got an email announcing the DIY MFA Book Club starting January 8th. I mulled it over for a while and decided, “Why not?” Get prompts to share stories about writing with other writers? Could be fun! I signed up and got the first prompt on the 8th, the second on January 10th, the third on January 12th, and the fourth on January 15th. While I have posted answers to these prompts in DIY MFA’s Facebook group “Word Nerds Unite,” I decided to include both the first set of prompts and slightly more in-depth answers here on The Cat’s Cradle:

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Of Prep and Prequels

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The Hundred Days by Geoff Hunt

While most people are excited for the coming of pumpkin spice, winter, or the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo, which begins in (gasp!) only eight days. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk since April when I finished Courting the Moon, and only nibbled at the edges of projects. But National Novel Writing Month (especially in conjunction with the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge) usually gives me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.

So, to facilitate this imminent frenzy of vomit-typing, I picked a project that I only have the vaguest idea about: the second book in my planned Mariner Sequence series entitled Seahawks and Storms. Now, even though this is the second book I’m writing in the series, Seahawks and Storms takes place about 600 years before the events of the first book, Ravens and Roses. It will tell the story of the first Admiral of the Mariners, Samuel Tempest, his wife Amaris Seahawk, and the founding of their new home, the land eventually called “Marina.” If you’ve ever read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, you’ll see that the relationship between my two books is in a similar style. Each book can be read as a stand-alone, in publication order, or in chronological order, and should all still make sense. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
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Free of the Doldrums

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I think writing is required for my mental health.

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted the entry entitled “Holding Pattern“? Yeah, that sensation of being trapped in creative doldrums lasted far, far longer than I anticipated or liked. It just didn’t make any sense. It’s summer time which means warmth and sunshine, I’m back on my antidepressants, and I finished a book. You’d think I’d be on Cloud Nine and working better than ever!

Not so.

Instead, I puttered around with fan fiction and found myself increasingly dissatisfied with life, the universe, and everything. Sleeping too much, eating too much… low energy, low focus… It was more or less how I felt for eight years before finally getting professional help. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

Now I know: I wasn’t writing.

Weird, huh? I took a week off after finishing Courting the Moon to rest and recuperate. But that “break” from writing just got longer and longer. I fell out of the habit and my sense of self and well-being went with it. But I finally worked up the effort to get back into my old routine. I committed to the July edition of Camp NaNoWriMo and set my LeNoWriCha goal to “Easy” (a.k.a. 15,000 words.) Got up early this morning, went for a walk, had a cup of tea, and started writing the moment I got home.

July 1st and July 2nd it was a struggle to reach the minimum of 500 words each day. Today? Over 2000 words and still going. I went from having no synopsis for Courting the Moon to a nearly-complete first draft of it in three days. And the more I write, the more I want to write. The cycle feeds itself in eternal momentum and motivation. Even though I knew this intellectually, I think this is the first time that I felt it viscerally.

Granted, I know that not every writing day will be this good; I had an excellent convergence of energy, sunlight, and time. But, at least I’m working again. I have mental energy, focus, and drive. Heck, I spent last night folding up my clean bed-sheets and blankets to pack neatly away in my linen closet! That, like, has never happened. Ever.

While I know that my momentum will be interrupted by things like work, cats, and trips to the bathroom, I will try to retain this routine for as long as I can. If you have a routine, you can move forward, even on the days when you don’t feel like writing.

Breathe deep. Fly high. Seek peace. 

— a Dinotopian farewell

“Bright Sunshiny Day!”

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I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day


— Jimmy Cliff, “I Can See Clearly Now”

And so it is!  Actually, these last two weekends have been ridiculously productive, mostly because I’ve been able to sit out on the front porch (like I am now) for hours at a time.  (I just LOVE my Chromebook!)  It’s astonishing how much something as simple as the weather can have such a massive effect on one’s psyche.  While I don’t really consider myself and outdoorsy person (since I like, never go camping or hiking or boating or anything like that), I do gain great satisfaction and pleasure from being outside.  And even if I have to hide indoors during the summer because it is too hot or humid out, I am still more productive, simply because there is sunshine.  I think I may be part lizard and part sunflower.

At any rate, I am very pleased with my progress on All’s Fair.  My characters are talking to me again, I’m filling in plot holes, uncovering motivations… it’s all coming together and that’s a good feeling.  Granted, since I had to rip out or severely alter over two-thirds of the book, I now have no idea how to end the darn thing.  I suspect something will occur to me after my subconscious has a chance to mull over it for a while.  I plan on participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, since they have come up with a system to represent editing and not just vomit-typing.  For Camp NaNo, an hour of editing equals 1,000 words, so I’m setting a goal of editing for at least an hour each day, which would be 31,000 words.  I don’t think I’ll do LeNoWriCha this time since I’m not really generating new content.  My ultimate goal this year is to have All’s Fair ready for the submission process by October.

Speaking of time… did you know that The Cat’s Cradle is now five years old?  Yep, I started this blog back in June 2011.  At the time I was just shouting into the ether from Blogspot without a clue of where I was going.  Now I’m here on WordPress with a far more streamlined and professional webpage design.  I update more or less every other week, I’m on Twitter, I offer editing services, and I’ve added the Audio Editions for people to listen to and download.  I try not to look at stats because that way madness lies, but I’m ecstatic that, as of today, 138 people follow The Cat’s Cradle.  Whether anyone reads it or not is another story, but I’m very grateful to everyone who has chosen to read, like, share, comment, or listen to these entries.  I’ve learned a lot over the last five years, and I hope to continue improving so these entries remain informative, interesting, or at least entertaining for you.

ThankYouBlogReaders

2015: The Year in Review

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Okay, seriously, who keeps making off with all this time?  Feels like the year just got started and we’re already on the cusp of 2016!  (And from what I’ve heard, this sense of time distortion only gets worse… ugh.)

I am definitely in a better place at the end of 2015 than I was last year.  Many of my 2014 goals have been reached, and it feels like I’ve got a better handle on life in general, which is a massive relief!  I want to give a huge thank-you to all of my friends, readers, subscribers, and followers.  You make this all worth-while.

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Checking In

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Greetings to you all from the beginning of Week 3 in NaNoWriMo!  I have to say, this month’s writing has gone a lot better than it has for quite a while.  You may have noticed that my last few entries (although few and far between) contained a note of despondency.  Or maybe a healthy dose of it.  Or perhaps entire buckets of the stuff.  At any rate, I’d essentially stalled out on Ravens and Roses, which I’ve been working on pretty much non-stop for longer than I care to remember.  I know that I swore (again) that I’d have a finished draft at the end of this year (sound familiar?) and I still might.  It just may not be the project I was expecting it to be.  

My 2015 NaNo project, “code-named” AFiLaW (pronounced A-F-I-Law), also referred to as All’s Fair, has gained a lot of momentum, despite containing two genres that I’ve never worked with before:  Romance and Steampunk.  I’ll admit that at this point the prose is a little light on both; I keep forgetting to add steampunk descriptive details and I haven’t touched the sex scenes.  In fact, I may decide not to write any of the latter at all.  Scenes with that particular kind of intimacy are alien to me, and every piece of advice I can find about writing in the romance genre says: “If you are uncomfortable writing sex scenes, then don’t write them because your discomfort will show through.”  So we’ll see.  Still, even with those quibbles, I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words each day and often pass the 1,500- and 2,000-word marks.  That’s practically unheard of for me; I don’t recall doing that well even when I began Ravens and Roses in earnest back in 2010 for my first NaNo.

I think the reason I’ve been doing so well lately is threefold:

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I’m Still Alive!

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Hey.

Do you know what day it is?

Yes, it’s a Tuesday.  What else?

Okay, the date is October 13th.  What happens on October 13th?

Why, the birthday of one of my favorite fictional characters:

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Milestones & Updates

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Hello, world!  It seems like writers spend a lot of time soul-searching in Angst-ville (myself included) so I wanted to share some good news!

 

1) ARTICLES!

(click image for link)

I got some articles published!  Fellow writer Mark Squirek is a columnist for the online newsletter Scoop.  He asked me to do a pair of articles for his column, “Cover Story,” which discusses the cover art of various comic books.  I got to pick any two covers I wanted and write about them!  I chose Space Family Robinson #23: “Menace from Uranus!” from 1967 and The Chronicles of Arcea #1: “The Athame” by Vyrhelle.  Many thanks to Mark for asking me to write for Scoop and to Mr. J.C. Vaughn, editor at Gemstone Publishing, for taking a chance on a new writer.  Also, my deepest gratitude to my friend Karen; editing all of those art papers paid off!  Working with Scoop has been a lot of fun, and I hope I’ll be able to continue writing for them.

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