Tag Archives: distraction

Novel Progress

Today I reached 50,000 words on my novel. Based on my outline, I’m a little past the half-way point.

I’m still learning what works for me. Here are some of the main things:

Set, and reset, an achievable goal.

I floundered a bit in December, but recommitted to my goal of 500 words per day on average. At this rate I will finish the novel first draft sometime around the end of May. Some days I write more and some I don’t write at all, but that’s okay because I’m in it to finish.

Keep track of progress.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my daily word-count. I set it up to display what day I will finish the novel, based on my current total word count and daily goal. I find that I feel really motivated to keep up my progress when I see my projected completion date change. And if I have one… or two… or even three days without writing (because life happens) my writing log motivates me sit down and get back to it.

Guard against things I know will derail me.

The temptation to “take a break” from writing the novel to “just write one short story” is very enticing to me. But I know that the sweet and sparkly lure of writing distraction that a short story offers is pure kryptonite for me. So lately when I get an idea for a short story, I write it down and save it. I don’t get to revisit that idea until the novel draft is finished.

Almost as tempting, but equally derailing, is the urge to go back to the beginning of my novel and rewrite it. I’ve made notes, and I don’t get to do that until the first draft is complete and I start editing.

I’ve found that short-story/novel-chapter critique groups can be detrimental to my novel-writing process. I am constantly resisting that inner voice telling me if I’m a serious writer, I should be producing at least one critique-ready short story or novel chapter a month. So I’m wary of engaging with a group that echoes that voice. Luckily, my critique group is very supportive.

Miriah Hetherington's dog

Teddy explains that there is no plot problem that cannot be helped by going for a walk.

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NaNoWriMo 2015 update, day 8

Here it is, day 8 of Nanowrimo. To be on target for getting to 50,000 words by November 30th, I should have written 13,333 words by now. I’m at 9000. Catching up is not impossible. Just improbable, for me.

flower_1Nov15

I am learning some valuable lessons about my writing process.

Lesson One: After midnight is not a productive time for me to write. Lots of people begin NaNoWriMo at 12:01am on November 1st. A friend and I decided to do that, even though we’d never tried it before, just because October 31st was on a Saturday this year and we could. At 11:30pm we were both ready for bed. Between 12:01 and 1am I got about 300 words. I definitely won’t be doing that again.

Lesson Two: My outline is extremely helpful. I am so happy I took the time to really think about the story beforehand. I am still changing as I go, but I am much more confident that I won’t write myself into a corner, or that a thousand story-threads won’t burst from one chapter like tiny spiders from an egg sac.

Lesson Three: I started NaNoWriMo intending to prioritize coherent words over abundant words. I knew that would slow down my word count. Today I went to a write-in and worked pretty consistently for four hours, and only wrote 1700 words. I’ve decided that I am okay with not “winning” NaNoWriMo this year. Finishing the first draft of my novel is what I really want to win.

Lesson Four: I am most productive outside of my home, without family and household chores to distract. I really do my best in a coffee shop. I bring headphones and even if someone next to me is having a loud conversation, I’m not bothered.

What have you learned about your writing process from participating in NaNoWriMo?

Another Teddy Post

Yes, this is another blog post about my dog.
My kids occasionally entertain themselves and me by saying what they think our dog, Teddy, is thinking. Speaking in a voice that sounds to me like Dexter in an animated show called “Dexter’s laboratory.”
Now I find myself imagining what Teddy is thinking.

Teddy:
Where is boss-Mom going? The room where they keep food! I will follow her.

What are you doing? What is that you took from the big cold box? Is it peanut butter? It’s PEANUT BUTTER isn’t it? I want some. Give it to me. I want some.  Please. Please. Please.

Yes!

Oh. Ugh. What is this awful green thing Boss-Mom has fed to me? Celery. Yuk. I will leave it here on the floor. No, no, don’t pick it up. I will eat it later. If I get bored.
Listen, Boss-Mom. If you must eat green stuff, I will hook you up. There is a nice patch of grass outside in the back yard. I will share it with you.  Long blades of grass. Nice and green.
But while you are out there, do not eat the rabbit poo. I will not share. The rabbit poo is mine. All mine.

dog_teddy

 

Life with Dog

We’ve had our dog Teddy for over two months now. One thing I can say as someone who’s never owned a dog before – it’s not what I expected.

My twins had been begging for a dog for years. Finally, they persuaded my husband and I to get one. At 14-years of age, they convinced us that they would be responsible for most of the care-taking.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the backyard

I imagined life with a canine companion… a long pleasant walk with him in the morning, whilst thinking about my current work in progress. Followed by sitting at my desk writing as the dog slept peacefully at my feet. In my day-dream, after school one of the twins would take the dog for another walk. We’d all get more exercise.

Any parent reading this knows exactly where this is going…

Sleeping-in on the weekend is right out. Somebody has to let Teddy out of the crate for a potty break, and that somebody is me, the mom.

I hardly ever see our two cats anymore, and I miss them. They come out of hiding only to eat and use the litter box. There is no doubt in my mind that Teddy would kill them if given the chance. I asked the private rescue organization if the dog had been tested for compatibility with cats, and they told me “it’s all about how you introduce them.” I should have known what that really meant was: “He loves cats, he just can’t eat a whole one.”

Walking Teddy is hard work, and requires constant attention. So of course, it’s my job. He weighs eighty pounds and lunges away at the least whiff of a rabbit, or the sight of a bird or squirrel. Teddy’s current body count is two: he’s killed one rabbit and one bird, so far. We’ve been working on leash-walking in obedience class. He’s getting better, but walking him is a long way from a pleasant, relaxing experience. In fact, for now training means no long walks at all – I’m stuck in ultra-boring up-and-down our street mode.

Teddy with one of my kids

Teddy with one of my kids

Other than his enthusiasm for murdering small animals, Teddy is a very sweet guy. He’s very gentle with people and doesn’t pay attention to other dogs. He’s smart and quick to learn. He’s motivated more by attention than treats. Except for the cats, we all love him.

I have hope that eventually, he will get used to our cats and see them as companions rather than potential chew-toys.

Do your pets help or hinder your writing efforts?

Canine Adventures, part 1

One month ago we adopted a dog, named Teddy by one of my kids.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the back yard

Neither my husband nor I have ever owned a dog before. So this is a learning adventure for all of us.

We adopted Teddy from a private rescue organization that brings dogs from high-kill shelters to the Seattle area. He came from Nevada. According to the shelter documents his breed is “border collie mix.” Since we brought him home I’ve learned what that basically means is “black and white dog.” There could be some border collie in his genes. But likely there’s some bull-dog or pit-bull and maybe even some great dane in there also.

Teddy weighs 75 pounds, so he’s pretty big. He’s a very sweet guy, calm most of the time, and loves belly rubs and squeaky toys. He’s learning to walk on a leash, but still tends to forget everything when he sees (or smells) a rabbit or squirrel – critters we have in abundance around here. We are still keeping him separate from our two cats, who are both rather unimpressed with the newest member of the family.

Microsoft Campus trail Sasquatch sign

Teddy poses for a selfie with me

Third CW Strike

I applied, and was not accepted, for a third time to the Clarion West workshop.

cookies with eyes

My kids made these Illuminati cookies.

 

Dear Reader, if you found this blog post because you are searching for clues about how to write your own CW application letter, then… Alas, I cannot enlighten you.

 

 

 

Unlike the last two years, I was able to write productively in the anxiety-fraught days between the application deadline on March 1st and March 17th when I got the rejection email. And unlike my blogged reactions of the last two years, I’m not going to dwell on how devastated I feel this time.

In my writing “career” (the four years since I started writing down stories) the biggest mistake I have made so far was in January of last year. I was about 60,000 words into a novel and quit. Why? To write a new short story for my 2014 Clarion West application.

HUGE mistake, letting my desire to attend a workshop interfere with my writing. I derailed my novel completely. What I should have done was use an old story for the application and kept writing the novel. (I’m currently working on the outline for a new novel – more about that later.)

I’m lucky to live in the Seattle area because whilst the CW workshop is going on, the instructor for each week will do a public reading. I loved Cory Doctorow’s novel “Little Brother” and Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Salt Roads,” and Connie Willis’ short stories are amazing. I look forward to seeing those authors (and the instructors whose books I haven’t read – yet) in person.

Happy Writing.

So You Want To Be a First Reader

I thought I would share a few things about what my first reader experience was like. The mileage of other first readers and potential first readers will vary.

I read slowly, so slushing took up a significant amount of time for me. I didn’t keep track for the first four months, but for the last six months (February through July 2013) I first-read 357 stories for a total of 1,391,500 words. That’s like between eight and thirteen novels. And I was barely “keeping up”.

On a few rare occasions, I skimmed after the first 1000 words or so. But most of the time I read the entire story. Many first readers don’t do that – because it’s not a requirement – but I did. I’m not completely sure why I kept reading to the end. I guess I didn’t get jaded, but by the conclusion of my stint I was feeling burned out.

jellybeans

Reading from the slush pile was like eating Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans. Sometimes the one I pulled out of the queue was like tiramisu. Occasionally I bit into earwax flavor. But generally I read a lot of interesting stories.

An often-repeated piece of writing advice is to read what you’re aspiring to create – read the best authors in the genre you’re writing in. I personally found that the time I spent reading slush severely limited the time I could spend reading anything else. On the plus side, I was exposed to genre stories I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I discovered that I really dislike “squick” and body-horror. I discovered that I quite like character-driven horror. (btw, Strange Horizons is NOT a horror market)

One of the bitter-sweet parts of my First Reader Experience was that when I read a really good story, I couldn’t share it. Because of course all submissions are confidential. But on the up side, if I wanted to I could read submissions even if they weren’t assigned to me. So occasionally I got to read brand-new stories written by authors I knew or knew of from their previous publications.

So, would I ever volunteer as a first reader again? The short answer is yes. I learned a great deal, and it was generally a positive experience. But first, I need to refuel. I have a huge stack of novels at home waiting to be read. I have a bunch of short stories and a novel churning in my head, begging to be written. And I want to apply some of what I’ve learned to my own writing.

I would definitely encourage my writerly (and readerly!) friends to apply for a First Reader position. My main caution would be make sure you have the time.

Have you ever thought about applying to be a first reader? Have you ever been a first reader? What was it like for you?

Happy Writing!