Gazelle Intensity

I almost can’t believe it, but I met four deadlines last month! I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my writing life. Maybe the only time I’ve accomplished so much in such a short space of time is for school/college. But the point is – I did it.

What I learned from that experience is that I can do more than I think I can. Past experience may tell me that I can’t – until I make an experience that tells me I can. What I have to be careful of is thinking I can always get this much work done. It would be foolish of me to think I can work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for an infinite amount of time. For one thing, there is no time for friends or family, little time for exercise or healthy habits, and almost no time for fun.

However, last month I reminded myself that I can work very intensely and accomplish a lot in short bursts. Life is a marathon, and the writing life is a marathon, but sprints are useful and appropriate. (In my half marathon training, I use short sprints in training.)

John and I are participating in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a money management course designed to get you out of debt and keep you out forever. In one of the lessons, Dave shows a video of a leopard chasing a gazelle. Even though the leopard can run faster than the gazelle, the gazelle got away! Why? Because the gazelle could make quick leaps out of the leopard’s path faster than he could move to intercept. The gazelle only has to keep this up for a short intense period until the leopard gives up and looks for easier prey.

Dave suggests we use this method to get out of debt. A short, intense burst of effort to pay off everything from credit cards to student loans to the balance on your mortgage. I listen to his radio podcast and people call in saying they’ve just paid off their last debt. Dave asks them how much they paid off and how long it took, then they give their debt free scream. It’s very inspiring! People are getting out of debt to the tune of $20,000 to $158,000 (that I’ve heard) in 12-48 months. John and I will be right in that range, and it’s exciting to know it can be done.

That’s what I learned last month with my writing deadlines. I focused like I have rarely focused before on one project, then another, then another, then another. And I got them all done, on time. I had hoped that on November 2, I would be able to sleep in, read a little, take a deep breath, and go back to a more relaxed lifestyle. But I still have four more time-sensitive projects to finish. At first, that made me feel super tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered the gazelle intensity speech.

I can’t keep up this pace forever, but I can do it for four more weeks. As one friend reminded me on November 2 when I was trying to figure out if I could do all this, I can’t “catch up” on everything that didn’t get done over the last year. But I can pick the most important things to finish now, and re-schedule my other goals for 2013.

National Novel Writing Month is about gazelle intensity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are finding it can work for their writing life. But it works in every area of life. What do you really need to get done? Not just urgent things, but important things. Piles of paperwork? Haphazard, overcrowded home? Behind in something you could finish if you just really applied yourself for a few weeks?

Think about it and decide what you’re going to do about it. In the end, you’ll not only have accomplished something wonderful, and maybe done something about those monkeys on your back, but you’ll find pleasure in your own personal growth as self-discipline blooms in your life.

I’m nervous about failure, about exhaustion, about missing out on fun things other people are doing, but last month I proved that it can be done! So I’m going to keep it up for another month. See you at the finish line!

[Note: If you want more encouragement and direction in planning your goals for 2013, join me for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Here’s to a fabulous and productive new year!]

Frighteningly Real

Since it’s almost Halloween, John suggested I come up with a themed post. In that vein… 🙂

You may remember, I’ve been writing like mad to make two deadlines this month. I sent in the polished superhero romantic comedy, UNEXPECTED HERO, on October 14 to Harper Voyager. And last Thursday, I sent in the first chapter and synopsis of BELLA AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER to Love Inspired Suspense.

Talk about scary.

Who knew coming up with a romantic suspense would be so difficult?! Not me, obviously. It was easy to see the victim and what happened to her, and I had a fair idea of the ending. For those reasons, I gave it a shot. But figuring out the 200 pages in the middle…Sheesh.

A couple times, I nearly threw in the towel, but then friends would rally and encourage me to at least give it a try. After all, the worst thing that can happen is I’ll get rejected. Well, the worst thing would be to spend weeks and months on it and discover I stink at suspense and I wasted all that time. Actually, the worst thing would be for Love Inspired Suspense to give me a shot and then I find I am incapable of ever writing another suspense novel, and they kick me to the curb.

See? This is the frightening real life pre-Halloween I’ve been living!

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Luckily, two great friends helped me with several plot details. My friend Dave is a deputy sheriff and he let me ask him a thousand questions over lunch. Then I called my friend Janice Cantore, novelist and retired police officer, and she took my stretched out, lumpy balloon knot and created a balloon man walking a balloon dog in a couple of deft twists. Wow. Impressive.

So now I have a month or two (I’ll write the first draft during NaNoWriMo) to see if I can write a story that feels both frighteningly real and believably romantic.

Then I’ll have to decide if I enjoyed it.

It is soooo much easier to write about superheroes! LOL!

Have you written any suspense? How’d it go for you? (If you’re good at it, give a girl some tips!) Or have you written something else that scared the crud out of you?

If you’re participating in NaNo, see you there! (I’m “Kitty Bucholtz”‘ if you want to be friends.) If not, keep writing!

And remember, I’ll be teaching my online class again on goal setting and time management for writers in January. Hope to see you there!

Online Class: Conquering NaNoWriMo

Since Shonna is taking some time off, I thought I’d find other interesting things to share with you guys! 🙂 If you’re interested in participating in National Novel Writing Month, you might be interested in this cool class! I’ll find something else I think might be interesting to you next Friday. Happy Writing and happy weekend!

HURRY!   SIGN UP NOW.  CLASS STARTS MONDAY.

“Conquering National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)” with Alison Diem

October 15 – November 11, 2012

Enrollment Information at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclassOct12.html

COST: $20 for OCCRWA members, $30 for non-members

If you have specific questions, email occrwaonlineclass@yahoo.com

ABOUT THE CLASS:

Push your career forward.  Whether you are brand new to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or a veteran participant – this class will get you sitting down, writing and meeting those goals.

Alison Diem, your instructor and a 10-year NaNoWriMo veteran, will answer all of those burning questions (and doubts) about the challenge – how it works and how to get through the process.  NaNoWriMo can be a break-through opportunity.  Make it yours!

The first two weeks of class will prepare you for the entire month – from getting registered to tips on surviving Turkey Day with writing goals intact.  There’ll be a night before kick-off party, appropriately coinciding with Halloween.  Then, on November 1, the entire class dives into their NaNo novels.

As NaNoWriMo gets underway, there’ll be support systems and an arsenal of weapons for blasting through daily word counts and actually getting onto paper (or screen) 50,000 words in 30 days.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:

As a NaNoWriMo participant for the past decade, Alison Diem knows all of the ups and the downs of this challenge.  In “winning” four different times, she’s learned some important techniques that she’s going to share with her students.  These are tools to use, not just during November, but all year long.

Alison is a writer of intricate stories involving history, the paranormal, adventure, magic, mystery, murder, fantasy, steampunk, creatures that may (or may not) be real and any combination thereof. Also, dragons.  She recently moved back to Ann Arbor, MI with her husband, Bear, and her kitty Harvey.

She is also very, very tall. You know, for a girl.  You can find her at http://www.alisondiem.com

Enrollment Information

Enrollment Information at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclassOct12.html

COST: $20 for OCCRWA members, $30 for non-members

Coming in November 2012

Submission: Writing a Short Story for Anthology Call-Out with Louisa Bacio

This class deals with catering a short story specifically to a publisher’s request for submissions. Regularly, editors and publishers list upcoming anthologies and the types of stories they’re looking to include.

Check out our full list of workshop at http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclasses.html

Want to be notified personally two weeks before each class? Be sure you’re signed up for our Online Class Notices Yahoo Group! Sign up at the bottom of http://www.occrwa.org/onlineclasses.html or send a blank email to OCCRWAOnlineClassNotices-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

It’s Over! What’s Next?

Say goodbye to NaNoWriMo 2011 and my obsessive edit of my first 50 pages.

My kids in the Young Writers Program both made their word count goals. One with a day to spare, and the other staying up a little past bedtime to wrap it up. It is surprising how much one can write in a day when pressed!

I’m so proud of these guys. We all know that first draft can be hard. Writing every day can be hard. And getting to the end of our stories can sure be hard. They did it!

Now? We will be spending the next few weeks learning about revision, starting with proper dialogue formatting. Then I’ll be able to read what they typed without going cross eyed. I remember I used to hate taking the time to put in the quotes when I was in school. Now it’s second nature. They’ll get there, too.

For me, my fifty pages grew with my character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivation (and other details) to over seventy pages. Some of the changes I made changed the trajectory of the plot so now I need to follow the thread through until it matches up with the second plot point. Then I get to take what I learned for my first fifty and apply to the rest of the book.

I’d like to set my goal to have this all done by the end of the year, but I don’t know. Life gets full of activities the closer we get to Christmas, but we’re also taking a break from homeschool soon so I’ll have that extra time.

And speaking of goals! I should take another look at my goals for the year. Four more weeks to complete my 2011 goals. I almost forgot about that list. *gulp* I haven’t been good with reviewing it. Hope I’ve covered most of them by now.

Next thing you know, we’ll be talking about 2012 writing goals…

Writing with Jetlag? Not So Much

Just 10 days ago, we were playing in the surf on an Australian beach

Looks like the 974 words I wrote for NaNo on November 1st will be the grand total for my 2011 NaNo experience. Moving around the world really put a major wrench in my monthly writing goals. I’ve been in the U.S. for almost a week and I am still exhausted. I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t take a nap at 3pm, but I hang in there so that I’ll sleep great at night. My plans are always to go to sleep early, even 7pm or 8pm if necessary so that I’ll end up with 7-10 hours of sleep even if I wake up way early.

But it seems like every night I get a second wind and I no longer feel like going to bed early. Then I still end up not sleeping well and waking up tired. Sigh. Monday I had to get back to work, regardless of my sleep schedule. I got an awful lot done. Tuesday wasn’t bad either. But I can barely remember what I did then, let alone what I still have to do. I’d be lost without my to do list. In fact, I’ll walk into a room for…I’m sorry, why did I come in here?

These are normal things that happen to people sometimes, but since the flight from Sydney all of these things are part of my life constantly. I’ve written three articles in the last two days, and I think they were moderately good, but I still feel lost inside my head. I think maybe I should write about that, but I’m afraid I’d save it someplace by some name that I’d never find again!

All I can hope for now is to keep up with the major deadlines and show up to the family gatherings without forgetting what day it is. At some point in the (near? please, God, let it be near) future, all of this will fade into a distant memory and I’ll be back to working efficiently. But I can just imagine that John will be offered a contract in London or something right about then, and I’ll be moving again.

Ah, the life of an adventurer!  🙂

We Are Winners . . . Yes?

          It doesn’t look like I’m going to win NaNo this year. I only have about 17,000 words written. That’s not really an insurmountable problem. I could write like a maniac over the next few days and bring my word count up. I’ve done it before.. This year is different, though. I doubt I’ll reach 50,000 words. (Unless I suddenly get bit by the competitive bug and go crazy.)

          But in my mind, I’m still a winner. This month marks the beginning of the end of my long writing-drought. The painful life-events of the past year are behind me (or almost behind me) and I’m on the road to emotional healing. It’s been difficult to write this month, but oh-so therapeutic. Here’s what I’ve “won” this NaNo:

  • I have 17,000 words that were not written 4 weeks ago. (Only about 1/2 are actual scenes and story, but the journal entries are full of fodder for more scenes.)
  • I re-established a writing routine. (Stumbling and stuttering though it is, it is still a routine.)
  • I have reawakened the muse in me. (She’s still a bit groggy, but she’s awake.)

          So, yes, I might not be declared a winner on the NaNoWriMo site, but that’s okay. I’m still a winner.

          What about you? What have you won this NaNo?

The Movers Are Coming

It’s almost time to move back to Los Angeles. I’ve gotten some scenes written in my head. A friend offered to do some research for me here in Sydney and email it to me later. But otherwise I’m totally focused on moving from one country to another. Again. I’m standing lookout near the door so I can shout out to John, “The movers are coming! The movers are coming! Get out of the way as soon as you see the whites of their eyes!” 🙂

While this isn’t the way I intended to spend National Novel Writing Month, there will still be a few days of November left after I get back to the U.S. Fortified with an American Thanksgiving meal, I think I can pound out a few words during those jet-lagged non-sleeping times and get my word count up from the 974 I had on November 1. And even if I don’t get more new words written, I have an exciting project planned starting the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I’m getting Little Miss Lovesick ready for paperback! Yay! I’m so excited! I wish I could work on it right now, but I have to take a few deep breaths and remember that there is a time for everything. And in a couple weeks I’ll be back in LA and it will be time to get back to work on my career. Hurray!

Meanwhile, I’ve got to get out of the way so the movers can pack my desk! See you on the other side of the ocean!

Writer Girl, Interrupted

Eight days ago, National Novel Writing Month started and I was feeling quite good about my first day’s progress. Six days ago, John got a text message saying the job he expected to get wasn’t going to come through. Suddenly we were looking at a calendar and seeing we had three weeks to get out of Australia before our visas expired! (They are good until 2015, unless John isn’t working at a sponsoring company.)

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten any more writing done! These are the kinds of things that can really derail your momentum. I had just gotten started with my self-publishing business and I’m still in the middle of bringing Little Miss Lovesick to print before Christmas. But now my days are so full of packing that I didn’t even have time to get this blog posted on time.

Still, what can you take from unexpected roadblocks? You can get upset, of course. But that’s an easy way out. The more difficult but, I believe, better path is to find a way to use the roadblocks. The other day when I was really freaking out, I was trying to think of a way to calm down…so I gave my feelings to the character of the short story I’m writing for an anthology. That poor girl is really having some terrible days in my head, but I’m feeling much better!

If NaNo (or any of your writing) started out well for you but has already hit some bumps, look for ways to use the bumps to make a more interesting story. And remember all the other times that you had roadblocks and you got through them. You’ll get through these as well. We both will. (On the hard days, I remember – I’ll be home for Thanksgiving!!)

Meanwhile, I’ve got to go pack. And I think my character is going to have some packing/moving issues in her story.

. . . And We’re Off!

          Week 2 of NaNoWriMo!

          I may be the only one on this blog actually writing new material this month. Shonna’s editing and Kitty’s moving.

          That’s right! I. Am. Writing!

          Tuesday, Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I met with a few local Wrimos for a kick-off write-in. I sat down to write and a little over 2 hours later, I had 3600+ words over about 6 barebones scenes. It was mostly dialogue and some action tags. Just like a all my other first drafts. It all felt so NOMAL.

          For the first time in months, I felt like a writer! I wrote a sentence. Hesitated, unsure what to write next, then cued into the song being played on the sound system. My next sentence included something from the song. A few more hesitations and forced sentences of dialogue and suddenly I was rushing to finish one thought as another one was pushing its way through my fingers.

          My plan was to combine my journal writing with scenes. I wasn’t going to force myself to plan the story or even know what I wanted to happen to the characters. In fact, I hadn’t yet even dreamed up the characters. I was just going to write what came to mind, turning the emotions of the past few months and the memories of the past few years into scenes. Maybe changing events and people as I write, maybe not. Because I’m sure it will not be exactly “as it happened,” I’m calling it fictionalized memoirs.

          When I started writing on Tuesday, I expected to have to write stream of consciousness drivel for pages and pages as I forced myself to write. Not so! The closest I came to drivel was a short 100-200 word paragraph listing several scene ideas that flooded into my brain faster than I could type. I could see how they would illustrate the progression of the main character’s emotional journey and didn’t want to lose the insight. I’ve since included some journaling and narrative, but that first day was pure fiction!

          It was like getting onto a bike after years of not riding. It was like picking up crochet needles and crocheting a granny square after years of no crocheting. It was like . . . returning to the keyboard and writing fiction after months of no words. It all came back: the flow of the words, the germination of an ideas, the way those ideas grew and grew the more it flowed through my fingers, the flickering glimpses of multiple places I could take the scene, the exhilaration of capturing those ideas, the equal exhilaration of not being able to capture them all, the interrupting the flow of dialogue for just a moment to write a few cryptic words, believing that when I returned to those words in saner times, I’d remember the idea that triggered them. And the faith that even if I missed one of those sweet muse offerings, there were plenty more to play with in the coming days.

          The following days have not been as full, not quite as sweet, but every day since has been productive. When I actually sit down to write and force myself past that first scene-starting sentence or two, the words take off! Just like I remember. So familiar and so, so missed. Muse, Welcome back! We are making music!

          Yes. It was a good, good day! It’s been a good, good week. Viva la NaNo!

NaNo Day 1 – A Start

Yesterday I was so relieved to start a day without file taxes, fill out Medicare levy exemption paperwork, or compile medical reimbursement for insurance on my To Do list. All done. Yay! The day only became sweeter when I found/took the time to sit down and write for a while. Ahhh, joy.

I had a plan – I really did – to work on my short story first since it has the earliest deadline. I have some notes, but it’s still weak in the area of plot. Because I needed to fill out the applications to be considered to teach some writing workshops at the RWA National Conference next year, I had business-y stuff on my brain. Turns out, I made about 500 words each of headway on the two business ebooks I want to write.

By the end of the day, I had 974 words to put in the NaNo word counter. Yay! I haven’t done any today, but I’d already planned for today to be a pretend sick day. Yesterday John and I went to the wrap party for Happy Feet 2. It was a blast! We had soooooo much fun!! LOL!! We drank and danced and toasted the film and talked and laughed and talked and drank and danced and laughed. I think that covers everything. So I knew I was going to be out of my mind with exhaustion today. Just that many more words to write tomorrow.

How are the first few days going for you? I’d like to offer a suggestion. Enjoy it.

Enjoy the writing, the not-writing (there’s a good chance John and I are going to the Grand Opening of a new IKEA tomorrow), the thinking, the daydreaming, the wondering what in the world you could possibly put on paper, enjoy it all. I think that is one of the great keys to creativity.

Enjoy!  🙂