Climbing Walls

Last week I talked about how I had gotten myself stuck in a story problem and hadn’t managed to navigate my way out of it. This isn’t some remedial math course, honestly actual math problems are so much easier. All the information is there, you just have to figure out how the pieces fit together to find the answer.

No, this was an entirely different kind of story problem. One that had an actual story broken in the middle of it. In the past, I’d keep writing scenes until something worked. The action of putting words on the page often loosens up the creativity enough for a great idea to fall out. But considering where my anxiety and stress levels have been these past few weeks, not only does that option seem tedious and time wasting, I simply don’t have the energy to play with ideas and scenes that I will probably have to throw away.

I had a wall. How do we get over walls? We build ladders.

When we can’t build a ladder, we break out the sledgehamers.

Whatever you do, don’t take a sledgehammer to your ladder. That really doesn’t help.

As the week kept trickling by, and I knew I would have to be accountable to you dear people, I knuckled down and got to work – yesterday. I lined up all the loose ends, teased out the biggest issues, and tackled the dragon that was holding my ending hostage. After all of that, I’m proud to say I now have a direction to follow, and several burns and scratches that probably need some attention.

So yeah, I could still use some ice cream, and maybe a band-aid or two.

Now the real work of getting the thing written can begin. Yay?

Could someone tell the dragon that I’m out of treats and he needs to go home?

Down, Zeddicus!

Too Many Goals, a Cautionary Tale

As an ambitious person, I tend to go overboard when it comes to setting goals. A good goal should force you to stretch yourself to reach, but still be doable. They require real effort. This is a good thing. Reaching for a goal means that even when I don’t complete it in its entirety, I still work harder and get more done than if I hadn’t set the goal at all.

The problem I keep running into is setting too many goals at one time. When this happens, I spend each day scrambling to try to reach the most important ones and lamenting the ones I didn’t have time to work on. It’s a nasty cycle. Without fail, I’ll say stupid things to myself like “I can catch up on that tomorrow or over the weekend” fully knowing that the time fairy isn’t going to grant me more hours, even if I promise to slip her into one of my stories. Sometimes it’s not time that causes the problem, but energy. It doesn’t matter how much free time you have if you’re too tired to think or work.

I started July like I start every month, by looking over what I really wanted to make progress on and then setting goals that would help me do so. Turns out there were plenty of things I wanted to be more consistent doing that included house and yard work, personal health goals, and of course, authoring pursuits.

When I counted the things on my list today, I found sixteen different tasks that I needed to accomplish if I wanted to reach all those goals today. Some only take a few minutes, but most take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours each. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math there. Even on a great day, there’s no way I’d have the time. Especially since I’ve also got the kiddos at home and need to give them attention as well, not to mention keep everyone fed.

Yep, just thinking about it is stressing me out a little.

Will I learn my lesson when I set goals for August? I surely hope so. The good thing is that every time I work through one of these challenges, I do learn a few things. This time I learned that tracking that many goals becomes stressful and tedious. It’s best to limit goals to the things that are truly important and then do the best you can with the rest.

My question to you is, are you a goal setter? If so, what does your goal setting practice look like?


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Wait, it’s Friday?

This week slid past way too fast, one of the side effects of having way too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s a good problem to have. Usually. Part of this busyness stems from going on a terrific road trip with the family last week. This is also the reason nothing got posted here on the blog all last week. Internet connections while traveling from campsite to campsite are notoriously sketchy.

As much as you all were craving a pages long travelogue of all the many exciting parts of the trip, I’ll spare you the slideshow. In short, we crossed the entire state of Wyoming, visiting Devil’s Tower along the way before heading up to Mount Rushmore. That’s lots of forced togetherness time in a car, especially when our phone wielding teenagers had to suffer through several hundred miles of dead zones. In all honesty, they were really good sports for the whole thing.

Being responsible and checking off the bucket list. Woot!

Now that we’re back, I’ve thrown myself headfirst into several projects and figured out a few goals and milestones that I’d like to reach before the end of July. The first of which is to complete edits of at least one scene of my next book each weekday. This would have been so much easier had the scenes I needed to work on this week not been the ones I dashed out during NaNoWriMo while rushing to hit wordcount goals. Note to self, next time you do crazy word goals at least go back and fix the flubsy typing so you can read what you wrote a year later. Okay? Thanks.

It also doesn’t help that I was discovery writing a large part of the story at the time. While there are some bits I’m very proud of, there are also huge chunks of flaming garbage to wade through. It hurts to delete whole scenes because they no longer fit, just saying.

One of the best parts of this week is that I’ve finally given myself permission to spend time on a new writing project. I haven’t worked on a new story for nearly a year and I’ve missed it. Monday and Tuesday I mapped out the key points and pinned down a few bits of research I needed before starting, and then the rest of this week I’ve been writing. My hope is if I approach this one with a bit more intention and less wild finger flailing I can avoid having to delete as much as I usually do. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


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My, Oh My, It’s JULY.

I know I’m not the only one to think July has crept up on all of us. That weird cold break a few days ago was enough to make me think maybe we’d hit a time vortex and ended up in March again. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

On a brighter note, I’ve got a handful of baby tomatoes starting to grow in the garden and petunias and clematis flowering around yard. There are beets that are almost ready to harvest and roast for a glorious roast beet and feta salad. Purple hands are worth it for that little slice of heaven. I might even share…

My dear chickens have decided, like they do every year, that they don’t like the heat and spend the better part of the day pretending they’ve melted in the sun. Think cat splat, but with feathers. When they are up and around, they’re hunting the new hoard of grasshoppers that have come in from the nearby field. In this case, the grass really is greener on my side of the fence. Sometimes I even get eggs from them, not the grasshoppers, the chickens. Best cranky pet ever.

Meet Millie and her trademark scowl (she’s miffed I didn’t bring a treat.)

On the writing side of things I’ve found that I really should have been much more diligent in keeping track of important details throughout the series so far. There have been way too many instances where I fell down a “what color were his eyes again?” research hole. Sometimes I can even find the answer, sometimes it turns out I avoided the question for two entire books and get to make even more stuff up, erm, I mean allow the character tell me what works best for the image they’re trying to portray. This is one of those things where you do get better at it the longer you play the game. All you readers can look forward to steadily improving worldbuilding and character building with each release. Yay.

As for goals, I’m still working toward getting book three ready for release by the end of the year, ideally before everyone is finished with their Christmas shopping. To make that happen means hundreds of hours of work, but it’s work I enjoy and find gratifying, so I can’t complain.

Photo by Nicolas Tissot on Unsplash

Happy Fourth of July weekend to everyone! May you celebrate safely and with your favorite people. Follow your local firework guidelines, be responsible, and have as much fun as you can have legally. For us, it means lots of family time, game nights, small fireworks in front of the house, and lots and lots of treats.

Popsicle anyone?


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This Week’s Update

This week it finally got hot. Suddenly going outside in the middle of the day doesn’t feel so good anymore and my new found love of working in the yard turned into less of a love and more of a like. Thankfully, the evenings and mornings are still nice and I found a hammock to fit in my hammock stand.

Sneaking out in the evenings with a book? Yes, please.

More work got done on book three. I delighted in sending both Katira and Isben to be punished for a misdeed. Nothing horrible, just an icky chore that no one else wanted to do. I also planted a few lovely seeds that will grow up into some cool ideas later in the book.

This week I also got to hang out with guys at Dungeon Crawlers podcast and talked about all sorts of nerdy fun ranging from Star Trek to where story inspiration comes from. When I get the air date, I’ll let you know.

Until then, Live long and prosper.

Jodi

Stonebearer’s Betrayal Sequel Update

For those of you keeping track, I officially started editing the rough draft of the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal back in March. During the writing phase, I’d experimented with both speech-to-text and using a stand alone drafting keyboard, which made the draft messier than usual.

Note to self – when using speech-to-text, correct the mistakes the same day you dictate. Also, teach your software your character’s names early. Katira’s name changed into all sorts of crazy, like cuchara (Spanish for spoon).

I encourage anyone learning a new skill to experiment and find what works best for them. While I spent hours and hours going back and fixing misheard lines and words (and sometimes trying to divine what on earth I might have been thinking…) I know now how effective using dictation software is for me at this point. If it wasn’t for that test, I wouldn’t have tried tried transcribing my own recordings instead. Doing it that way means I can add correct punctuation marks and use names correctly the first time as I listen to files recorded on my phone. It also means I can speak out a scene in the oddest of places where writing or typing would be difficult, like while out walking, and then have material ready for when I’m ready to sit down and type.

All of this has helped me refine my writing process. With drafting, the most important goal is to get the whole broken story out onto the page, then make decisions where new scenes are needed or if something needs to be taken away. Editing is far different as it takes much longer focused sessions of working at the computer, which can be a challenge to find.

A little history…

I started writing the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal during NaNoWriMo 2015 as a challenge to myself to see if I really did have another book in me. I met my goal and wrote the first half, about 50,000 words. Then life happened, as if often does and I set it down to work on other projects and focus on getting book one ready to see the world.

I didn’t touch it for over a year – literally waiting until the next NaNoWriMo to work on it again. That was when I did something truly stupid – and didn’t read the first half before writing the second. This was a lack of planning on my part. I could have easily done my preparation in October, but again, got too busy and when November 1st rolled around it was time to write.

This meant there was time for ideas to change and shift in my mind between the two halves of the book, many of those ideas for the better. But, it also meant that it took a huge amount more work to edit. I’ve literally rewritten 80% of the book at least once, if not several times, to make the two halves match. Learning is hard sometimes, and if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I really (really!) need to not put projects down for a year and then not spend a day or two simply rereading what was there.

Fast forward to today. There are twenty pages left of the final edit and a handful of little things to tighten up and then the sequel is ready for professional editing and test reading. So much yay! I feel like I’ve been teasing about finishing this one for months now, probably because I kept setting unrealistic goals and then being surprised when I didn’t reach them.

Another note to self – planning on getting significant work done during the kids summer break from school – totally not realistic.

Like I said before, there is a learning curve with every new project and although I know I’ve gotten so much better at drafting and editing, there’s still a long way to go before I can claim mastery. I’m proud to say with each attempt things get better, easier, and faster.

Writing the first book and bringing it to publication was a ten year journey. The second will only be five. The third is already drafted and I expect it to only take 18 months from start to publication – including the months I stopped to focus on book two. If this trend continues it’s totally possible for me to complete two full length novels a year in the future.

Will I get to that point? Time will definitely tell. There is an exciting world of possibilities out there and I intend to keep trying and moving forward.

I fully intend to release Stonebearer’s Apprentice (official title pending…) in Spring of 2020 and Katira’s story will continue!

Here’s to making progress in whatever way we can!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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