Getting Around To It Versus Making Time

Friday, October 16, 2015
Last year I wanted to post about my favorite reads of 2014. I didn't get around to it. At the time,  I was dealing with the tail-end of the holidays, a deadline for a book hanging over my head, my mom visiting from Virginia, and all the cooking and baking I tend to do around that time of the year. Once the holidays were over, I intended to finish my current WIP.

In theory.

In real life, I had edits, an opportunity to hunt for and create some fantastic extras in my book, the day job, my dad went in for a minor surgery, helping my mom back and move cross-country (which took an entire month), and other life events.

Sure, I worked on the super secret WIP, when I got around to it. I intended to finish the book in June. When it didn't happen I pushed it to July. The cycle went on and on. Now, here we are, in the middle of October, and I'm still pounding away at the keys.

Making time for things isn't easy.

Which is why I've decided to start holding myself accountable, making time to work instead of getting around to it.

I have a schedule in which I can write, truly have the time and freedom to throw myself into the story, three days out of the week. The days I work, I still try to make time, though some days I'm too exhausted to even look at a screen. I do allow myself some leniency, otherwise I'll get too down on myself and fall into a week-long (or month-long) funk and won't write a word

Keeping a record of what exactly I've done on each day (writing, plotting, researching, questioning previous choices--which, let's be honest takes 40% of my time anyway) has been the key to keeping me on track. I'm using a monthly planner with enough space to list all my daily activities. On the plus side it's also helping me get a bit more exercise in.

My progress is still slow, but I'm noticing an increase in quality over quantity, especially since I've just finished re-plotting the last portion of the book. For the forth time. It's a complex book with a lot of moving pieces and a huge world I've had to create over time.

Currently, the book is sitting at 54,229 words. It is completely plotted out. At my best guess, it should come in at around 80k when I'm done. I haven't set another deadline for myself. As long as I'm making time to write and putting in my very best, I know this book will get done. I'm already so very happy with it, how different it is from anything I've ever written before, and how much I've grown as a writer.

Am I hoping to have a completed draft before the end of the year? Heck yeah I am, but I won't put that kind of pressure on myself, not now and not with this book. Why, you may be asking yourself. Because I, along with so many others, suffer from depression. It's a daily struggle. I have good days and bad days, just like everyone. The bad days weigh more heavily on those with depression, even the good days can feel like slogging through the deepest ink black cave. I find if I'm comparing myself to others, telling myself my work isn't good enough, worrying if somewhere a book like mine has already been published leaving no room in the market for the super secret project, I can sink way, way down into the muck.

I refuse to do that to myself anymore. Yes, there are going to be authors with better voices than mine, and books that are similar or better, and yes the book market is a treacherous and fickle place for the loves of our lives (our books), but I love what I do and I never intend to give it up. What I do intend is to keep learning and growing and delivering the best damn stories I have inside me. Another thing I intend to keep doing, is making time to write them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, as it hasn't been an easy one to write (or share). I appreciate you all.

Know When to Hold 'em, Know When to Fold 'em

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Okay, so we've all heard that song, am I right? I mean, even an insurance company has a pretty funny commercial about it.

But this post isn't about the commercial, or even the song, really. This post is about when to walk away.

In between edits for a certain book I've been picking at, I have been working on rewriting a YA Fantasy I had in my "unfinished projects" drawer. It's basically a drawer where I keep my projects not yet ready for the real world. I was full of hope and moxie when I pulled that pile of papers from the drawer and let the light in. And I worked on it for around six months, give or take.

I must have re-read the book six to eight times in the last few months. There are some really great scenes and character breakthroughs in it, but on my last read, I discovered I was bored. Yes, bored. With my own book. It's the greatest fear of any writer.

Note: if you, the author, is bored, imagine how the readers will feel.

Wracking my brain to come up with a solution that wouldn't take another six months, I realized I needed a pair of fresh eyes on my book. Luckily, I have the best beta reader (and friend) who took the weekend to read it over and gave me her notes.

Now, I was expecting the worst, even asking my beta friend if I should scrap the book entirely. 

The weekend was over. The email pinged in my inbox. It was as I feared. My YA Fantasy was overworked, weighed down and stale. Her recommendation was to put it aside, get some distance, work on something else, and come back to it later, if I wanted.

As much as I had been expecting my world to completely crumble with sorrow and despair, I didn't. Yes, I may have shed a tear or two, even went through the bargaining stage of grief, but in the end, I took a day to come to grips with putting my precious (said in my best Golem voice) YA Fantasy to bed. It was a long day filled with too many unhealthy snacks, an even more unhealthy dose of Sex and The City reruns (I regret nothing), and rifling through my many "promising projects" folders and notebooks. It was a hard day, emotionally, but today I woke with a renewed sense of wonder and possibilities. And a plan.

Last year I wanted to have a completed book ready to submit to agents by the beginning of 2015. Things don't always work out the way we hope. The more I grow as a person (and an author), I've come to realize that we can't always control the outcome. Lately, I've become a more "rolling with the punches" person. Which I so didn't used to be. Part of rolling with the punches is not being stagnant or living in the past. I refuse to spend the next month stewing about how my YA Fantasy didn't work out.

Today I have rekindled a new romance with a YA sci-fi idea I've had for a while. Since I'm expecting things around my house to change drastically in the next month and a half (more on that later), I've also decided not to spend a bunch of time plotting this book. Well, not really. I have ideas, but nothing concrete. So, I'm tackling sci-fi and I'm doing it by the seat of my pants.

Time is ticking. I have a new book to write. I'm hoping it will be ready for editing by the beginning of April, but who knows?

Trying something different is the best way to broaden your horizons. Really, it's the best slump-buster that I've found. What are some of your favorite ways to pull yourself out of a bad time? Have any of you ever dealt with having to put a project aside for one reason or another? You know how I love to hear from guys. :)

My Crazy, Happy Life

Saturday, June 14, 2014
Life is crazy. I'm sure I don't have to tell you guys. In my circle, it seems to get crazier the older I get. Recently I had a few big life events happen.

One: I got married (the wedding was amazing--and I promise when the photographer's pictures arrive I'll post a few more on my instagram). Aaaaaand for our mini-moon, we visited a glass treehouse in Bodega Bay (Northern California). It was absolutely beautiful. I want to go back one day and just write!


Two: My first round of edits of a certain book. They were extensive and tricky, but I got through them with what (I think) were my smartest choices yet. Hopefully. But we'll see when my editor gets a hold of them.


And three (since apparently I'm still doing this counting thing): I'm working on a new project. Okay, it isn't necessarily NEW new, but it is one of the older projects on my list of projects I wanted to tackle this year. I'm rewriting it from chapter one all the way through. So, I'm stoked (yes, I'm from California, occasionally we do say things like stoked). And busy. But aren't we all?

Speaking of busy, what have you guys been up to? What are you doing (either in real life or writing life) that you're stoked about? ;)

Looking forward to 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014
After a pretty difficult 2012, I have to say 2013 might have been my favorite year yet. Why, you ask? Well, because of all I got to do. I wrote two books, got engaged, went on a small book tour (which included signing at BEA!), attended my first writer's conference, visited somewhere I'd never been before, and met some truly incredible people.

How does one top a year of all that awesome?

Answer: you can try.

And that's my main goal for 2014. To try.
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*cue Yoda: Do or do not, there is no try*

Okay, while Yoda may feel that way, I'm a big fan of trying. I say, if you're not sure you can do something, just go for it. If you fail, at least you tried--and probably learned something in the process. And if you succeed, then WOOHOO! Am I right? You never know what you're really capable of unless you throw yourself off that high, scary ledge and jump. And this year, I'm prepared to reach for the stars.

While I haven't had time to actually sit down and make a yearly plan/goal thingie, I do know of a few things I would love to accomplish.

To keep myself accountable, I'll list them here for everyone to see (please, feel free to hound me about these anytime this year).

My 2014 To-Do List

  • Revise a secret book (which I'm working on right now--about 1/3 of the way done)
  • Finish writing "Code name W", a super cool YA sci-fi I've been playing with for a while now.
  • Edit AB (a YA Contemporary Fantasy that needs the beginning rewritten then a very light edit) 
  • Edit "Code name W" (you guys, I'm so excited about this book!)
  • Write that YA Contemporary (standalone) that's been floating around in my head.
  • Edit GD (a book I need to add a little something to before I decide what to do with it)
  • Read (a ton)!
 
So there they are. The things I will try to do this year. For the most part this is the order I intend to work on them in. I think. But who knows once the muse gets a hold of them.

Obviously I'll be working on other things besides these. Wedding planning, edits, more wedding planning, blogging with the lovely people at both Indie Ignites and Darkly Delicious YA, some more life stuff I'm sure will creep in there somewhere (like actually getting married), copy edits, and line edits.

Whew!

All in all it's going to be a busy year and I'm looking forward to trying some great new things, tackling some challenging projects, and maybe even visiting somewhere new again.

Now, I've gone on and on about my goals for 2014. I'd love to hear some of yours.

Dear Teen Me

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
If you haven't heard of Dear Teen Me, it's where authors write letters to their teen selves. My teenage years weren't easy. Some of you may know this, some of you may not. So when the opportunity arose for me to contribute, I jumped at the chance.

My Dear Teen Me post is up today. If you're interested, you can find it here.

It wasn't an easy letter to write, so I appreciate all of your support. Thanks in advance, guys.

~Lisa :)

Why a Book Boyfriend is so Important

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Hello lovelies!

In the last two weeks I wrote about writing, plotting, and the like, so I figured today would be about fun. And what's more fun than falling in love?

The heart palpataions, the nervous sweat, the trying-to-be-sexy that sometimes looks to most of the world like you're having a slow moment, and the pitter-patter of tiny bird wings as they hold up a string of roses in the shape of a heart around the face you've fallen for. There's nothing better than love, I tell ya!

Whether they lift you up or bring you down (temporarily, or course, I'm only promoting HEALTHY relationships here--even in fiction, healthy relationships are key) these boys are necessary. In real life, if your single, in a relationship, married, it doesn't matter. What happens in fiction stays in fiction. Plus, book boys are almost always better than real ones.

Here's a short list of some of my favorite book boyfriends.

-Sam (from The Wolves of Mercy Falls series). The good boy. He's sweet, yet oh-so tortured. And loyal. Don't forget loyal. This boy would never leave you...unless it got really cold. Even then, totally not his fault.



-Noah (from Pushing the Limits). I've made no secret for my love of Noah since reading Pushing the Limits. He's the quintessential tamed bad boy. But his story is about so much more than himself. He has a goal other than landing Echo. He has a huge heart and two adorable little brothers he would do anything for.

-Cassel Sharpe (from The Curse Workers series). Cassel is never what you expect. His actions surprised me around every turn. He's my wildcard. I've only recently finished this series (for some reason I tend to let the final books in trilogies sit around for a while before I read them. I must have trouble saying goodbye.) and Cassel is still fresh in my mind. Holly Black, if you're out there, Cassel is one of the most twisted, unique, enigmas out there in YA fiction and I love him. If you're tired of the cookie-cutter hero, Cassel Sharpe is for you. Bonus: he's hot. Double bonus: if you listen to the audiobooks, Jesse Eisenberg does a fantastic (read: swoony) job that will never leave you bored or tired of his spectacular voice.

And now I have a problem. I'm out of book boyfriends!

Here is where you readers can do me a solid. Give me a list of your favorite book boyfriends! Don't worry, I don't mind sharing. ;)

Who would you love to be stranded on a desert island with, or face your greatest fear beside? I can't wait to hear who you swoon for.

The Writing Wall Or How Plotting Is Like Cleaning Tape Off Of A Whiteboard (part two)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
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When I left you at the end of last week's post, I was downtrodden, bruised, beaten, and in the lurch. But I stand--ahem sit--before you today a changed--well, slightly less useless--individual.

How did I crawl up and over my Writing Wall? What the heck does cleaning tape off a whiteboard have to do with any of this? Why am I asking so many questions?

Why, for dramatic purposes, of course! ;)

First, I'll tell you The Writing Wall I hit was a good one. I was creatively stumped. I stewed for hours, then days, trying to make something happen. It didn't, of course. Not on its own. So, I ventured into my office (where I sometimes write) and started pulling out the tricks of the trade. Notebooks, pencils, post-its, index cards, markers, highlighters (all of the above in varying colors), poster board, dry erase markers, and a whiteboard.

For those of you quick on the uptake, THIS is where the whiteboard comes into play.

Standing there, above all my favorite toys (yes, I'm dead serious here, I love my office supplies) I notice that damn tape was still marring three quarters of my new, large and lovely whiteboard. I pushed it aside, determined to stick to a notebook and poster board. (By the way, I do have two other whiteboards, but they are currently occupied with other projects, thus, no erasing will happen until said projects land on the page.) I tried working through these issues, I tried walking away, ignoring the plotting problem, tried figuring it out in the shower or letting my dreams take over (both of which usually work). This time, nothing was working.

My plot was stuck and so was my brain.

After ambling around for a few more days, I decided cleaning off the whiteboard might be my best option. I had convinced myself that if I had a whiteboard, so much miracle-ing would happen.

Yes, I make up words. All the time. Judge me not, least ye be judged -Yoda. (though I'm about a thousand percent sure he never said that. Just roll with the punches here, people.)

Moving on . . .

While I grabbed a scraping tool from my garage and went to work, I was struck by how tenacious I was about getting that damn tape off. Little by little, it was all coming together. Tape was peeling off in tiny strips and chunks, and my mind was working, behind the scenes and above the cursing. I worked as hard as I could, fighting through some of the really sticky patches, and in less than an hour and a half (no lie), the board was free of tape!

I did my little Snoopy dance, spiked the ball of tape into the garbage, and started plotting.

The funny part, I only wrote two plot points on the board before switching to a notebook and writing page after page each day.

A few more days later I realized it hadn't been the whiteboard that I'd needed, it was working on something else for a while. Again, I didn't get anywhere sitting on the couch and waiting for some TV show to do it for me, instead I worked very hard, in silence, on another task, refusing to give up.

The in silence part turned out to be very important.

While I was scraping, my thoughts kept coming back to my characters and the difficult places (both emotionally and physically) where I had left them. How did they feel inside? What would they do to change things? What would they give up to move forward? So, by the time the tape was gone, my creative juices were a roaring river of Peach Iced Tea. Why Peach? Because it's awesome, that's why!

It's been a few weeks since The Whiteboard Incident of 2013. I have more of my plot down, and I've even started putting words to the page again. I may not be moving as fast as I'd like, but I'm starting to realize this book is going to take a lot of time.

So, there you have it. Stepping away, but still working hard helped me fight my way up and over that Writing Wall. Plus I got a brand new whiteboard. Though, and pay attention because this is the real punchline, after spending all that time and effort scraping away on my whiteboard, the tape left a tacky residue that I can write on, but NOT ERASE. Basically, I could have left the damn tape right where it was, around the inside corners of the board, because I wouldn't have been able to write on that part of the board anyway.

The ultimate headdesk? Yes, I do believe so, but that still doesn't change the fact that focusing on that medial task helped me out of The Pits of Writing Despair (cue ominous echo) and reminded me that there is no substitute for hard work.

This concludes today's program. Thanks for coming back. And please, feel free to laugh at my idiocy in the comments. My ego doesn't bruise too easily. :)