80HA Day 9: In Which the Allure of Recreation Precludes Project Progress

I have come to the conclusion (as I do every. single. time.) that “vacations” are awful time sucks, that relaxation is impossible, and the angst of unproductivity is far worse than a day at work. I’m ready to retreat from my “writer’s retreat.” This vacation is not entirely my own, and while on it, I have fallen into some bad habits. The most discouraging of these is procrastination.

And so, while I wordsmithed for 2.5 hours yesterday and 1.5 hours today, I am far behind where I need to be to meet my stated goal. Will eighty hours still happen this month? You bet your bottom sand dollar. But I’ll be sure to remind myself next year not to depend upon time away from work as the promise of forward movement on any project.

That sentence above is drowning in prepositions, so before my relationship with the English language completely capsizes, I’m going to sign off.

Current Standing: 12.75/80 hours

80HA Day 6: In Which an Agent Jumpstarts My Resolve

Howdy, folks! I’m checking in from my “writer’s retreat” mini-cation, which so far has been almost a total… bust.

On Saturday, I attended the Florida Writer’s Workshop in Tampa, spending the full day hobnobbing with other writers (they’re so interesting to talk to!) and learning as much about the craft of writing as I possibly could. The conference was fantastic, and every session and speaker was interesting and helpful (more about all of this in future posts). However, given the commute and the time there, I didn’t get much of a chance to work on my own material in any way but in my head. Though I spent nine hours talking shop, it wasn’t specific to my projects. Furthermore, as a Great Sadness, my first page was not randomly selected for the Writers’ Got Talent critique at the conference (no, no, it’s okay, I knew it was a long shot, I’ll be fine *single tear drifts down cheek*).

Then on Sunday, I had to run to the office to take care of a few things I hadn’t been able to clean up on Friday. Once done, I started my writer’s retreat. Except the laptop I ordered and picked up that day was a total dud. I kid you not. It took five minutes just for the computer to turn on, then an additional fifteen minutes for Word to load!

I should note here, as this will sound strange, that while I’m treating this little mini-cation as a writer’s retreat, I am not alone and able to do whatever I want. Returning the laptop was not an option until late afternoon today. Nonetheless, I am now writing from my faster, brand-new (and more expensive) laptop. I set it up when I got back and then… procrastinated.

However, I have good news! I received a response back from the agent who critiqued my query as part of the Writer’s Digest 4th Annual Science Fiction and Fantasy virtual conference a few weeks ago (that’s a mouthful). GUYS, she asked me to send her an actual query submission when she opens in the fall! My query needs work, but the concepts intrigued her enough to inspire a request for a real submission! I’m just… LAAAA!

The only downside is that Cursed won’t be quite ready by then. In fact, I’m in the process of rewriting it–my assignment this week is to lay a firmer foundation so that the words will flow effortlessly. I’ll aim to send it to the agent by the time her next submissions period opens. But what a confidence booster! I’m thankful to her for the kind words and guidance, and you might be able to tell I’m a little pleased.

So, in spite of the crazy that has happened (the lack of a laptop has been the primary issue), I worked tonight for 45 minutes. It’s not a lot, but it’s still 45 minutes closer to 80 hours. I’ll take it. But I have the rest of the week to pack in as many hours as I can, and you better believe that I will (especially after that response. Dang, I’m thrilled!).

Current Standing: 7.75/80 hours

80HA Day 3: In Which I Perfect a Page in Hopes of Its Utter Destruction

Today was not, I think, what I would term a good day, though I can’t say that it was a bad day, either. Between putting out more little fires than I care to count and battling the omnipresent allergy attack (in July? What is this sorcery?), I was a bit of a frazzled mess today.

BUT! Tomorrow I’ll be attending the 2018 Florida Writers Workshop. One of my writing friends will be there, too, so I hope we both benefit from the sessions. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, an hour-plus-long panel of agents will be randomly scoping out attendees’ submitted first pages for critique.

It was in pursuit of this possibility–I can’t guarantee my page will be chosen for critique–that I dedicated my efforts tonight, as I have been to various degrees for the last few days. Though the time spent wordsmithing was a little more broken up than I usually like it to be, I still managed to devote a healthy two hours to the cause. I’m about worn out on this first page, though. I’ve probably put a combined five or six hours into the thing, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s the best I can do at this point. I really do hope that it is chosen for the panel, though, because I want them to tear it to shreds.

A few years ago, at the first Florida Writers Workshop, I buddied up with two other attendees. When the first-page critique panel came up, both ladies expressed their hopes that they would not be chosen. I couldn’t believe it. Wouldn’t you want someone in the business of buying manuscripts to tell you how to make yours better? Granted, it’s a single page, but first impressions matter, and the opening of a story steers what follows. While my submission was not among the chosen few, I learned a great deal just listening to the comments on others’ first pages.

In any case, today, regardless of the plain old annoying that happened during it, was not a total bust, and I’m looking forward to a much better tomorrow.

Current Standing: 7/80 hours

80HA Day 2: In Which Interesting Notions Lead Down Internet Research Rabbit Holes

After a transformer blew out down the street and knocked out the power from the office, I left work kind of early. At home, I completed a solid hour of editing on the first page I’ll be submitting to Saturday’s writing conference panel, and then I had guitar lessons. And when I returned, in spite of the spidery tendrils of near-constant lightning above me, I risked turning on my computer.

I wrote over 1000 words today, but more importantly, I spent 3.5 hours wordsmithing. It was lovely. Even the parts where I ended up researching everything from Georgia (state) geology to Egyptian sculpture–I promise it was relevant! Honestly, I’m so glad I’m a writer. I get to learn hundreds of new, various things every day, and I enjoy all of it.

Since I’m combing over this first page submission as if in search of lice, I’m reminded again of just how much thought goes into the selection and arrangement of every single word on a page. This is not the liberal application of the English language to a carefree first draft. Each word is subject to a hard-boiled, spotlight-blaring interrogation. Why are you in this sentence? Who are your associates? Should I throw you all in the pen or to the pen? In this case, they’re all guilty until proven innocent.

And now I’m to bed before I subject you to any more terrible metaphors.

Current Standing: 5/80 hours

80HA Day 1: In Which I Spend 1.5 Hours Floundering on a Single Sentence

Welcome to August, everyone! I’m going to begin by explaining in a little more detail my intentions for Eighty-Hour August, and then I’ll jump right in!

Eighty-Hour August is my “writer’s retreat” smack dab in the middle of my busy life. In past years, I have taken a week out of August for a writing retreat, of sorts, but this year I want to carry it through the entire month. Wordsmithing, however, is not all about writing, but also brainstorming, editing, rewriting, and reviewing. Measuring my progress by word count would be impossible, and so I’m going to use hours (and minutes) instead. My goal is to devote 80 hours of my month to the craft.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to join, no matter your goal. With Camp NaNoWriMo over and official NaNoWriMo still several months away, I wanted to engage in a “program” that holds me accountable to write, and having some writing buddies wouldn’t hurt!

As for today, I’m calling it a night much later than I anticipated. My Toastmasters meeting ran a little late (I was invited to stay for the officers’ meeting, as I am the VPE-in-training), and I had some trivialities to mind when I came home. An overhead lightning storm, while gorgeous to watch and hear, also threatened my wordsmithing time. I know far too many people who have lost electronics (and even roofs!) to lightning strikes. The perils of Florida living, alas.

That said, my title is hyperbolic–I only spent about half that time on a single sentence–the first sentence of my new Cursed rewrite. The remaining 45 minutes was spent writing more in the first scene, enough to fill up at least a page for the Writers’ Got Talent portion of the conference I’ll be attending on Saturday. I ended up writing 809 words for the day. It’s two pages’ worth of writing that needs serious reworking, but I mention the word count because it surprised me.

Here’s to many good surprises this month!

Current standing: 1.5/80 hours

Camp NaNo18: Day 31

Ready or not, Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018 is finally over! It’s hard to believe that August starts tomorrow–we’re on our descent in the yearly timeline, ladies and gentlemen.

I wrote a very calculated 2,252 words tonight, which brings me to the beautiful number of 105,105 words for the month of July. While I would have loved to have gone for 150K or 200K, I think it was pretty apparent from the start that such goals would be a stretch. I’m very pleased with what I have. The amount of material I have to work with over the next several months is sure to employ all my free time. Some stats for July:

Words Written: 105,105

Best Day: 15,040 on July 28

Worst Day: 1,062 on July 19

Projects Worked On: 5 (2 novels, 1 query, 1 speech, 1 wordsketch)

Projects Finished: 3

Now that I have this lovely everyday writing habit, I’m not ready to relinquish it. However, as I’ve addressed in earlier blog posts, one of the issues I’ve had this month is the problem of working on projects with progress that cannot be accurately measured by word count. As I am reentering the rewrite phase in my major project, Cursed, the words are simply not going to flow as they do for a first draft. My solution?

Eighty-Hour August! While I would rather that number doubled, I work full time and am actively involved in several post-work activities and clubs. Besides, 160-Hour August simply doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. I’m going to attempt to spend eighty hours throughout the month of August doing specific wordsmithing activities: brainstorming, writing, rewriting, editing, and reviewing. The writer’s conference I’ll be attending on Saturday doesn’t count. Reading, even if the books are about writing, don’t count, either. It must be productive work on my own projects. Essentially, I’ll have a private writer’s retreat throughout the month, and if you want, feel free to join me!

And so with that, I will sign off for July. I hope Camp was productive for you! Are you eager to keep up your momentum, or will you be giving yourself a break after the month’s writing shenanigans?