Had an okay week this week, though I hit a wall that threw me for a loop on Thursday. Managed to pull myself out of that by recognizing some of the inherent strengths in the original version, and am plowing ahead on the word-cull to try to get the original version into a submittable form.

As for the yearly plan, I did manage to jot down a very, very (VERY) rough breakdown that I’m hoping will at least keep 2018’s goals in mind as I move through the various months. It will likely change as things either take longer (or shorter–it could happen), so it’s in no way hard and fast, but it gives me a rough idea of what to shoot for:

FEBRUARY – Submit one new short story
MARCH – Edit summary draft, make general changes to get in what needs to be there and what needs to be fixed, prior to:
APRIL – JULY – Prose Draft #2 of the novel project
AUGUST – Submit one new short story
SEPTEMBER – Submit one new short story
OCTOBER – Research and Reading for new project
NOVEMBER – Write Draft #1 Summary Draft for new project during NANOWRIMO
DECEMBER – Free month/Catch-up Month (Decembers are always trainwrecks time-wise anyway)

What I’m working on this week: Plowing ahead on the word-cull edit, though the hubby’s on vacation this week, so the likelihood of finishing the cutting edit is probably a long shot. If I can get a minimum of half an hour of editing work in a day, I’ll consider it a major achievement.

What’s inspiring me this week?: Well, it’s Winter Olympic week, so I’m all about watching people half my age do crazy awesome things with knives strapped to their feet. I mean, have you ever seen anything as crazy beautiful as the double-helix Evgenia Medvedeva does on that second jump in the solo short program?! I didn’t even know they could jump with their arms up.
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And this weekend, the gift that keeps on giving struck again: my folks got the hubby and me a turntable for Christmas, and since then, it seems like everyone we talk to about it has a stash of records in their attic or in storage that they are only too happy to donate to the cause (aka: our building up our library). This weekend, we raked in a ton from my parents’ neighbors: Gladys Knight and the Pips, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry (Johnny B. Goode, of course), Blondie, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Willie Nelson, along with some Vivaldi and some Beethoven, among others. And we’ve been absorbing those bit by bit, which has been an absolute delight. I don’t think a day slips by that we don’t listen to at least one album.

What action do I need to take this week?: We’re gearing up to get all of our passports done/updated, which we’ve been talking about for (literally) years, but never quite make time for. So this week, we’re trying to at least get that tackled.

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Just a quick pop-in this week, just so I can say I did it!

What I’m working on this week: The summary draft for Draft 2 of the novel is done and cooling, so it’s onto something else for the month of February. I’d really like to get a new short story written and submitted this month if at all possible, so that’s my primary goal. With that in mind, I’ve got a rough idea sketched out, though it’s been so long since I wrote a short story that I’m a weeee bit worried I don’t remember how to do it, so I’m going to prioritize reading short stories this week. If I can get the prose-draft written this week, I should be in good shape to polish and edit over the next few.

What’s inspiring me this week: Just finished reading The Wave by Susan Casey (about freak waves and big wave surfing), and other than a penchant for really annoying/overbearing metaphors from time to time, it was a very interesting non-fiction read that taught me so much about what I don’t know about waves and wave structure. (For example, I didn’t realize that to study wave structure, you basically have to be a quantum physicist with a knack for chaos theory.) I completely enjoyed it, though, and it’s definitely inspired the story I’m working on now.

I also just finished Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami, which I did not realize is a direct sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase (which, thankfully, I have already read, though it’s been a long time). I really enjoyed this one, not quite enough to dethrone my favorite of all time (1Q84), but it was a great example of Murakami at his creepy/surreal best. I just love the dynamic of totally mundane real-world (like, seriously mundane, borderline boring–except somehow it’s more meditative/relaxing than boring to me) and bonkers, off-the-wall bizarreness that comes in like a swift left hook right when you think everything’s just going to stay normal. I freaking love that combination.

What action do I need to take this week?: It would probably not be a bad idea to sit down and do a rough annual checkpoint to determine what year will look like, since I’d pretty much figured out: January = summary draft; February = not summary draft. But beyond that, I haven’t really thought about how to fit in the various goals I’ve made for the year.

At the beginning of this year, I knew I wanted to make a serious effort to read more than I did last year. I picked up some good lessons learned about how to build the habit (or destroy it, as the case more often was), and have structured my time to accommodate more time with the written word. So far, it’s working pretty well: I’ve finished four books this year (not amazing, but far more solid than last year), and the habits have held up for the first month. I need to get a little better about the reading log, but at least I’m reading regularly!

To start of 2018, I scrapped a few books that had been on the roster for months last year that for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten to yet. I still intend to get to them this year, but I’m not focusing on them for the time being. Right now, my list includes:

Notes:

*And Be a Villain – Just picked this one up from my mom a few weeks ago, because I’m going through an Archie Goodwin withdrawal. It’s an easy read, I just spend the last couple weeks focusing on finishing a couple other books, so it hasn’t gotten the love it deserves. I’m hoping this one will be done by the end of the month.

*Clockwork Angel – This one I’m reading as part of a series of clockwork-fantasy related books, partially market research, partially because I’ve never read anything by Cassandra Clare before, and feel like I ought to. I’m about a fifth of the way into this one, and hope to finish it this month.

Bored and Brilliant – Started this one a bit back, and it’s interesting-ish, though not quite as engaging as I’d expected. But it’s not a slow read, so I’ll try to get this one off the docket pretty quickly.

*The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh – I’ve been reading this one since JULY 2017 (AAAAAH!) so I really need to just commit to it. It’s actually incredibly interesting as an insight into a great artistic mind, and the common artistic challenges he describes in his letters to his brother really make a fascinating portrait of him as a person.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – I love, love, love this book, and YES, AGAIN, I just need to commit to it. What I’ll probably have to do is pick one “challenge” book per month that I seriously need to finish, and then load the rest of the month with things I think will be easier to finish. So I may not finish this one this month if I’m tackling the Van Gogh, but if I don’t, it’s ON next month!

*The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – I just picked this one up again after several months (having set it aside to read what felt like more urgently finishable things). But I’m really enjoying it. It’s a book recommended by my mother (a mental health councilor) for working with (rather than against) a feisty toddler, of which Bug most definitely is. Already even some of its little recommendations have smoothed out a lot of back and forth nagging (Here are your shoes, no your shoes, yes, come put them on, Bug. BUG. Shoes! Yes! Now! Here. Do you need help? BUG! Yes, shoes now. Put them on. Yes. We’re going. Yes, you need shoes. YES. PUT. THEM. ON.), and I suspect some of the other things I’m learning will be helpful in future years, too, even for a kid who at least thus far is an ordinarily defiant three year old and otherwise a total sweetie. This one’s pretty short, and I’m motivated, so I suspect I’ll be able to finish this this month.

Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights – Okay, I am like…maybe two or three hours away from being done with this audiobook. Its a very engaging book, but it’s not Bug appropriate to listen to out loud, so I’m much more limited on when I can tune in, and then there’s the joy of holds/returns on the library app I use for audiobooks, which means I’m now stuck in a waitlist to get it back so I can finish the last two sections… If I possibly can, I’m going to try to finish this one this month, but I’ll have to see when it’s available again.

*The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2014 – I promised myself this year I would read several of these to get back into shape for writing short fiction again (MAN do I miss getting rejections! How mad is that?!). I’ve decided to start with this one, because I started it a long while ago and am about a third through it. I don’t know if I’ll finish it this month, but I’m going to try to get through some of it.

*Starred = Focus books. I feel like I do better finishing books I’m poly-reading if I have a handful that are prioritized over others. So I’ve got five starred books, and the others may have to wait until next month, depending on how my reading’s going.

Phew! Haha! So that Sunday Circle thing, am I right? Yeah… So it’s been a while. But I have been working, so that’s something. About mid-December I hit the wall on the summary rewrite draft and realized some of the basic assumptions I’d made in the Original Draft just wouldn’t stand, and that obliterated the logic of the summary draft I’d been working on. Then Christmas hit. Then New Year’s. I actually had a wonderful holiday season. I got to spend some quality time with my sister and brother-in-law visiting from California, and got to meet my adorable, awesome, hilarious baby nephew for the first time (he’s eleven months). It was great fun, and Andy actually got the holidays off this year, which was a nice change of pace. Writing-wise, after the draft collapsed, I decided not to stress out about it over the holidays, and that worked out well enough because I had no idea where I was going to go or how I was going to restructure the project.

But! Almost two weeks into the new year, I’ve got a healthy new summary draft for the rewrite going that makes much more sense, sets up a healthier pace of action, and actually saves a LOT more of the original content from the rough draft, so that’s kind of encouraging. We’re getting into the sticky bits now where all those multitudes of secondary storylines are all coming together and I’m definitely having to do a lot more thinking, but all in all, I’m pretty pleased with where it’s going so far.

This week, I’m working on: Continuing to chew away at the summary draft. I’m past mid-point now, which means I need to spend a little time thinking about the next major plot-point in order to direct everything towards it. I’m hoping to get the summary draft wrapped up by the end of this month.

What’s inspiring me: I finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert week before last, and I’m finding it’s still resonating with me. I’m sure it’s approach to creativity isn’t for everybody, but for some reason, it’s precisely what I needed to hear right now. It kind of rang in on the same frequency as Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, which I’ve also found very helpful. Just contained a number of useful ways to keep the mind’s criticisms and obsessions at bay.

I’m also starting to do some really rudimentary urban sketching about the house (I’m calling it “suburban/domestic urban sketching”), which I’ve quite enjoyed, though am still very much learning the skills. But it’s a great way to squeeze at least a little art into the day-to-day.

What action do I need to take?: I’ve actually been really dedicated this week, putting aside my typical TV habits for reading in the evening which has really helped up my reading hours (and that feels so good!). Mostly, I need to kick this wretched cold that’s been plaguing the Slater household for a week or so now. Sleep and healthy eating. :)

You know, despite lots of upheavals and surprises and new time constraints and toddler and politics and houseguests and a bit of traveling, 2017 as a writing year wasn’t terrible for me. (How’s that for optimism? I’m working on it…) I managed to complete the one major goal I would have cried if I’d not accomplished (the rough draft of a novel), and while I came nowhere close to reading 60 books this year, I at least managed an average of one book a month (*sad*), which is I suppose better than nothing. I’m just glad I read over ten, because for a while there I thought I wouldn’t even hit that. And I really enjoyed most of the books I did read (this year included an introduction to Nnedi Okorafor via Who Fears Death (amaaaaazing), and Lois McMaster Bujold via the beginnings of the Vorkosagan saga and comic artist/writer Moebius via The World of Edena, and a pair of truly life-enlightening books in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as well as Judith Pierce Rosenberg’s A Question of Balance: Artists and Writers on Motherhood). The goal to write a new draft via NANOWRIMO this November fell completely flat, and I did not in any way create or keep up a reading log (look for this goal again this year…)

But overall, when I look back on the year, I’m not disappointed. Sure, I could have done more. Sure, I let other hobbies and activities run away with me for a time, some of which I’ll scale back this year, and some of which are here to stay and simply need to be acknowledged and included in my day-to-day routines. Still, I hammered out 90k of rough draft material, and I think I may be able to save more of it than I initially realized, which is helping a little on the rewrite-panic that set in at the end of September. It was a good, solid year. There are improvements to be made, and lessons to be learned, but all in all, I’m happy with it.

In 2018, I’m going a bit ambitious again, though I hope only a *little* ambitious (meaning: doable).

  1. Write one new summary draft (with the world-building done) for a new book.
  2. Write & edit three new short stories.
  3. Continue the edit/rewrite of Frosthaven (to 2nd draft).
  4. Read 50+ books and keep a reading log (for real this time).

Here’s to a fruitful and enjoyable 2018! Happy New Year, everybody!

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