Posted in writer life, writing advice

Giving Up vs Getting Smart

I think we’ve all heard the phrase “don’t be a quitter” at some point in our lives. Giving up has this negative connotation attached to it that I tend to agree with. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying “ta hell with it” because something is difficult is never the way to go. But what if you want to explore another path to the same destination?

That’s what I ran into with NaNoWriMo this year. The traditional goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I decided to go non-traditional and set a goal of finishing my first round of rewrites on the manuscript I won NaNo with last year.

It was going to be a heavy lift. I had to remove a POV, add a subplot, and fix a litany of general storytelling issues. The plan was to take the detailed notes I’d compiled during the drafting process and edit as I went. I knew the story well enough to start at the top and make the needed changes as I read through it. At least, that’s what I thought.

A week and a half into NaNo, I realized I was creating more problems than I was fixing. So I had two options; press on to win NaNo and fix it all later, or stop and take everything back to outline to get it right the first time.

I’m very goal-driven. The thought of not reaching a goal is crushing to me, so the idea that I wouldn’t win NaNo was devastating. I reached out to a fellow author friend of mine for advice, and they pointed something out to me. The only reason I was hesitating was NaNo. Not getting through the first rewrite in November wouldn’t impact my publishing timeline. In fact, forcing myself to keep going could do more harm than good because of the additional rounds of self-editing I would need. I wasn’t giving up; I was getting smart.

They were right. Not reaching my goal, while unpleasant, didn’t mean I was a quitter. It meant I was learning more about my writing process and what works best. 

I learned that pantsing of any variety doesn’t work for me. Stopping a process that is not working in favor of a new one, does not mean you quit. It means you learned and adapted. As long as I keep working on my manuscript, I’m not a failure.

Changing course is not giving up. It’s allowing yourself to find the most direct route to your ultimate goal.

Posted in writer life, writing advice

Lessons From Life’s Curveballs

You look at the calendar and see a date circled in big red ink. It’s the moment you’ve been working towards. You’ve dreamed of this moment for as long as you can remember. Your lips curl into the barest hint of a smile. The day is finally here, but it’s not what you expected. Your smile falls along with your spirits as your dreamed of publication date passes you by.

I know this feeling all too well. My original plan was to publish Batter Days in Fall 2020. As you can see, that clearly didn’t happen. A house fire in January 2019 left my childhood home in ashes and my parents homeless. I spent the next five months driving three and a half hours one way every weekend to help them rebuild. That, along with a litany of other unforeseen issues, left me running on little more than fumes. Rewrites took twice as long as I’d expected. Then 2020 happened. Do I really need to go into details? After all of that, this year kicked off with my editor falling through and having to start the search all over again. 

Life has gotten in the way more times than I can count with publishing my debut novel. I’ve had to push things back and rework timelines over and over again. It sucks! There’s no two ways about it, but dealing with these delays has taught me some valuable life lessons.

LESSON 1: EVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES

Writing is important. Every writer understands that, but there are going to be times in your life that it will have to take a back seat. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean writing isn’t important. Stepping back to take care of family, your mental and physical health, or whatever else may go on is okay. Spend a little time being honest with yourself. Look at what is in front of you and decide what is most important at that moment. It doesn’t mean you’ll be in the same spot forever. Give yourself some grace and focus on what you need most right now. The writing will be there when you come back.

LESSON 2: ADJUST YOUR GOALS

I’m a very goal driven person. Always have been. You put a target in front of me, and I am going to go all out until I hit it. Goals are phenomenal. I’ll be the first person to tell you that, but if I have learned anything in the last few years, it’s this: there comes a time in everyone’s life where you have to adjust your goals in order to better yourself, take care of family, and live a life you can be proud of. Adjusting a goal does not mean you failed. It means you recognize your current situation and reframe your focus. For me, that was pushing back publication. The stress and strain of my self-imposed deadline was detrimental to my mental health. Rather than letting myself wallow in shame for missing my mark, I adjusted my goal so that I could continue to move forward.

LESSON 3: REMEMBER TO BREATHE

This sounds simple. Breathing is automatic. No conscious thought is required for each inhale and exhale, but the breathing I’m talking about is not a simple expansion and contraction of the lungs. I’m talking about taking a moment to center yourself. We get so wrapped up in everything that is going on and what we need to do that we often forget how important it is to just breath. Take a moment. Relax. Regroup. Then get back out there and work to get it done.

Dealing with delays sucks. Having anything in your life derailed is never fun, but if you can take a moment evaluate what is happening and take a step towards a more advantageous future overall, then you’ll always come out a winner.