September Write Day: Stretch Goals

August was pretty chill, despite the blazing heat for most of the month. I was on paternity leave for three weeks, having only returned to work on Monday, meaning I was off for almost the entire month. It was great to really disconnect from work and just spend time at home.

The infant is doing well. He’s grown more than two pounds in his first few weeks, and the toddler is adjusting to his new baby brother well… so far.

I’m happy with the progress I made on both writing and reading, and we (meaning I, since my wife has been recovering from childbirth) managed to get a lot done around the house.

Let’s get to it!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Actually enjoy paternity leave.
  2. Write 8,000 words.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Enjoy paternity leave?

I did! There was little sleep to be had, but it was great being home with the family all day. The toddler is really sweet with his baby brother, saying hi and goodbye to him and even kissing him on the forehead at bedtime.

We do not expect that to last. As soon as the baby is crawling around and grabbing at all the toddler’s toys, it will be a different story. For now, though, it’s lovely.

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to completely disconnect from work for such a long stretch. I have the type of job where even a week-long vacation can be interrupted by an “urgent” meeting that I call into from the basement of a beach rental wearing only a bathing suit.

So being required by law to not respond to any work messages, turning off email and chat notifications on my phone, and not being called with “emergency” questions worked wonders for my mental health. My supervisor also did a great job protecting me from any such nonsense while I was out.

Write 8,000 words?

Yes! I beat my goal! I wrote 8,409 words in August, and I had actually been somewhat hoping for even more.

I got off to a good start and was never out of reach of my goal. There were still a few too many gaps between writing days for my liking, but I’m just picky like that. I wrote 18 of 31 days, and I had a good spread of volume, ranging from 44 words to 900+ with a good mix in between. That means that even when I struggled to write much, I was able to rebound pretty quickly.

The one downside to being able to focus on writing so much without work is that I now wish more than ever that I could write full-time. I’m not financially prepared for such an endeavor, but it will definitely linger in the back of my mind. Even if I can retire a few years “early” to focus on writing, that would be awesome.

Mini Update on Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1

My draft for this story now sits at just over 40,000 words, and I anticipate another 3-4k to finish the story. I ended up writing a large portion of this draft from scratch, scrapping entire chapters from my previous draft because of changes I decided to make to the plot.

I definitely want to finish this draft quickly, but then I want to reread and revise it a couple times to ensure I have the main plot points and details worked out. That will be the goal for September before I begin the second draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

That’s the title I’m probably going with, by the way.

Read 3 books?

Not quite. I read two books in August, both of which I published reviews for: one a historical fiction set in Roman Dacia, and the other being Jurassic Park.

I’m about 80% done with another story on Audible and will definitely finish it in the next few days. I didn’t read much in print copies, but with a week-long beach vacation coming up, I plan to remedy that.

Goals for September

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted and write 5,000 words. I don’t know exactly how much I’ll need to write to complete THW1, but 5k should get me there. If I finish the draft having only written 3.5k words, I’ll be satisfied. I’m also not planning on writing much more than that because we have a busy month, including the aforementioned beach vacation, where I will be staring at the ocean instead of a computer screen.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This will be a self-editing phase for this story. I already have some notes I want to make, but this will help me see the entire story together as one piece, rather than the little sections I’ve been writing for months. I will likely print out my manuscript so I can read and mark with red pen while on vacation.
  3. Read 4 books. With one book nearly completed, this shouldn’t be too hard. The bigger difficulty may be in deciding which books to read. I might be ready to jump back into The Wheel of Time.

Steve D

July Write Day: Summer Writing

June was a solid month. We’re already a week into July, so I don’t have many other reflections. Let’s get to it.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 9,000 words.
  2. Spend more time outside.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?!

Write 9,000 words?!

Can you tell I’m excited about this one? I did it! All it took was a ridiculous surge of 2,100 words on the last night of the month, but I did it.

I started off the month really strong, for once, but started to fall off about halfway through. The final weekend we were at a family wedding, so I have an excuse there. Otherwise, I left too many gaps between writing sessions. Even one or two additional sessions of a couple hundred words would have made that final night far less grueling. But once I got close, I couldn’t not finish.

That gave me 15 days of writing, with 18 total writing sessions. Those three broken sessions where I started writing and then came back later to continue in the same day were strangely helpful. I was also pretty good about writing immediately after work to not lose motivation, even if some of those only took small bites out of my word count goal.

The Herb Witch Tales Progress

It’s been a while since I’ve really talked about my work-in-progress, so I just want to touch on it for a moment. I’m on my second rewrite and third draft of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1. I knew I had to rethink some of the big plot points, and there have been some substantial changes. This story may end up ending differently, or maybe even longer than I had intended.

I currently have 22,000 words of what I had aimed to be a 35,000-word novella. But at two-thirds the way there, I don’t think my characters can make it to the original endpoint. So I’m debating whether Uprooted needs to be longer, or if it maybe needs to end in a slightly different place.

I know where I want the characters to end up eventually, but maybe they don’t get there until part 2. I’d be okay with that. Right now, I’m trying not to box myself into a specific ending or a specific word count. I want to finish the story, however I get there. That just means I’ll have even larger changes to make to part 2, which is still in its first draft.

I’m really enjoying the process, though.

Spend more time outside?

We haven’t gone for any hikes yet, but I feel like we’ve spent a fair amount of time outside. We’ve hit the record-breaking heatwave part of summer now, and the toddler is not as interested in going outside. He’s definitely an autumn/winter kid.

On Father’s Day I took him to a field near our house where he literally ran back and forth for 30 minutes.

But with storm season in full swing, it looks like we’ll get a few days where the heat breaks and it will be bearable for a hike in the woods.

Read 3 books?

GoodReads says I finished three books in June, but it was really more like four. I finished reading The Return of the King towards the end of the month, then spent another few days reading some of the appendices, which carried my finish date into July. Considering I finished three other books in June, though, I don’t care too much about the timing. One of those was the very long In the Land of Time: And Other Fantasy Tales, an omnibus of Lord Dunsany’s work edited by S.T. Joshi. That took me several months to get through, although I took a pretty long break from it.

I enjoyed it overall, but wasn’t a fan of the narrator. I think I need to buy this volume in print and spend more time with it, maybe reading one or stories at a time and letting them stew a bit.

Goals for July

  1. Write 10,000 words. This is my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, and last month gave me confidence that I can actually achieve it. With all of the changes to Uprooted, I know there will be even more to my unofficially untitled part 2, and I want to be able to bring both to conventions next year. I really need to accelerate my writing progress the next few months.
  2. Read 3 books. I like this as a standard goal.
  3. Enjoy parental leave. We’re due to have our second child at the end of the month, so… that’s exciting! I’ll be taking three weeks of leave to be home with mom and baby, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Steve D

June Write Day: Halfway Already?!

We’re almost halfway through 2021, which is weird. I went into a long-weekend stay at the family lake house ready for summer, and we got near-winter temperatures and rain, so it definitely doesn’t feel like we’ve hit summer to me.

I also don’t like the notion that I only have half a year to get two stories ready for publication… I need a vacation.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 7,500 words.
  2. Work out at least every other day again.
  3. Read 3 books.

Write 7,500 words?

No, but I wrote over 6,000 words, which is my best total since January. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I’ve been trying to write after work more to avoid needing to motivate later at night when I’m definitely more tired and usually lazier.

That strategy largely paid off in May. I wrote 12 days, even with a 4-day mini vacation for Memorial Day weekend and averaged over 500 words per session.

My main weak spots were at the beginning of the month (again), and the final weekend, when we took said mini vacation and I was away from my home computer. 10 of my 12 writing days came between May 12 and 25, meaning I just need to be more consistent at the beginning of the month.

I’m already off to a decent start for June. I wrote after work yesterday and feel like I have some solid momentum on my rewrite of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1.

I definitely did not meet my goal of 7,500 words written, but I feel really good about this trajectory, and I’m motivated to keep it going in June, a short month where I have one weekend of little to no writing ahead of me.

Work out every other day?

I don’t think so, but I feel like I came close. Near the end of the month, I completed the final in a series of yoga videos from Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. I feel like her videos have helped my technique a ton — breathing and otherwise. However, I was missing a workout element from my yoga. So I went back to Sarah Beth Yoga, who focuses more on the workout aspect, and man, it was great. I’ll probably alternate between the two channels and yoga styles for the time being, as the mood catches me.

I definitely got back into my resistance exercises towards the end of the month, but a nagging soreness in my left hand isn’t helping. I’ve also become the guy who uses a trip to the playground with his kid to do pull-ups on the monkey bars. So there’s that.

Read 3 books?

I only finished one book in May. I’m just about finished with The Two Towers and have two other Audible shorts in progress. My LoTR re-read slowed a bit because the book is split between two halves: the first half focused on Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and the rest of the Company, and the second half on Frodo and Sam over about the same time period.

I’ve enjoyed the Frodo/Sam sections–and they in fact grew on me the more I read, particularly the fascinating chapters with Faramir–but the structure just caught me off guard. I had been really into the Rohan storyline, basically unable to put the book down, and I didn’t realize it was ending when the second part opened.

I said I didn’t want to rush through Tolkien and I’m glad I haven’t. Anyway, I’m almost done with book 2 and will move on to Th Return of the King this week.

Goals for June

  1. Write 9,000 words. I know, this word count is getting out of hand, but I feel like I can do it if I just take my own advice and write more consistently across the month. Once again, I’m adding the word count I missed in May to that month’s goal, so 7,500 plus the 1,500 I didn’t write.
  2. Spend more time outside. I’ve been meaning to take the little guy hiking for a while, and I plan to do it this month. I have a couple trails picked out already for Sunday morning hikes. I just need to motivate and get him in the car.
  3. Read 3 books. This might as well be a running goal at this point. It feels attainable more often than not and helps me stay on top of my reading, at least to some extent.

Steve D

February Write Day: Movement

January went somewhat fast in retrospect, but in the moment it felt like the longest month since… October. A lot happened, and about the only things keeping me from losing my mind to utter despair about the world are spending time with my son and having my existentialist grounding reinforced by some appropriate reading.

Did that get too dark? That was probably too dark. Onto the goals! Continue reading “February Write Day: Movement”

#Review: THE RUIN, Dervla McTiernan, a strong detective mystery

The Ruin, Dervla McTiernan, Cormac Reilly #1, mystery, detective, novel

I just finished listening to The Ruin on Audible, and I’m hooked on the series.

I came to this novel length opener to the Cormac Reilly series after coming across McTiernan’s short stories: “The Sisters” and “The Roommate”.

I had enjoyed McTiernan’s writing style, her characters, and Aoife McMahon’s narration, the quality of which cannot be overstated, so I wanted to give one of McTiernan’s full-length novels a try.

Continue reading “#Review: THE RUIN, Dervla McTiernan, a strong detective mystery”

June Write Day: #Gains

I can’t really tell if May flew by or dragged its feet. On one hand, I can’t believe it’s already June, with summer weather in full swing in MD. On the other, it feels like a lot has happened in the last month, both personally and otherwise.

My short take on current protests around the US:

Black Live Matter.

Now then, onto events primarily taking place at the simple new desk pictured above. Continue reading “June Write Day: #Gains”

2020 Reading List – so far!

This is my first post in a very long time – so thank you to Steve and Jessie for letting me sneak back into the show! This year for the first time I decided to actually keep track of how many (and what) books I read. I consider myself a fairly prolific reader, but have no quantification of what that means. I am hoping to read about 20 books this year. We are almost halfway through 2020 (yikes) and so this seemed like a good time to check in with my list and see where it is at. This list only includes books that I finished. I admit, I abandon quite a few books partway through: those don’t get to be on “the list.”

Continue reading “2020 Reading List – so far!”

May Write Day: Onto the Second Draft!

April flew by, but I’m pretty happy with where I ended up. I ended up deciding to shift my goals mid-month, and I think it’s important to be flexible where possible.

For instance, my now more chaotic work area pictured above. My desk is sitting in the middle of my office as I try to rearrange the furniture and prepare for a much smaller desk in my ever-shrinking office/storage closet. Continue reading “May Write Day: Onto the Second Draft!”

April Write Day: Writing in Quarantine

March has been weird for everyone, I’m sure. Maryland, my home-state in the US, has been under a state of emergency with escalating degrees of a shutdown for at least three weeks.

My wife and I are incredibly fortunate to both still be working. I am working from home, and she is considered an essential employee for a healthcare institution. (She works in a lab, so she’s not on the front lines of the pandemic response, like most doctors or nurses are.) My son is out of daycare for the time being, and I haven’t left my house in a week.

I’d be happy to talk about life under quarantine if you’re interested, but not in this post.

This post is about writing! And other goals. Continue reading “April Write Day: Writing in Quarantine”

Friday Write-Day: A Taste of a New Routine

This week has been interesting, if a little off-center. My mom has been babysitting Nugget all week. She lives in my hometown, which is just about equidistant between my house and my office. My wife’s place of work is int he complete opposite direction.

So guess who’s been dropping off and picking up Nugget every day? Continue reading “Friday Write-Day: A Taste of a New Routine”