The next chapter: February 2016 update


February is always a struggle for me, even in this year, when we didn’t have snow until after Christmas. By the time February rolls around, the dimness of winter has resulted in some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m tired of being cold. I’m tired of slogging through the snow. I’m just tired.

Just a note here: We’ve had more snow in January and February that we had by this time last year, and last year, the snow started in the last week of October. That’s global warming for you.

Add to that Phil’s health issues (which are steadily showing improvement, so we’re good on that score), my illness, and my subsequent discovery that I’m anaemic, and we have a perfect storm of personal stress.

I suspect that I’ve been anaemic for some time. Persistent exhaustion and difficulty sleeping (among numerous other symptoms) have supported this hypothesis. Heck, in the days when I used to donate blood, I remember being turned away on several occasions because of low iron.

Then there’s work. The problems there are mostly political in nature and not anything I have either control or influence over. It’s frustrating and disappointing more than anything else, but that’s contributed to my desire to leap-month over February and get on with things.

Creatively, I’ve still managed to exceed my revision goal, but was unable to meet my writing goal in February. I’m not going to go into the reasons for that because it doesn’t have an impact on you, gentle readers, nor would there be any nugget of wisdom to be pulled from those events.

My challenge in February was in trying to continue my coursework in Story Genius while proceeding with my writing and revision goals, which were set prior to the course, and (for me) take precedence. I also committed to another, shorter course from Jamie Raintree, and though I enjoyed it, I think I simply took on far too much. Far. Too. Much.

I had a rough week during which I felt stupid because I couldn’t effectively implement the Story Genius lesson. It blocked me. I couldn’t even revise for a number of days because I could see my failures too clearly in front of me. I could see all the ways in which my existing work sucked ass (sorry, but that was the exact thought in my head at the time).

There are several reasons for this:

  1. I’m a keener and I have been learning my entire life. I’m a perfectionist. I’m used to doing well. I’m so much harder on myself than anyone else can be. My confidence is easily shaken. Usually, I can write through the malaise, but this time, I balked.
  2. I chose to work on a finished draft rather than a new story idea. Worse, I chose the second book in a series. I set myself up for failure because the focus of the course is to develop an idea from, “oh, this is cool,” to a realized story map given the specifics of the Story Genius methodology. It would have been much easier if I had chosen to do this. I was stubborn and thought I could both revise Apprentice of Wind and use it as the basis for my work in the course. Silly rabbit.
  3. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, but I had neither budgeted for the expense of the course, nor, because of my day job, could I budget sufficient time to do a good job.
  4. Illness played a role, both mine and Phil’s. My personal circumstances have made me less able to cope with what would otherwise be a minor disappointment.

Ultimately, I’ve stepped back. I have the lessons, transcripts, examples, etc., and I’m going to take the time to do the learning, and incorporate it into my creative process. In my own time. Benefits will be reaped, just not tomorrow.

There’s one week left and I’m not going to ignore it or dog it. I’m going to do the best I’m currently capable of and be content that, with practice, the true learning will occur.

My difficulties have been completely of my own making and I could have prevented them from happening by waiting for the next time the course was offered, or the time after that. If I’m able to prepare properly, I can meet (and sometimes exceed) my own, admittedly high, expectations.

Learning nugget for y’all: If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.

Mel’s version: If you’re keen on something that’s popped up unexpectedly, sit back and really assess the situation. What will happen if you don’t do it this very minute? Are there future opportunities you could take advantage of? Do you really have the resources (time, money, focus) you need to invest? If not, is there a way you can shift things around to make those resources appear? Look at the long game. What part in your career does this opportunity have? Will things look any different in five years (or ten, or twenty) if you don’t “do all the things” now?

Above all, be kind to yourself.

Having said that, Story Genius is a mind blowing course and I value the opportunity to learn from Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, both incredible experts in writing and editing. My assigned editor is also a fabulous guy and he’s been very supportive. It’s well worth the investment in time and money.

I’ll reiterate what I wrote above: my problems are of my own making and should not in any way reflect on Jennie and Lisa’s amazeballs course.

So. What did I get done in February?

I have finished the first run-through of Apprentice of Wind. There is at least one more structural edit I have to do, in which I will make use of the Story Genius method, but I’m going to let the work relax for a bit before I dive back in. In fact, I’ve seen some further areas for improvement in Initiate of Stone, as well. I might start at the beginning and work straight through both novels on the next round. It will keep me in the Ascension series headspace and voice, too, something I feel is lacking in AoW.

In the meantime, I’ve moved on to Figments. Reading through it, it’s a lot better than I remember, which has been comforting. I’m going to apply Story Genius to that, too. Before I get to the actual revision, so I’m not mucking up one process (planning) with the other (revision).

I think that repeated practice will be the key to successful implementation. Eventually, it will become second nature. Then, I will actually be able to say that I’m a story genius 😉

I resumed querying, and I submitted more short stories.

I also received more rejections. Some of them were positive (this story isn’t suitable, but please send something else), but it still results in no further publications.

This hits home in tax season, during which one becomes acutely aware of how little income one has made from one’s creative efforts.

It doesn’t help, either, that nominations for various awards have opened. Even though I really don’t have a chance in hell of getting on a ballot, it would be nice to be able to put my name beside the title of a story I wrote (and was paid for), and then stand back and say, like a proud five year old, “I made this.” 😀

FebruaryProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down.

I achieved 108% of my revision goal with 40,708 words revised.

I achieved 90% of my writing goal with 5027 words, all written on this blog.

I sent out five queries and one package for a publisher’s open call.

I submitted short stories to one anthology call, and one magazine.

And that was my month in review.

This month, as I mentioned, I’m moving on to revising Figments, and will be submitting more queries and short stories.

And I’m going to give myself a break. I’m making progress. It’s enough. So am I. I just have to remind myself what would happen if publishing was taken out of the equation.

That’s right. I’d still be writing.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, why the hell are you doing it?

Have a good week, everyone.

Hugs all around.

You’re awesomesauce, each and every one of you.

The Next Chapter

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2 thoughts on “The next chapter: February 2016 update

  1. I love ‘Above all be kind to yourself’. Once we do that it’s so much easier to be kind to everyone else.Your joy will spread to your writing and then to your agent and publisher who will find your work easier to handle.
    It’s win-win.
    xxx Massive Hugs Melanie xxx

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