Challenge….accepted!

Well, it’s been a little while since I posted (sorry!). I’ve been super busy with writing and life. But here I am! And I’m still going strong on my challenges for the month of November. Although I may have taken on a little too much. As the month draws to a close, I am so thankful that I have been able to keep up with everything and not fall apart 🙂

nanowrimo2015NaNoWriMo. We’re coming up on the end of NaNoWriMo. As of today, I have passed the 40K mark and I have 6 days to write a little less than 10K words? I’m believing I can totally do that! Are you with me? My story has taken a LOT of twists and turns that I wasn’t anticipating and I am eager to see what will become of those. Now, this novel will not actually be complete at 50K. For Historical Fiction, publishers/agents want authors/writers to hit more around the 80K mark. So, I’ll still have some work to do, but to be an official “NaNoWriMo Winner”, I just have to complete the 50K words in the month of November.

bibleVerses Challenge. I don’t think I shared this before, but I took on another challenge…to write a passage (several verses) a day that pertains to thankfulness or thanksgiving. I’ve kept up with it. Some days I have to play catch up and do more than one passage, but I’ve stayed on top of it so far. This has been a good challenge to get me in the Bible and keep me in it daily. I hope this is building a habit that will continue.

starbucks cupStarbucks Challenge. Yes, this is a silly challenge. And yes, I needed extra coffee because of the NaNoWriMo…but (some of you may already know), Starbucks ran a challenge for their card-holding members to get a drink every day for 15 days straight for tons of bonus stars (these stars get turned into free drinks in certain quantities). This was an interesting challenge. It was fun. But it became challenging when I was in Florida some days because the closest Starbucks was a good 20-30 minutes away from where I was staying (what on earth, right?) and it was out of the way to get there a couple of days. But I met that challenge head on and completed it (yay!). I know, I’m a Starbucks freak. You can say it.

So, as you can see, this has been a challenging month for me (pun intended). And I’ll be taking on a new challenge for the next several months…a weight loss challenge. And, no, it has nothing to do with a New Year’s Resolution. It has everything to do with the fact that I want to be healthier. I’ve been making small changes over the last several months as far as my diet and caffeine intake (brutal, right?) and increasing water intake and all that…but after Thanksgiving, I plan to dive into a serious plan of action. With these challenges behind me, I think I can take it on!

Blue Weights, Green Apple, and Tape Measure

When your characters run away with your story…

character signI’ve heard it said that once you create your characters and set your story, there will be some amount of losing control of your story. Your characters will have to do things that are part of their character. You will lose the ability to make them do things that are outside of those parameters, no matter how much you may want to. You may have some ability to drive the events of the story, but your characters actions, reactions, and interactions with the setting and the events of the story will inevitably push your story forward and you have, once you have established their personalities, lost some control over them.

discoveryThe joys of discovery. I actually find that I like this aspect of it. I come to my manuscript each day with only a vague idea of what will happen. But I know that I cannot be “married” to that idea, because, again, the way my characters interact with their surroundings and the events (which, as a historical fiction writer, many of those events are established for me by history) make the story. And they can certainly surprise me with the twists and turns that they take.

The frustrations of those twists and turns. I have recently begun working with Scrivner. And with my winding pathcurrent work in progress (WIP) I have been jumping around a bit as the Scrivner software allows you to do a bit more easily. So, I may write a couple of scenes that take place at a pivotal moment in Chapter 8, for example, because I just am feeling inspired in that direction. But, I neglect to remember that my characters can (and do) take the story in a different direction when I go back to Chapter 5, for example. So, they wouldn’t emotionally be in the same place I had them at the start of the scenes I previously wrote in Chapter 8. Make sense? Makes for some frustrating rewrites.

What about when your character takes the story in a direction perhaps contrary to the story? I’m in this place right now with my WIP. My character has gone in a deep place that I am road split signtentatively exploring, but I’m unsure how it actually fits in with the story overall. What do I do with that? Do I go back to the point where it “went off the track I though I was on” and try a rewrite? Or follow this track through to its conclusion and see where it goes? It is an intriguing trail, so I may continue to explore it for a while and see if it’s a rabbit trail or a gold mine?

All in all, I find this whole prospect to be rather intriguing. It’s certainly not something I was aware of when I was writing my first novel. But the more I write, the more I find I lose control over the story. And what a ride it is!

A Writing Vacation

writing vacationDoesn’t it sound like heaven? Well…what was supposed to be a get-away to work at my zoo job (which I love), do a little writing, and spend time with friends has turned into a writing vacation. Of the two programs I am supposed to teach this weekend, one of them ended up cancelled. And my friends have had things come up in their own lives (which, I totally get). So, I’m stuck with a lot of time to write. (Mind you, I’m not complaining.) I’ve actually been wanting to pull the trigger on this one for quite some time, but never quite got over the “I can’t be that selfish” hump. But, here I am, with a long weekend and all this time to write. And I’m going to take advantage of it!

Projects, projects, out the wha-zoo! I have plenty to do, for goodness sakes. NaNoWriMo is kicking my butt! I’m staying above the line (those of you who know NaNoWriMo know the dreaded line I’m talking about), but some days just barely. Most days it’s because of my sweet kiddos and the housework, and the research getting in my way. Well, I don’t researchhave the kids here nor the housework. Excuses = gone. So, there’s one project I need to roll my sleeves up and dive into. I’m also still researching on the NaNoWriMo project and on the sequel to “The Lady Bornekova”. I think I have most of the research I need for NaNoWriMo, but I’m just scratching the surface for the Bornekova sequel.

There’s more to be done. I still want to keep in touch with social media. Gotta keep up with my peeps! And my blog. I just love this outlet and my readers 🙂 I’ve also taken on an online course through the ACFW on Research. So, I have lessons to complete each week. And some of those are due this weekend. So, there are still distractions from my writing.

readingThen there’s the important stuff. Not to say my writing is not important. But I don’t want to neglect what time I can get with my friends. Nor do I want to forget to take time to breathe, relax, enjoy an hour reading a good book. I am, after all, an avid reader too. These things are important to me.

So, here’s to my spontaneous only somewhat planned writing vacation!

Don’t quit your day job

Let’s face it…this is the last thing any artist or dreamer wants to hear. “Don’t quit your day job!” Because it implies that they need a viable source of income because whatever they’re doing, be it painting, or writing, or acting…is obviously not going to cut it. But I’m going to tell you that I hope I never quit my “day job”…no matter how successful I may or may not be at my craft. I hope I always enjoy the simple things.

Why you should consider quitting your day job: There is something to be said for giving your art all that you’ve got. That’s your time and effort. It’s hard to make a book happen when you’ve got only an hour or two a day or a week to give it. And even shark tankthose hours are the last, burned out hours of your day/week. That’s not going to make anything happen for you. You have to be willing to dedicate time and worthwhile effort to your craft. For some that may mean making the scary jump to doing it full time. If you spend anytime watching Shark Tank, you know those guys (and gals) think anyone who is serious about being an entrepreneur (and an author is a kind of entrepreneur) need to devote 24/7 to it.

Why you perhaps shouldn’t quit the day job: Not only does it keep you in touch with life (thus giving you ideas and inspiration about the world), many of us (hopefully) are doing something that we enjoy or tigerenjoyed at some point. I know I am blessed to be doing so. Most of the time, my “day job” is being a stay-at-home-mom (yeah, one of those jobs I can’t really quit) and part of the time, I’m a zoological educator. I LOVE what I do. Teaching people about animals…interacting with exotic species…sharing messages that, even if only 10% of the people I talk to take me seriously, allow me to make a difference for wildlife and wildplaces.

In the end, the decision is up to you. What is your path? It all depends on your goals. On your life. On what makes up your day, your week. And it depends on your personality. I’m the kind that needs to go, go, go. Never a dull moment for a writer/stay-at-home-mom/zoo educator on the side/crazy lady. But it’s fun. And I’m doing it.

Why am I not overwhelmed? I’ll tell you…

I have every reason to feel overwhelmed. I’ve taken on a lot this month. But in the midst of everything going on these last couple of weeks and leading into this month, I have been able to juggle a lot of balls while keeping my stress at a manageable level.

mickey wafflesWhat’s on my plate: NaNoWriMo is upon us! I wasn’t going to participate, but this is the first year I’ve been serious about my writing (enough to know that such a thing as NaNoWriMo existed). And I have had this idea for a novel knocking around in my head for a while, so everything seemed to be aligning for me to have a go at it. So, I’m taking on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. This means I have the daily challenge of getting my word counts in. And I need to maintain my social media presence. I’m still deep in research for the sequel to “The Lady Bornekova“. And, in fact, taking an online ACFW class on researching for novels. On top of these things, I have the daily grind of life – my kids’ schedules and the housework (meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc). Plus various appointments and groups I’m a part of that meet on a routine basis. I’m taking two out-of-town trips this month. All in all, it’s a loaded plate.

So, what keeps me from feeling overwhelmed?

organizeOrganize and Prioritize.  This is key. Having my “to do” list each week, divided up across the week, has been vital. And routines have been a lifesaver. It’s been important, as well, with my “to do” list to prioritize those things on the list each day and make sure the top things get done. As far as the others – it’s great if they get done, if not, they can slide to another day that may have more time.

Deciding what is “in” and what is “out”. Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love” does a great job talking about this subject. She describes it as being on a gymnast’s balance beam. You get to decide what is on the beam and what is not. What you have time for and what you do not (what you need to delegate or eliminate). Writing this new novel for NaNoWriMo, on the beam. Doing the dishes, off the beam (delegated to hubby). balance beamClass on researching novels, on the beam. Keeping up with the latest movies in the theaters, off the beam (but believe you me, I’ll be there for Mockingjay Part 2 and for Star Wars. I’m just not there every week for whatever has just come out. Going to the movie theater or even watching full length movies at home has become a treat, not a norm.)

Realizing the truth. I happen to live by the words in the Bible. I believe it is relevant and insightful. The Bible teaches us not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on the day we are in. If we are able to practice this, it can really cut down on our stress level. To hone in on what’s happening today, my to do list today, my priorities today, and letting the rest of the junk go. That’s freedom.

So, I encourage you, if you are finding yourself overwhelmed, to try some of these tricks. Organize, prioritize, pull some of the things that are non-essentials out of your day/week/life and/or delegate them to someone else. And learn to let the extras slide and don’t stress about them or about the tomorrows. They will come and you will tackle them as they do.