Okay… my pantser writing style never ceases to amaze me. I’m writing a story in which my female protagonist enjoys sexual relations with women as long as her boyfriend is with her. He surprises her with a proposal and she assumes there’s no room for that kind of activity in a marriage so she decides to go on the prowl for her first solo woman to woman sexual experience before they get married.
Over the past week or so, I have been stuck trying to determine her journey to meet this woman, while trying to contain the story to be a short one. Then all of a sudden I’m writing a scene where the character is at happy hour with her best friend talking bridesmaid dresses and when the friend goes to the bathroom, their female server hits on the main character, leaving her phone number on the back of the customer receipt!
I started thinking about what I want to do differently in the new year a couple of weeks ago. I’m not calling them resolutions because they’re not just for 2023. They’re from this day forward. At the top of my list is swimming, skating, and hula hooping. When I was on my sorority anniversary trip in Cabo, I envied the ease with which one of my line sisters woke up every morning that we were there and went to swim laps in the infinity pool before breakfast. I learned how to swim for the second time about 15 years ago but I didn’t keep it up. I learned because I wanted to stay fit with fun activities that wouldn’t make me feel like I was exercising. Hence why skating and hula hooping are on the agenda.
Next up is traveling. I took two trips in 2022, six months apart. The first one was my friends 40th birthday in New York in July. The second was the Cabo trip in December. I like the idea of spacing out the trips. It allowed for financial recovery from the trip before the next one. So now I’m thinking of a small weekend trip in the first quarter of the year, followed by a bigger one the second half. Likely destinations are Washington, DC and Jamaica.
Next up–writing. I can’t say it enough but National Novel Writing Month really did change my perspective on writing. It’s not enough for me to resolve to write more this year. It’s easy to write more. But it’s another whole thing to produce more writing projects. Finish the writing projects that I’ve started. I have approximately four projects I’ve been working on concurrently. None of which, except one, that had a projected date of completion and that didn’t even happen. At the close of the year, two are near complete and the other two are in the beginning stages. So, I devised a plan to complete all five by the first quarter on 2023.
One will be completed before this week is out. A week ago, I learned about writing in blocks of time. What I used to do was look a day off work and say, “I’m going to write today.” No specific start or cut-off time. That method hasn’t gotten my where I really desire to be. Last week I reached out a fellow writer who joined one of my NaNoWriMo sessions and I remembered her talking about a group she was in that helped be a more focused, productive writer. Heart Breathings Writing Community. I joined the Facebook group and subscribed to the group owners YouTube channel. I watched a video where she described the writing block system. I implemented it that same day. And that’s why I’m almost finished with one of my projects!
Now granted, I still mess up, even with this new method of writing in place. Like watching T.V. or answering calls when I’m writing. But there have been some wins, too, along the way. Like NOT answering a call when I was writing and pushing the guilt away when it came for me. The caller survived over remaining 30 minutes of my scheduled writing time.
I am still a work in progress, in ever area of my life. But I’ll never stop seeking to be better.
Wow! The end of this National Novel Writing Month came quick. I can’t say it snuck up on me because I was very in tune to every day. Especially those days when the struggle was real. I’m posting this wrap-up message on December 6th because on November 30th I was in flight to Los Cabo Mexico to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. This trip was THE best way to wind down from a month of writing, something I’ve never done before.
The experience has been nothing less than life changing for my writing life! In these weeks I have literally learned that I can do hard things. Specifically, I learned that I can prioritize my writing over people that I love and events that I’d like to attend, and the world will not fall apart. The people I love and like will still love and like me. And most importantly, I learned that people will respect my commitment to my writing IF I respect the commitment I set for my writing.
I’m not totally disappointed that I didn’t hit the goal of 50K words (18,230 to be exact) I commend myself and everyone else who participated in the challenge for just trying. This was not an easy task to take one. And being a “pancer”, someone who does little to no plotting and planning. I literally pulled an idea that I’ve been stewing over for the last couple years and starting writing it. I had the beginning of the story somewhat planned but as with the writing process, I could already tell it would have to be revised. Nevertheless, I’m excited to have a start to this novel, which will be my fourth!
Here’s a list of other key takeaways from my participation in NaNoWriMo 2022:
It’s okay to talking to people about what I’m writing. This might be a writers’ thing, but I don’t usually talk to friends about what I’m writing. Honestly, I don’t think they really care. Most times I feel like whoever I’m talking to is waiting for me to finish talking about it so they can carry on with what they wanted to talk to me about. I’m usually the “listener” of my friends or family. However, this month I made a concerted effort to share with family and friends that I was working on a new story during the challenge. And that usually led to them inquiring about the story so I told them.
There’s an additional benefit to sharing my writing with others, even if they’re not writers. I received a great suggestion from the dater my cousin brought along to an event we both attended. In sharing with my cousin about my story, which is about two caregivers, in different age groups, ethnicities, and personalities on a road trip after both of their husbands die, I mentioned wanting to go beyond the black/white friendship and involve a ethnicity we don’t often see in African American stories. His date suggested a Native American and I was immediately intrigued. Interestingly, I was scheduled to attend a webinar the following week about Thanksgiving from the Native American perspective. Although my character choices had nothing to do with why I signed up for the webinar, I felt like her suggesting that was a sign of how I should move forward. I wouldn’t have received that if I didn’t share my idea in the first place.
This might be a given but it’s solidified in my mind now. I must have a goal for any writing that I start. A blog post, essay, short story, or novel. Once I move from my story conception to writing, I have to give myself a solid goal for completing the first draft. Believe it or not, I have not been doing that. There have been times I set a goal but didn’t sit down and determine how I was going to do it. This challenge made me do that and, for that, I am forever changed. Going forward, with anything I want to do, I’m going to set a goal and create a plan for how to accomplish it.
So thank you National Novel Writing Month for being a great teacher of 2022!
I’m curious…what has challenged you on your writing journey or any other journey you’ve embarked on? Post in the comments.
Things have picked up. After the struggle of week 2, I kept pushing and I’m not disappointed.
What I am is tired.
Yesterday, before I had to work at four in the afternoon, I laid in bed, literally all day. Writing is an exercise of the mind and it is just as draining as physical exercise. I didn’t worry about writing during the day because I knew I would have time when I was on desk at the library. That’s how slow it is in the evening at the community college library that I work at on Thursdays.
The sleep did me good, though, on many levels. I woke up the next day refreshed and recharged. I got up and out early to take care of some car maintenance that was on the schedule for the day before. Again, I knew I would have time to write on my afternoon shift at the library.
I’m proud that I have not missed a day of writing since this challenge began. My numbers are climbing, just not as quickly as I would have liked for this particular week. Truthfully, I am feeling a little defeated, but I’m not allowing that to keep me pushing forward. Why? Because on November 30, 2022, I will have a draft–50k words or not– of a new novel. And that’s a major accomplishment in itself.
Last week, the second week of the challenge, was a struggle. I started off with a bang on the first two chapters of my manuscript. It wasn’t too hard because I had had that part mapped out in my head for quite some time. However, once I completed those chapters, I struggled getting the words for the next two chapters. I was immediately irritated that I’m not more of a strategic writer. In the world of NaNoWriMo, I’m what they call a panser–a person who writes by the seat of their pants. And then in the middle of the week I had to take on grandma duty to babysit my two granddaughters while their mom-my daughter–had some “Me” time…in London! When she asked me to keep them several months ago, I had not decided to be participate in this 50K word novel writing challenge. At that time I had only planned to host write-ins with my library for all the other writers. Nevertheless, I still thought I would have been more productive because the truth is I get most of my writing done when I’m not at home. So I really thought having the girls wouldn’t have affected me. However, I hadn’t considered how the anxiousness of this commitment to babysit 2 under 2 was going to effect my ability to be creative when I did have time to write. Then I was bummed and down in the dumps that I was barely writing 500 words a day when the previous week I was killing it with at least 1,000.
So you can imagine how bleak my outlook became on accomplishing my goal. Today starts week 3 and I’m nowhere near the 50K mark. Not even close enough to half.
But I’m not giving up. I received an email from the NaNoWriMo organization talking about just what I was experiencing.
The writer made reference to this second week of NaNoWriMo being the hardest of the challenge. Why? Because it’s common to lose that momentum of the first week. It’s kind of like when you get an idea for a book and you start writing for the fun of it. Then you hit the spot where you lose the motivation. To keep writing when you’re not inspired or motivated in what us writers like to call the “work” of being a writer. You have to write when you don’t feel like. You have to write when you feel like it’s not making sense to you. You have to write when none of the fancy words in your vocabulary are coming to mind.
Instantly, I felt less alone and more inspired to stay the course. So after I dropped my daughter and granddaughters off at their apartment close to midnight last night, I decided that the next day was my fresh start.
I woke up this morning and grabbed my laptop and got to work!
Whew! Seven days of consecutive writing! You might find this hard to believe, but I’ve never done this before in my writing life. I’ve always let something or another stop me from a daily writing practice. That’s why participating in this challenge has been so important to me. I really want to get in the habit of writing everyday, especially when I have a project in the works. While this is exhausting, I have never been more proud of myself. But even with the progress I’m making, I want to give full disclosure of my experiences, my triumphs and my trials.
Writing in my office
Scheduling virtual write-ins
Participating in in-person write-ins
Updating my progress on the NaNoWriMo site
Sharing my journey with others (great for accountability)
Searching for accountability buddies
Making corrections to WIP
Rereading what I wrote the previous writing session
Forgetting to record my starting word count before I start writing
Constantly checking my word count
Making TikTok content during my writing sessions
Dipping back into my old previous WIP
What’s next? My second personal virtual write-in of the month. Join me if you’d like.
LaCharmine Jefferson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Meeting ID: 832 4912 8312 Passcode: 417693 One tap mobile +16469313860,,83249128312#,,,,417693# US +19292056099,,83249128312#,,,,417693# US (New York)
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Just when I got my mojo back for my current WIP, November 1st is one day away.
You know what November 1st is, right?
Let me tell you…
It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month!!!!
And for the first time in about five years, I’m participating with a BRAND NEW project!
Huh? You might be saying. “LA, how are you moving on to another project when you’re already working on one?
Haha! I’m glad you asked! The answer is this…
The story I’m working on now is already written. I’m in the rewriting and revision stage for that book. National Novel Writing Month is a challenge for writers to write a new 50K word novel in 30 days. The concept, which I fully understand now, is to spend the month of November straight writing. Not reading what you wrote yesterday and making corrections (also known as editing). At the end of the month, the participant is not expected to have a “ready to publish” novel. That’s what I used to think. Instead, the participant is expected to have a rough first draft, a good start, a story in need of major revisions.
This…I can do.
I’ve had the concept of the story rolling around in my head for about 3-5 years. I actually intend on it being a screenplay, but the novelist in me must write the full story first.
I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m scared. There’s already easily five days that I likely won’t be writing AND that’s not even including the holidays. So that means I’m going to have to go double time on my available writing days.
I registered the library where I work as a Come Write In space in which I’ll be hosting four virtual writing sessions. And I think I’m going to add a few from my personal zoom account as well. Make sure you’re connected with me on IG @authorlajefferson for regular updates.
I’m really not a writer who needs “life” shit to happen to me. I BS enough with my writing all on my own. But, of course, “life” shit happens. At the tail end of August, when I was preparing myself for entering the empty nest phase of my life, taking my youngest child to college he selected, my oldest child drops a bomb on me.
“Umm…Mom, me and the girls need to come stay with you for a few weeks until my apartment is ready.”
Okay. I say. What else was there to say? “No. You and my 2 year old and 5 month old granddaughters can not come stay with me temporarily as you and your husband go through this separation.”
No. The reply was not an option. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a helper. I am a nurturer.
Sooooo, for three weeks, I was full time grandparenting while juggling these two part-time jobs, with full time responsibilities AND trying to supply emotional support to my daughter.
It was rough, y’all. And that is an understatement. I literally did not have the mental capacity to write anything. I don’t even think I opened the damned Google doc. If it I did, it was probably to say, “Dammit! Why can’t you edit yourself?”
The three weeks ended. But it took my mind another few weeks to adjust foreign and sudden silence.
AND THEN October came. Me and my sister’s birthday month. Need I say more?
Sooooo, a few days ago when I came up for air, I finally opened the document and actually exhaled. It was like seeing an old friend that I didn’t realize I had been missing.
Seeing my words with fresh eyes was what I really needed. The writing has recommenced.
In my last post I shared my disappointment with missing another self-imposed deadline for July. But I concluded that post with a declaration of getting back to writing. And that’s just what I did. Since that last post, I have writing and revising my manuscript according to new detail that I realized needed to be included in the storyline. Everything was going well until I opened up my Google document and noticed that the last paragraph I added earlier that day had someone duplicated itself into multiple areas of the document!
It was late in then evening. I thought my eyes were deceiving me. So I sat up on my bed and immediately notice that my page count had gone form 200-something to 360.
HUH! Another WTF!
I literally had no idea how this happened. And the worst part is that the platform wouldn’t even allow me to select any part of the chapter to delete it.
My heart sunk! My mind flashed back to a issue I encountered when using the Scrivener software when I started writing this novel. I was nearly done with the first draft when all of sudden that file wouldn’t open! Seriously wouldn’t open. I later learned that I had neglected to update the software for the current version of my MacBook.
I thought working in Google Docs would prevent any craziness from occurring during my writing process but clearly no technology is void of potential problems.
The good thing about Google Docs, however, is that every version of your document is saved soooooo all was not lost–except the 778 words that I had added earlier that day. It wasn’t that hard to retype another what I had already written once I got over the annoyance of having to retype it. Arrgh!
Now, since that foolishness occurred when using a work computer, I have avoided using that computer since. And now, more than ever, I’m closing out Docs and signing out of Google each time I use it. Hopefully, nothing like this happens again.
If you’ve had anything like that happen to you, please share how you dealt with it.
SideNote: As much as I was enjoying using Scrivener, I haven’t used it since. I had no way of knowing when the software was no longer compatible with my Mac so I won’t chance it again.
I know I’m wasn’t alone in my sadness when it was time to flip the calendar from July to August. After all, August is the official last month of summer. And, particularly, in the Midwest, where I live, it means that hot days, the kind where I can where shorts, tank-tops, and flip-flops are short-lived. As a writer with, yet another self-imposed deadline to finish developmental edits for a novel I’m writing, flipping the calendar was beyond sad, closer to depressing. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I started working on these edits a year ago when I left my job of 23 years. For the first time in my adult life, I was off for the summer. Suddenly having that much free time while adjusting to this major life change, it goes without saying that I wasn’t in the headspace to give my writing the necessary attention. So when the following July came, a complete year since I left the job and I still hadn’t finished the edits, I declared, “Enough is enough! Time to stop playing with this novel!” Then, I declared I would finish this work by July 31st!
I set out with this goal WITHOUT a strategy for how I would make this happen. I didn’t sit down and look at my schedule to determine what days and hours I would have time to write. For instance, there was a Friday that I was not scheduled to work, and would have written on that day, but I had to drive my son up to Michigan State University for a week he was spending there. And then, that following Friday, when I was off of work, I had to pick him up. It’s only an hour drive from our house, but dealing with kids and colleges is unpredictable. It can be a lot, physically and mentally.
Then, the last three days of the month, I travelled to New York to help my friend celebrate her 40th birthday.
Furthermore, I didn’t even look through the manuscript to determine how many chapters were left to edit, how many I would need to work through per writing session to finish by the deadline. I didn’t think about doing that until the middle of the month. That was also right about the time when I made a major change to the protagonist, which then, sent me back to beginning of the novel to infuse those changes into the story. I knew then that my deadline was out the window, but it was doomed from the start without proper planning.
I don’t like to say this about myself, but the proof is in the pudding. I have never done well with self-accountability. Not with diets, exercise schedules, or writing. I’m too quick to give myself passes when something gets hard. I rationalize the hell of stuff.
“Life is too short to not indulge these bagels and donuts that management was so kind to bring into work,” I’ve been known to say when I’m supposed to avoiding carbs.
“Is this flabby stomach really preventing you from living a fulfilling life?” I have asked myself when I was on day 4 of a 30 day ab challenge.
“You’re not a full-time writer. You can’t expect yourself to write like you are. Your daughter needs to talk to you. You’re a new grandmother. You’re nurturing a new relationship.” I comfort myself when I find myself breaking a scheduled writing session when any of the important people in my life call. I feel such guilt when I put them on DND (do not disturb).
Sometimes I curse the day I decided to write a book. Even more so the day when I declared I actually wanted success as an author–the kind of success in which I could actually make money and support myself. Even knowing that it’s only a small percentage of writers who are privileged to live that life, I’m not ready to give up on the dream of me being one of them. In the meantime, I will continue to do better. Create some accountability partners, no matter how terrifying that is to me.