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You Can Do It!

Do you mind if I vent for a second? I know other people have bigger problems than I do–hell, the entire country has Problems–but there is something that’s been getting me down lately. Homeschooling my thirteen-year-old daughter, who we had to pull out of public school due to some chronic health issues. To be clear, I love my daughter–I love both of my children–and her health is critical to me. I am willing to make sacrifices for her well-being, absolutely.

But, in the other column, have you met teenage girls? To paraphrase that Merc with a Mouth and noted child psychologist Deadpool, teenage girls are characterized by long sullen silences and mean comments. This is how I’m spending all day, every day. With a moody teen who misses her friends and is understandably frustrated about her circumstances. Add to that my struggle to remember what little I ever understood about 8th grade Algebra and it’s amazing my life hasn’t become a looping gif of Bridget Jones’ “I choose vodka” declaration.

This time last year, my kids got up, went to school (on the days my daughter felt up to it), and I had the house to myself. For hours! Oh, the glorious solitude. I got to write and play in my own make believe world and, shockingly, got PAID to do it! What kind of nonsense adult job is that? Now, I still have deadlines for books but far, far fewer productive hours (and as a result, fewer paychecks). I wonder if I’m driving my daughter away with all this togetherness. I wonder if I’m too impatient with her. I worry that I’m not enough to keep the former honors student caught up academically with her peers. I say to my husband a dozen times a week, “I can’t do this.” And, yet, since it’s getting done, apparently I….can?

Reluctantly, perhaps. Inexpertly, for sure. With a side of tears and swearing, absolutely. But I am managing something difficult in spite of the self-doubt. One day at a time.

I’ll bet you a dollar there’s something in your life you want to accomplish but you doubt your ability to achieve it. Maybe it’s lose a little weight or learn to knit or write a book or make the world a better place and you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do this.” I bet you another dollar that you absolutely can.

I do not love this new homeschooling arrangement, but my daughter is making straight A’s. We’ve both been learning about algebraic formulas and the Articles of Confederation and how animals adapt to their environment. It is not a perfect educational environment and our progress is slow, but we’re damn lucky that we have the resources and computer and flexible schedule to attempt what other families might not be in a position to try. And I don’t write as fast as I used to, but the fictional voices are still there, talking to me at odd moments, and I record snippets of dialogue and ideas for scenes in the Notes section of my iPhone. Yesterday, I put sentences on a page–not as many as I would have liked, but a paragraph exists now that wasn’t out in the universe before, and I created that.

Books are written one sentence, one word, at a time. Keep slogging forward. Those words add up. One of our math problems last week was whether it would be better to take a job that paid a million dollars for thirty days (where do I sign up?!?!) or a thirty day job that paid one penny the first day but doubled salary every day. To steal from clickbait headlines, THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU. Pennies add up. Steps walked and calories counted add up. Calls and emails to politicians about important matters add up. And the more you do, the better you feel. Start small–hell, start tiny if you need to. Keep your expectations reasonable and be patient with yourself, but do not listen to that stupid, petty voice that sneers “You can’t do this.” It is wrong, and I believe in you. Surround yourself with people (in your physical world or online) that echo that belief and cheer you on and, in the meantime, I’ll share with you these wise words from Christopher Robin that I’ve hung on my own wall as a reminder.

Now get out there and kick some ass—-slowly, and in manageable tasks with occasional setbacks. But that’s okay. An ass kicked in slo-mo is still an ass kicked.


If I can do it…

you can do it gif








So, I’m fresh from the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolias Conference for a much needed weekend of bonding with my fellow authors. Attending conferences always renews my enthusiasm for my work and recharges my creativity. Then, like always, life gets in the way again and tries to shove my writing to the backseat, somewhere under the preschool papers and the towel I keep there in case the dog pukes on a road trip.

This year, though, I had the opportunity to attend a craft workshop led by Candace Havens: Fast Draft/Revision Hell. This was an amazing experience! In Fast Draft, she explains a process that will lead to–you guessed it–extremely fast drafting! How fast? Pretty much fast enough to get a bare-bones, messed up first draft of a novel done within a two week period. Now, I’m not going to be spreading her trade secrets around, but I will tell you this: a big part of her method is about accountability, and moving forward. Sounds like obvious, common sense, but somehow, it all clicked like it never would have in a million years had I not heard it in the way she presented it.

I’ll admit, I’m not really fast drafting as she prescribes it. I have a manuscript to finish, and with about 30% left to go, I was sputtering on fumes. So, as soon as I got home, I decided to apply her techniques to my situation, and as of Day 3, I’ve accomplished so much, that I’ll be finished within about three more days worth of similar output. It’s not quite the true fast-drafting output, but it’s easily double the word count of what I’d previously considered a “full” writing day.

I’m not a fast writer. I fiddle and fuss, I re-read and edit as I go. That’s against the rules in Fast Draft! I still deliberate over what I put on the page, but I keep moving forward. You mean moving forward results in more productivity? I know!! Imagine! Ooh! Ooh! Guess what else!! I quit wasting so much damn time! Instead of starting the day with email and internet nonsense, I wait until after writing time. I leave my phone downstairs. In my writing time, I just write. And damn, if it isn’t working!

Accountability is also a big motivator, so I’m checking in daily with fellow fast-drafting Bad Girlz for a daily review of our respective ass-kicking and name-taking. I don’t know exactly how something so simple works so well, but it’s totally clicked and I’m feeling the magic. If any of you feel like you need that little extra kick in the pants to really get motivated and get some results, I highly recommend this workshop!

Oh, also, Candace says it’s very important to reward yourself after making a goal. So here’s a GIF of the bassist from the Clash taking his shirt off….. You’re welcome.






Happy writing!





NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

So, who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year? What’s NaNoWriMo, you ask? It’s National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place in November. You sign on as a participant, and after of 30 days of frantic wordsmithing, you’ll have written an entire novel. That’s the idea, anyway.

The folks at NaNoWriMo consider a novel to equal 50,000 words. If you’re writing genres like category romance and some types of science fiction/fantasy, this is approximately your target length. For lots of commercial/literary fiction, you’re a bit more than halfway there in terms of word count. But, whatever you’re writing, if you finish your 50,000 words by November 30th, you’ve won. What do you win? A web badge proclaiming you a winner, bragging rights, and a damn fine sense of accomplishment.

Why do it? There are a few great reasons to do it. One is one of those “just because you can” type things. There’s also accountability, thanks to the handy-dandy word count box you can update as you go along. When you join NaNo, you also get accountability and moral support. There are forums dedicated to every genre imaginable, and you can even join up with fellow writers locally, if the in-person thing is more your speed. And, it probably goes without saying that the best reason for participating is the awesome word count you’ll have at the end of the month.

The value of doing this is NOT the novel you’ll have at the end of the month. Trust me on this. You’ll have 50,000 words of something, but honey, it ain’t a novel ready for submission. And yes, this all sounds obvious in the extreme, but I’ve read on multiple agent blogs how much they dread the first week of December because people actually do this. Those 50,000 words you put down may be 49,000 of back story and 1,000 of story-story, but it’s getting you closer to the good stuff, and helping you know your characters and discover plot lines you may not have envisioned. Those 50,000 words also show that you can be disciplined, work on a deadline, and hold yourself accountable—essential characteristics of any professional author. Even if you don’t quite reach your goal, I bet you’ll write more during NaNoWriMo than you would have otherwise. If your inner writer needs a kick in the ass, NaNo’s a pretty big boot.

If you’re going to do it, you’ll need a general idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going. A basic plot framework and character sketches are good to develop ahead of time so you can hit the ground running once November 1st rolls around. And I do mean running. To make the goal, you need to write 1668 words each and every day in November—even on Thanksgiving, even when you’re staying at the in-laws sleeping on a cold, leaky air mattress, breathing in thirty years’ worth of stale cigarette smoke before getting up around last call to go join the Black Friday freak show. Yep, even then. If not, you’ll have like six thousand words to write when you finally get back, wheezing and bleary-eyed, to your own home and your own bed. Yeah, so maybe November doesn’t work for you? The organizers also run similar writing challenges in the summer months.

What about me? I did it in 2010, and it was a great experience, even though I didn’t make the goal (I topped out at 35K if you must know). I haven’t signed up yet, but I’m sorely tempted to try again. I do realize reaching 50,000 words is, well, a reach considering my work-slash-baby wrangling commitments, but I think my inertia-laden muse needs a big ole NaNoWriMo ass-kicking right about now. So, with a big, nervous gulp, I’m tossing my hat into the ring.

Who’s with me?


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