2020 Goals

How is it January 7th already? 2019 felt like it was never going to end, and then, bam, we’re seven days into the new year. Like many people, I like creating goals for myself at the beginning of each year. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, but at least it puts me on a path to, hopefully, complete a few things. Last year one of my main goals was to publish Wolf Pit, and I managed to do that, albeit at the last second.

This year, I want to talk about both writing and personal health goals for myself. I’m hoping by posting them here, it’ll help keep me accountable. Not only that, you’ll have a little preview of what to expect from me this year!

Writing Goals: 

  • PDD Book 3: I plan to write and edit Purple Door District book 3. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to publish it in 2020 due to circumstances that happened in 2019. Let’s just say I didn’t give the book as much love and care as I would have liked, and I want to make sure I do book 3 justice. I don’t want to rush it.
  • Dragon Steal: I put my YA LGBT dragon book on hold to finish up Wolf Pit. Well, after much consideration, I’m planning to heavily edit Dragon Steal, rewrite the pitches, and submit the book both to agents and to #pitmad on Twitter. I’m really excited to work on the book again because I love and miss the characters. It’ll be a nice break from the world of The Purple Door District as well. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the series. However, I struggled with a lot of depression while writing and editing it, so I think it’s good I’m taking a slight break.
  • Anthologies: I intend to write more short stories and poetry to submit to local anthologies. I already have plans to create pieces (hopefully) for Fiction-Atlas Press LLC. Ideally, I want to submit to anthologies that provide royalties or pay to help with publication costs, but just having my story in print is awesome too!
  • Writing Grants: I’m going to apply for some writing grants to help fund my writing career while I’m still getting on my feet. As I’ve talked about in a few posts, self-publishing is not cheap, and it takes until book 2 or 3 to start seeing a little income. I’m still not quite at that point, so if I get grants that can help me produce these books, I’ll be ecstatic.
  • Fates and Furies: Alongside The Purple Door District, I’d like to get back into working on the Fates and Furies series with my co-author AE Kellar. Oh my gosh, we have so many stories to tell you!
  • Blog: Yes, my dears, I plan to resume blogging once a week. If you have particular topics you want me to discuss, please let me know. Part of the reason I stopped near the end of last year was because I ran out of ideas! That and Wolf Pit was trying to eat my soul.
  • Author Interviews: Author Interviews will start up again this Friday. I’ll post them on social media and host them on my site two times a month. I think that’ll give me a little more breathing room. If you’re a published author looking for a place to be interviewed, fill out the form here.
  • Patreon/Wattpad: Yes, I do still intend to post to Patreon once a month, likely starting in February. I need a break to get more writing prepared. Likewise, I want to post to Wattpad as well. If you haven’t read The Purple Door District, you can find it on there under my account. The first chapter of Wolf Pit will be up shortly as well.

Health Goals: 

  • Sleep: I’ve talked about struggling with sleep before and how it’s affected my health and creativity. I’m working with a sleep specialist who is helping me get more rest at night. Basically I was only getting about 2-4 hrs of solid sleep every night this time last year. I’m almost to 6 1/2 hrs now, which has made a world of difference. I want to get up to 7 1/2 hours.
  • Gym: I plan to start working out again. I know it improves my mood, my sleep, and my health. Unfortunately, due to injuries and bad experiences at the gym, I’m struggling to walk back through those doors. I’m trying exposure therapy, meaning, I’m taking it one step at a time. Today I went into the gym for the first time in months. I almost had a panic attack, but I managed to make it there. Little by little, I’ll work out and add time to my routines. I have to do this for myself.
  • Mental Health: I continue to use my therapy lights, see my therapists, and go to support groups both for my depression/anxiety, and weight. I broke mentally in February 2019, and I do not want that to happen again. So I’m working to be kinder to myself and more understanding. It may lead to me stepping back from things so I can take care of myself, but I’ll do what’s necessary. I’d like to be here for a long time.

So, I might be biting off more than I can chew, but when it comes down to it, I need to make my mental health my priority, even if it puts things on the back burner.

What about you? What goals do you have for 2020?

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and writers are either outlining their latest and greatest masterpiece or waiting until the last minute when inspiration strikes at midnight. Each year I talk a little bit about NaNo, so I thought I’d share some preparation information that Alex and I wrote for The Writers’ Rooms and has been modified for classroom use. A lot of these tips can actually be used in your everyday writing as well, so even if you’re not doing NaNo, you can still benefit. 

It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and writers are either outlining their latest and greatest masterpiece or waiting until the last minute when inspiration strikes at midnight. Each year I talk a little bit about NaNo, so I thought I’d share some preparation information that Alex and I wrote for The Writers’ Rooms and has been modified for classroom use. A lot of these tips can actually be used in your everyday writing as well, so even if you’re not doing NaNo, you can still benefit.

If you’re looking to add a buddy to your list, I’m SilverRose Brighteye.

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month! Writers get together and attempt to write 50k words (1667/day) in the month of November.  NaNo has spawned a ton of offshoots as well: NaPoWriMo (poetry), NaNoEdMo (editing), and… more (http://www.wikiwrimo.org/wiki/List_of_timed_artistic_challenges)

Camp NaNo: A less-stressful version of NaNo that is held twice over the spring/summer months that allows you to set your own word count or editing goal.

Story A Day: Write one short story a day for the month of May–there’s no word limit, and if you don’t finish your story you move on to the next one at midnight.

YeahWrite: Online community which provides weekly writing challenges, and editorial review with a membership.

52-Week Writing Challenge: Write something (anything!) once a week for a year.

NaNoWriMo Website: https://nanowrimo.org/

Perks of Signing Up on the Website:

  • Finding your community through the Region feature
  • Meeting and friending fellow writers
  • Keeping track of your word count
  • Receiving updates on local group meetups (Iowa City and Cedar Rapids both have NaNo groups).
  • Validating word count and receiving awesome rewards (discount on Scrivener, discounts on editing and publishing programs, etc).

Pre-planning

  • Do your research on your challenge.
    • What are some pitfalls other writers fall into? NaNo usually provides helpful tips through the month on how to get through the challenge.
    • What are your general goals?
    • What resources does NaNo provide?
  • Think about your goals.
    • Are you going to stick hard and fast to the challenge’s goals, or are you going to adjust them for yourself? (ie. will you write 1667 words a day, or will you aim to write more on the weekend to create buffers?)
    • How are you hoping to grow as a writer?
    • What would you like to do with the finished product?
  • Create a schedule.
    • Check your calendar for days you’ll be able to write vs days you can’t get much done.
    • Schedule sleep (seriously, you need rest).
    • Hold yourself accountable.

Resources:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/nanowrimo-prep-30-tips-resources-strategies-for-writing-a-book-in-30-days

Are you a plotter?

  • Think about how much work you want to do before NaNo starts.
    • Do you want to worldbuild?
    • Do you want to outline?
    • Do you want to create character biographies?
  • Do the structural work.
    • Plan out your daily writing time.
    • Get your Scrivener project (or whatever file system you use) in order and ready for your writing spree.
    • Put together your world-building materials and research so they’re at hand when you’re writing.
    • Have your outline ready to go.

Are you a pantser?

  • Gather inspiration.
    • When it hits you, write down sketches of ideas or characters.
    • Put together a playlist of music for your book.
    • Read or watch works that you’re going to get inspiration from–what has similar tones, settings, or magic/tech systems to your writing?
  • Get ideas together.
    • Set up mini-challenges for yourself for when things get tough.
    • Set up a quiet, inspirational space to write in.
    • Set up self-care plans so you take care of yourself mentally and physically during the challenge.

Resources:

https://www.apronwarrior.com/nano-prep-nano-jar.html

http://pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com/2014/10/your-guide-to-nano-prep.html

Tips During NaNo:

  • Create buffers:
    • If you have days you can write more, fill up that word counter just in case you have to take breaks later on.
  • Participate in writing sprints:
    • NaNo is all about writing and not editing. Schedule 10 minute writing sprints with friends where you race to write as much as you can in 10 uninterrupted minutes.
  • Find a support team:
    • Find friends who write NaNo too so you can commiserate with them when your characters are driving you nuts. Turn to them for support and guidance.
  • Set up writing “meetings”:
    • Set up times for yourself that you treat like meetings. Do homework, clubs, social events around that time so you can be sure to have enough time to write.
  • Don’t Edit:
    • NaNo is a time for writing. You can clean up the language and any errors later one. Editing will slow you down and possibly cause you to lose words.
  • Update Your Word count:
    • Make sure to update your word count every night so you can see the progress you’re making. Even if you don’t think you can make 50,000 words, be proud of the work that you end up doing. Whether you write 2,000 words or 50,000, that’s still more than what you had before.
  • Sleep, eat, and breathe:
    • Remember to go to meals, get rest, and take breaks here and there. A 50,000 word challenge is intense, but you need to take care of yourself.

Productivity Tools

  • Write or Die (or other pressure inducing apps): These apps encourage you to write without stopping, otherwise your text will be erased.
  • (Offtime) app: Disables specific apps on your mobile phone, but allows you to access apps you may still need. Difficult to disable, so it forces you to stay focused. You can use Forest app which allows you to grow a tree while you work and kills it when you stop.
  • (Internet blocker): An online app that will block you from using the internet for a certain amount of time.
  • Motivational posters/memes/calendars: Have these set up in your work area, so if you start feeling stressed or down, take a break and look at those.
  • Musical playlist: Put together music that inspires you to write. You can make specific ones for different stories/books.

Mental Health

  • Take care of yourself. Life gets hard. If you feel like you’re pushing yourself or writing is stressing you out too much, take a break and step back.
  • It’s okay to change projects. You’re not a failure for not completing one before moving on to another. Sometimes we need a change of pace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. NaNo challenges you to write 50,000 words in a month. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to one project.
  • Don’t let your goals get in the way of you taking care of yourself. The better rested and fed you are, the better you’ll be able to think and write.
  • Reach out to your writing support group when you’re having a hard time so they can remind you that you can do this!
  • Jot down an emergency list of “What to Write When You Hate What You’re Writing”: Specific world building questions, backstory notes for a project, things to research later, or just your feelings on why writing is difficult for you right now.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your progress to the progress of other writers. Work to your own pace. That’s what matters.

Mental Health and Writing

I’m no stranger when it comes to depression and anxiety. I walk with them, hand in hand, everyday of my life, and sometimes I get dragged along, kicking, screaming, and crying. The US is notorious for looking down on those with mental health. We’re supposed to suck it up and be strong, but really, that creates more problems in the end. So when the world gets to be too much, I turn to therapy writing and reading.

Everyone uses writing in a different way to help themselves. Some write journal entries, spewing out their emotions so they don’t have to hold them so heavily in their hearts. I write violent scenes so I can feel something other than the pain inside of me. Poetry, short stories, novels…they can all help because they give you something else to focus on.

If you want to deal with the problem or emotions you’re going through, use therapeutic writing as a chance  to center on the issue. Write down how you feel and what events have led you to those negative emotions. As you do this, you might see patterns form. Maybe you’re not getting enough rest and that’s causing problems, or a new stress was added into your daily life. Whatever it is, remember, your feelings are valid. You’re allowed to be upset, and it’s good to take the time to work through your issues.

Poetry can be helpful, too. Splatter your page with the rushing thoughts in your head and see what you create. You can always go back to it later if you want to adjust the rhythm, rhyme, or form. There’s also nothing wrong with writing the poem for your eyes alone. Don’t worry about editing or how the words might sound. Let them flow and see if that helps alleviate some of the stress. Some of my best pieces have come out when I’ve been at the peak of depression.

Working on my novel can be very therapeutic too because it gives my brain something else to focus on. I have a huge issue with stress eating; I always have. So if I feel depressed or overwhelmed, I try to turn to my computer instead of grabbing a bag of chips or cookies. Does it always work? No, but more and more I find myself sitting down to my work instead of eating, and I consider that a success.

Right now, I’m in a hospital getting treated for cellulitis. Deep down, I’m scared, angry, and frustrated with myself, but I know those emotions aren’t going to help me heal. So I’m keeping my mind and hands busy by writing this blog to you. My body is resting and my brain is getting a break from fretting over the pain and stress.

I’ve said many times that it’s important to take care of yourself when you write. Writing can, at times, be the healer we need to get through stress, depression, grief, and more. Find what works for you. If you have any suggestions on how to use writing for healing, post them below! The best way to help each other is by sharing ideas.

Your feelings are valid. YOU are valid.

Happy writing.