How I’m Surviving This Book That Still Isn’t Done (Not Very Well)

Since I’m in the midst of deadline myself, I thought I’d share a few of things that have kept me writing:

Conception calendar

Someone is always getting pregnant or dying in one of my books.  I found this great web site that not only allows me to put the first day of my character’s last menstrual cycle into a box and—voila!—a due date, but also goes BACKWARDS. Yes, that’s right—I can check what my character’s due date WOULD HAVE BEEN if it had been 2011 as it was in my mind while I was writing this book. You can see my favorite site so far here.

Heck, a regular calendar

In addition to pregnancy and thus the menstrual cycles of women who don’t exist, I also needed to Google when Lent and Easter occurred in 2011 because a chunk of my novel revolves around that specific time period. Once I knew when Ash Wednesday and Easter occurred, then I constructed a mini-calendar that then became even more important when I had to add the number of days required to get a divorce in the state of Tennessee. See below for another hack with Scrivener.

Friends who (drink and) know things 

So not all of these people may drink, but I adore Tyrion and therefore had to title this section thus. I had many people reach out to me about how filing for divorce works. Bless you, ladies. Tina Whittle was kind enough to reverse engineer a Tarot reading for me and to then read the scene to make sure I had it right. In the past I’ve had veterinarians, lawyers, ministers, funeral directors, and actresses all weigh in on what my characters should be doing. What can I say? I get by with a little help from my friends.

Scrivener

I adore this program, and I don’t even know all of its functionality yet. Here are a few of the reasons I love Scrivener:

  • It doesn’t crash like Word did. (knocks fervently on wood)
  • There’s a Notes view where I can put my thoughts in a box to the right and see them no matter which chapter I’m in. I use it to collect dropped threads, changes that will need to be implemented throughout the whole manuscript, and the beat sheet of events.
  • The find function is awesome because you can use it for a chapter OR for the entire manuscript. I sometimes also use the this function to find things in old manuscripts that I need to verify for new stories.
  • There’s a list of chapters on the left where you can add notes that won’t appear on the finished product. I put dates here to make sure I keep all of my characters on track and not forgetting dentist appointments on Wednesday as the author herself has been known to do.
  • You can also keep all sorts of files under research from links to dates and family trees or an acknowledgments file so I don’t forget all of the helpful people above.

Headphones

I would not have made it through this year without a good pair of headphones thanks to the construction going on behind my house. I’m thinking noise canceling would’ve been the best bet, but, hey, I’m not that wealthy. Here are the ones I bought.

Me, before my new chair

Me, before my new chair

The Marshmallow Chair

Deanna Raybourn let me know about this chair. It really is a marshmallow for my butt. Also, it’s new and I haven’t broken the mechanism that allows me to adjust the height yet so it’s helped with the ergonomic situation. I’m not saying you might need an office chair update, but I’m not saying you don’t. This is the infamous marshmallow chair–I bought it on sale.

Pomodoro Method

I heard about this method and got the app. A kitchen timer would also work if you don’t want another app cluttering your phone. The idea is that you work steadily for 30 minutes then take a break AWAY FROM YOUR DESK and then come back and do it again. An advantage of the app is that it keeps up with your breaks, too. Learn more here. I can’t find my specific app–probably because I need to do updates–but here’s more on how the method works and some apps you could use.

 Auctioning off a Character Name

Back when Bless Your Heart was nothing more than a gleam in my eye, I donated the right to name a minor character in a charity auction. Then I promptly lost the contact information of the person who’d won the auction because that, apparently, is how I roll in adulthood. At any rate, I knew the character would be named Liza. Hearing the name immediately told me that Liza would be my protagonist’s best friend. Even so, her character was a little flat until the church tracked down the winner for me and we spoke a bit about the real Liza. I didn’t actually incorporate anything from the real Liza, but I found out that her celebrity crush is Chris Pratt so I made fictional Liza’s husband Owen Pratt. Last name is obvious; Owen is the first name of the character Pratt plays in Jurassic World. Incorporating little things like that tickled the lady who’d bought the character and helped me find the fun again when the fun had faltered. (I wanted to talk to her to make sure that I didn’t make something about fictional Liza painful to actual Liza because that would take all of the fun out of it.)

 Having a critique partner who gets all CAPSY

I’ve written and rewritten. There are multiple versions of this story. Sometimes, in the midst of all of

CPs who snark together, stay together.

CPs who snark together, stay together.

those changes or simply the quest for new words, I end up moving my characters from place to place without proper motivation or emotional resonance. Then there’s that conflict avoidance thing that I have to fight every time. Tanya’s comments were a breath of fresh air because she helped me see the things I couldn’t because I was so busy trying to make the story go. Our critique partners make us better but only if they’re willing to call you on the shortcuts you accidentally take.

2016 hasn’t been kind to my creative process. I have clawed and scratched to stay some semblance of on track. If any one of these helps another writer to keep his or her head above water, then my work here is done.

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