November Write Day: Small Goals

October has come, and gone and so has Halloween. I used to love Halloween, but I haven’t done much to celebrate it in recent years.

Our 4-year-old is now all in. He dressed as a bat this year, and he chose the 1-year-old’s costume as the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, which was just a top-notch suggestion.

I think I’ll have to get more into it next year.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Finish 9-section outlines for four POV characters in The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week.

Finish 9-part outlines?

Not quite. I finished two character outlines, made good progress on the third, and need to work on the fourth.

I definitely feel like these outlines will help me write more confidently once I return to my partial first draft for The Warden of Eveefeld: Legacy.

I just need to finish them.

Once that’s done, I might try to expand each character outline into a more detailed story outline. I’m not sure how I’ll go about that quite yet.

I’m not planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. The timing just isn’t right for me, and I’d rather focus my attention on other story things.

Read three books?

Yes, and I came close to finishing four. I powered through two consecutive books in The Saxon Stories series. You can see a dual review of those here. Then I read The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, which I reviewed here. I enjoyed all three.

I’m still working through A Memory of Light, the final tome in The Wheel of Time series. I’m going at a steady pace with this one, and I’m happy with it. I’ve been reading this series for too long to sprint through the ending.

Exercise three times per week?

Not really, at least not to the extent I wanted. I have definitely been a little more active day to day, which is progress. But I’d still like to add in a few solid routine days each week.

Goals for November

  1. Finish 9-section outlines. This shouldn’t take much if I can just sit and focus on it for a bit.
  2. Finish New Earth The Herb Witch Tales #2 draft. I just want to close this story out in its current form. I’m not sure what that word count will look like, and it’s not important. I want to put a pin in this story before returning to Legacy in earnest.
  3. Read three books. Same same. I already have one book nearly complete, and I’m eyeing my next choice.
  4. Exercise three times per week. On top of more general stretching, which should really be a daily routine for me at this point.

Steve D

September Write Day: Time for a Reset

I can’t recall much of August, except for a couple of things that seemed to take up most of my mental capacity for the month.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 4,800 words.
  2. Take the next writing step.
  3. Read 3 books.
  4. Exercise 3 times per week.

So where are we at?

Write 4,800 words?

No. I think a fair bit of it had to do with stress from work distracting me. I had a big presentation and a work trip within a week of each other towards the end of the month, and I think these were just hanging over me. I could feel it during the work day, and it bled into non-work things.

I’ve felt much better overall now that I’m over those hurdles.

And yet I have been unable to craft a decent ending to New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I generally know how I want this story to land, but I’ve become stuck on the mechanics. I’m thinking I need to step back from this story for a bit until I can work out the ending.

Take the next writing step?

No, but I think that’s what I need to focus on for this month. As I said above, I’m going to step back from New Earth and focus on something different for a change. Switching projects can often be refreshing.

Alternative projects include:

  • Transcribing notes from a small beat-up journal into a newer nice one
  • Revisiting my partial draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy to outline that novel.

I honestly haven’t yet decided what I’m going to work on, and I’m okay with that. It could be a little bit of everything.

Read three books?

No. I’m 100ish pages into A Memory of Light, the final book in The Wheel of Time, and I find myself not rushing through it. I’m definitely enjoying reading it. I guess I just don’t want to gloss over sections just to get to the end.

Exercise three times per week?

I’m getting there, but not quite there. I like my mini routine and may be looking for something additive this month.

Goals for September

  1. Progress my writing. Honestly, I just want to pick away at one of the projects I mentioned above. No quantitative goals. Just forward movement to keep my brain working.
  2. Read 3 books. We’ll see. I definitely want to read more things. I’m just not holding myself to finishing A Memory of Light, so I’ll need to find something else.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week. Same same. Like my other two goals, this is more about consistency than anything else.

Steve D

August Write Day: Closing In

July was a fun month. We started it off with a two-week road trip seeing various parts of our families from northwest PA, to Michigan, and Wisconsin, which came with some great time spent on both shores of Lake Michigan. It was fantastic to just be with our boys for two whole weeks, and convinced us to do more family road trips in the future.

Coming back to work was not so great, of course. I feel like I’m still getting used to wok again in my third week back, but we have a relatively quiet month ahead. So that’s encouraging.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 3,600 words.
  2. Read three books. Road trip audiobooks! I’m already thinking about which books I want to download to my phone for uninterrupted listening time while we’re on the road.
  3. Exercise at least three times each week. That’s kind of my bare minimum right now, to the point that I’m counting 15-minute runs as a full workout. I’m basically starting from scratch at this point.
  4. Disconnect. I feel like I really need to disconnect and just enjoy time with my family for an extended period, and I’m looking forward to it.

So how did I do?

Write 3,600 words?

YES! I wrote just over 4,000 words, in fact. Almost all of that came from two long writing sessions this past weekend, but it still counts! July was the first month this year that I actually hit my word count goal.

Part of the reason is that I’m closing in on the end of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I always get excited to be nearing the end of a story, and I’m more motivated to finish it.

Read 3 books?

Nope! I listened to far fewer audiobooks on our road trip than I had anticipated. I’m nearly finished with Tower of Midnight, and not really reading much else at the moment.

Exercise 3 times per week?

I don’t think so. While on vacation, I was pretty good about being physically active most days. Aside from the loads of walking we did, I kayaked, swam, hiked, ran, and still did some stretching. Outdoor activities are my favorite way to exercise now. I just wish I had more time to do them.

Disconnect?

Yes. Two full weeks — the longest vacation I’ve taken in ten years — allowed me to just focus on being with my family. Traveling with a 3-yaer-old and an 11-month-old is still hectic, but we made sure to enjoy ourselves and appreciate our time with the boys as much as possible. We did manage to relax a little bit, too.

Goals for August

  1. Write 4,800 words. I think this should be enough for me to finish New Earth, so that’s my real goal this month.
  2. Take the next writing step. This will probably be to read through Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1 and incorporate some edits/details that I know I need to flesh out more. But, this will depend on me finishing goal #1 above.
  3. Read 3 books. Same as usual. I already have the hard cover of A Memory of Light on my shelf waiting.
  4. Exercise 3 times per week. I have a basic routine formulating. I just need to stick to it.

Steve D

The Herb Witch Tales – A Work in Progress Update

It has been quite some time since I’ve spoken in any detail about my current works-in-progress on the story front. Part of the reason is likely that I’ve been preoccupied with other things in life over the past couple of months. Between travel, work, family time, and the most socialization I’ve had since the pandemic, I’ve been pretty busy.

And yet, here I have these two stories, nearing completion of their second drafts.

The Herb Witch Tales parts 1 and 2

For longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve been working on a two-part novel. Really, it’s two novellas that I will publish separately in ebook and together in one hardcopy volume. The reasoning there has more to do with marketing than anything else — people are more likely to read an ebook if it’s not too much of a commitment. It will also cost less to publish 90,000 words as one volume versus two separate volumes of 45,000 words each.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been aiming for.

Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1 has been sitting in its third draft form for a few months at 48,000 words. I rewrote it mostly from scratch earlier this year, so it definitely needs some fine-tuning.

New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 is in its second draft at 41,000 words. Achieving my word count goal for June would put me just shy of 50,000 words for this one. It also needs a healthy dose of fine-tuning.

So in the near future I’ll have two novellas just under 50k words each, and I’ll have a few large wrinkles to work out:

  • Add some more description to individual characters. I left out a lot of physical descriptions – quite unlike me – to expedite the writing process, but I recognize now that it makes some characters more difficult to distinguish, and now it may be difficult for me to go back and add those details in without sounding out of place in the narrative.
  • Ensure that specific details – like the style of dress for my characters’ culture – are referred to consistently.
  • Pacing. My overhaul of part 1 caused a similar overhaul of part 2, so I need to make sure their plots make sense independently of each other. If someone were to read only part 1, would the story and ending make sense to them without reading part 2?

I have a lot of work cut out for myself for these stories, but I’m pleased at how close I am to finishing the drafting process. From here, it will be revisions of each story individually and of the 1+2 volume in total.

Next, Next Steps

It’s been difficult for me not to think about my next full-length novel. The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy will be the sequel to my first (and so far, only) published novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento. I had written about 60,000 words of a first draft a couple years ago before shifting focus to what I had hoped would be a much quicker writing process for The Herb Witch Tales.

Turns out I can’t write and publish a full-length story every year. Oh well. I am definitely excited to return to Legacy and my favorite character I’ve created. But I want to finish what’s in front of me first.

So, my medium-term goal, say, through the end of this year, is to get The Herb Witch Tales #1 and #2 into a publishable state. Not to publish them, mind you. I just want to have polished drafts that I can consider publishing in the longer term, perhaps once I’ve really picked up and made new progress on Legacy.

We’ll see. I’m excited, and also just enjoying the grind, for once.

Steve D

February Write Day: The Climb

January was a long month. I don’t know that is was particularly fast or slow, but I definitely don’t remember the first half. We spent those couple weeks mostly traveling and recovering from the holidays. The last two weeks have been much quieter, in a good way.

February is promising more on the quieter front, which I’m okay with, too.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 9,000 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Start working out again.

Write 9,000 words?

No, but I got my days mixed up! For some reason I thought Monday, January 31 was actually February 1, so I took the day off from writing. How embarrassing.

I wrote 8,616 words in January, so if I had sat down Monday evening, I could have easily beaten my goal. Ugh. Oh well. I did manage to finish the month on a surge after not writing much for the first week or so, so that’s good news for my February writing goal.

Check out my progress on my NaNoWriMo goal tracker. You can see I only had two writing sessions in the first half of the month, but I still managed to nearly catch up with several sessions of 500+ words. I felt like I hit a rhythm, too, so it became easier to write larger chunks at a time. Maintaining that rhythm is the key.

Read three books?

I read two books in January, but one of them was a fairly dense historical audiobook about the Ancient Celts, so I’m okay with it.

I had started reading Towers of Midnight, book 13 of The Wheel of Time, but fell off for some reason. I am definitely still reading the book, but for whatever reason, I found it easier to do audiobooks in January.

Start working out again?

Kind of, but I don’t really feel like I have a routine yet. I have a plan in my head for more consistent exercise, but it includes cleaning out the garage and buying some boxing equipment. Really, I just need a free weekend. And to buy the equipment, of course.

I’m still into yoga, but I haven’t been doing it as much, or only in shorter sessions to stretch out. And simple resistance workouts are easy enough to fit into my days. Boxing was always a great workout for me, and I definitely need to find something aerobic again, so I’m on the lookout for a double-end bag.

Goals for February

  1. Write 11,000 words. I ended up with a solid writing pace towards the end of January. I just need to start February stronger and try to write more consistently.
  2. Read three books. I am reading The Last Kingdom… again… sort of. Turns out I unwittingly listened to the abridged version on Audible, which is less than half the length of the unabridged version. I’m not going to get into it, but I’m not happy that I spent money on a watered-down version of a story. I enjoyed the abridged version, but now I’m listening to the unabridged version. I’m not currently tracking this reading on Goodreads, but maybe I should. I don’t know. I do really like this book, though, so there’s that.
  3. Continue the slow climb to a decent exercise routine. That’s what this feels like now. I’ve been out of a decent routine for so long that I’m really starting over at this point. This month, I want to create a space where I can workout in my garage, and continue doing yoga and resistance exercises more consistently.

Steve D

January Write Day: Keep Plugging Away

Man, another month, another year. December was a solid month. Our holidays were festive with plenty of time spent with family. We also got to experience our first real Christmas through our oldest son, who is three and at the perfect age to get excited for Santa and presents and Christmas lights and all that.

It was a decent month on the goals front as well.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 8,000 words for New Earth.
  2. Read through Uprooted.
  3. Read 3 books.

So how did I do?

Write 8,000 words?

Not quite. I tried to cram a bunch of writing into the final week of the month and came up short at just over 7,000 words. Still a decent output, overall. The first half of December had me stressing a bit about getting everything ready for our holiday celebrations, which knowingly kept me away from writing. I thought I could make up for it in the final week, but no such luck.

I still did all right, though.

New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 is progressing nicely at around 15,000 words, and I’ve hit a stretch where I already have a lot of content from my first draft I can pull from. That should help me stay on track and catch up a bit this month. I just want to get off to a stronger start and not fall behind again.

I did start to find a writing schedule again, slotting in time right after putting my oldest to bed, and then knuckling down on the weekends for bigger word count gains.

Read through Uprooted?

I seriously forgot about this goal. December was a busy month! I definitely want to complete this read-through, so perhaps I’ll have to pay to print it out — all 70-some pages of it – so I can focus on it when I’m away from my computer.

Read 3 books?

I’m going to say yes…? But let me check my Goodreads first.

Success! I finished three books in December, including book 12 of The Wheel of Time series, The Gathering Storm. Look out for that review next week. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

I also achieved my Goodreads 2021 goal of reading 24 books. That may sound paltry based on a lot of the book blogs I read, but that’s a lot for me, damn it! I’m aiming for 26 in 2022.

Goals for January

I feel like I rushed through this post, but this might be a good indication of where my head is at currently. I have a lot I want to achieve in the next few months, primarily finishing a solid draft of New Earth, and I just want to get down to it.

  1. Write 9,000 words. This feels achievable to me based on my writing progress the last two weeks, and it may be the start of escalating writing goals to start the year off. We’ll see how it goes.
  2. Read 3 books. Currently waiting for my copy of Towers of Midnight to arrive 😀
  3. Start working out again. My exercise routine really fell through the last couple months, so I want to get back on track. This is an open-ended goal for now until I can establish a decent routine again.

Happy New Year!

Steve D

December Write Day: Rounding Out

Ah, the optimism of the pre-holiday season, doomed to be crushed under the weight of festive preparations. November was such a weird month, but not really because of the holidays, like at all.

I mentioned in my post two weeks ago that I had a rough bout with some kind of illness around the middle of the month. Well, just a week later, our toddler caught hand foot and mouth disease, which is basically a beefed up cold with a rash. The boys were both home the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, and I took a day off work to stay home with them. We flipped our Thanksgiving plans around and were basically on constant guard for any sign of the virus in our 3-month-old, or ourselves. Somehow, we have as yet escaped unscathed, and the toddler is just about healed.

So, yeah, November was a weird month. As you might imagine, my NaNoWriMo progress was greatly interrupted by these happenings.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Complete NaNoWriMo! This 50,000-word challenge is the perfect opportunity for me to rewrite New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I’m aiming for about 45k words for this story, to keep it in line with Uprooted, so as long as I finish the story, I’ll call this a success.
  2. Keep reading through Uprooted. This is a stretch goal for me. I don’t want to be too distracted from NaNoWriMo, but reading through my first story could help me be productive when I hit a block on New Earth.
  3. Keep reading in general. While I’m not committing to reading a certain amount this month, I’d like to read something other than my own work. Again, this can serve as a bit of a mental break from writing/revising when I need it, and that’s just as important as the writing itself.

Complete NaNoWriMo?

Not even close. I started out slowly and fell behind within the first few days, but at the midway point I thought I could at least hit 15,000 words or so and get a good head start on New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

I wrote 8,500 words total in November, and almost nothing during the final week. Oh well. 8k is a solid total any other month, so I’m glad I at least hit my average.

I like where New Earth is going, as well. It started out slowly because I realized I needed a bit more set-up at the start, and the plot is changing more than I had anticipated. Still, it’s given me an opportunity to rethink how this story fits in with part 1. Speaking of which…

Keep reading through Uprooted?

Not really. I was hyper-focused on writing during the first part of the month, and then the wheels fell off during the second part. This will be one of my goals this month, when I’ll have some real time off around the holidays.

Keep reading in general?

Yes! I happened to finish two books in November, one of which I’ve already reviewed. I’ll likely review the other one next week.

I’ve gotten my hands on The Gathering Storm, book 12 of The Wheel of Time, and I’m already excited for it. Barely a chapter in, this book carries the weight of an epic finale on its shoulders. It’s also the first book in this series co-authored by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. Sanderson’s writing style is definitely different from Jordan’s, but what I’ve seen of the main characters so far, he stays true to their spirits. I’ll have a tough time putting this one down.

Goals for December

  1. Write 8,000 words for New Earth. This feels like a small goal, but we’re quickly approaching the holidays, and I’m still trying to figure out my writing schedule now that I’m picking up the boys from daycare in the afternoons. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it, but this month will hopefully be a bit more normal than last month.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This is no longer a stretch goal. I need to spend some quality time with this draft before I forget everything about it. I want to allow myself to be more multi-faceted in my writing projects. In the absence of writing for NaNoWriMo last month, I managed to take some quality notes for other projects I’ve been mulling over for some time. It felt good to make progress on something, even if it wasn’t on my primary thing, so I want to be more flexible when the mood to think about something else strikes me.
  3. Read 3 books. At least one of these will be The Gathering Storm. I was stuck on a couple of longer reads through October and November, so I want to finish out my Goodreads goal strong. I’ve read 21 of 24 books so far, and I’m well within range of achieving that goal.

Steve D

NaNoWriMo Progress: Halfway Point

Every year, I seem to forget that by the time we get halfway through November, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, and the month is effectively over. National Novel Writing Month started off pretty well for me, and then took a nose-dive. I will be revising my goal for this month at the end.

While I wasn’t churning out 2,000 words per day, I was making solid progress on my draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 for the first ten days or so of the month. I saw early on that the 50,000-word pinnacle was slipping from my grasp even as I continued writing, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I was still writing every day, sometimes multiple times per day.

Then, two things derailed me simultaneously:

  1. My writing schedule got thrown off
  2. and I got sick

No writing schedule?!

Up until this month, I had been pretty diligent about logging off from my work laptop (working from home) and logging on to my home computer to write for short sessions in the evenings. This worked well, because my wife would pick up our toddler from daycare and start getting dinner ready while I had 20-30 minutes to write before spending the evening with them.

Then, our youngest son, the three-month-old, started daycare, and we flipped our schedules. Because my work schedule tends to be top-heavy with meetings each morning, we agreed that I would pick the kids up from daycare. It didn’t occur to me that this would erase that precious, if short, writing session I could lean on at the end of my work day.

Now, I logoff from work and pretty much immediately have to run out to get the kids.

I try to write at night after dinner, with some success, but I’ll need to find a new way to carve out time from my day. I’m considering writing early in the morning before I logon to work…

…but early mornings have never been easy for me.

The sickness

I caught a stomach bug over the weekend from my toddler that sapped my energy and basically took away 3.5 days of writing time. I’m still recovering, although doing much better.

It’s completely out of my own or anyone else’s control, but it was frustrating to lose a weekend to being sick — not just because of writing. I missed a family birthday celebration and basically didn’t move for three days.

NaNoWriMo the Second Half

So, here I am just over halfway through the month having written 7,000 words. There is no way I’m hitting 50,000 at this point, and I had accepted that even before I got sick. 7,000 would still rank in the top half of my monthly word count totals for this year, so it’s definitely not nothing.

However, I still want to finish strong. With Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday of feasting and family, I’m not going to have the pressure of writing over that weekend hanging over me. So I’m already cutting four more days of writing time in favor of other priorities.

That gives me about 10 days to eke out a writing schedule and make some more progress on this story.

Revised NaNo Goal: 15,000 words total

NaNo Stretch Goal: 20,000 words total

It’s always good to have a realistic goal and a stretch goal, just to motivate a bit more, so there it is. 15k feels doable to me, and if I’m really disciplined, 20k might be, too.

Steve D

November Write Day: National Novel Writing Month 2021!

October came and went, but it felt like a lot happened. I returned to work after vacation, attended a work summit for the first time in two years, and did a lot of reading. Now, I’m taking an extra bit of time off to spend with the three-month-old before he starts daycare. Oh yeah, our new baby is three months old this week. Having two kids still feels very new to me. Maybe taking them both to daycare together will normalize it a bit more. In any case, the baby is awesome, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my extra few days of being a stay-at-home dad.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted.
  2. Read through Uprooted and takes note.
  3. Prepare for National Novel Writing Month.

Let’s discuss

Finish current draft of Uprooted?

Success! My writing goal for October was to complete the second draft of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1, and I wanted to do it as quickly as possible. I set a writing goal for 3,000 words by October 14. I wrote 3,800 words and completed my draft at a total of about 46,000.

That’s a fair bit longer than I had originally intended for this story to be, but I think it’s the right length. I feel good about where this story is at right now. It will need some further revisions, but no more rewrites, and that’s exciting.

Read through Uprooted?

Not quite. I didn’t print out my draft as originally planned. Instead, I just started reading and making edits directly in Word. I just didn’t have quite the motivation to do so as I thought I would. Each time I sat down at my computer to read, I found myself getting bored or distracted. Not bored of my story–just bored of reading a long document on my computer. It’s not the best way to revise a story, but I also know that I just need to do a first pass on it before diving a little deeper and sharing it with some beta readers.

I’m still only about a third of the way through this read-through, and with National Novel Writing Month now in full swing, I’m more focused on writing again. I may have also been looking forward too much to NaNoWriMo, and not focusing on the task in front of me.

Speaking of which…

Prepare for National Novel Writing Month?

Yes, at least as far as I “prepare” any story for writing. I have an outline of ten chapters with a 1-2 sentence summary and a few detailed notes for each. For the latter half of the story, my chapter notes tend to be questions that I will need to consider in order for the plot to advance in the way I intend.

This is a really bare-bones outline compared to what some writers do (where my NaNoWriMo Planners at?), but it’s just a guide for me. My stories tend to unfold more naturally as I write them. That’s just my style.

I can already tell you that the first two days of NaNoWriMo have been slow for me, writing-wise. I’m finding it difficult to write the opening section of the story. Fortunately, I have some content I can fill for the middle part of the story. I just need to get past the introduction.

Goals for November

  1. Complete NaNoWriMo! This 50,000-word challenge is the perfect opportunity for me to rewrite New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I’m aiming for about 45k words for this story, to keep it in line with Uprooted, so as long as I finish the story, I’ll call this a success.
  2. Keep reading through Uprooted. This is a stretch goal for me. I don’t want to be too distracted from NaNoWriMo, but reading through my first story could help me be productive when I hit a block on New Earth.
  3. Keep reading in general. While I’m not committing to reading a certain amount this month, I’d like to read something other than my own work. Again, this can serve as a bit of a mental break from writing/revising when I need it, and that’s just as important as the writing itself.

Steve D

Ending a Story is an Act of Courage

Endings are hard. I think writing endings is the most difficult and also one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing process for me.

You spend weeks or months (or years) outlining, drafting, and re-drafting a story, and you finally get to the ending. Not just the end of your first draft, but The End. The ending of the draft that, while not final, is likely to be as close to final as you’ll come while writing new content.

That’s where I’m at with my current draft of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1. I know I have a lot more editing to put into this story before it can be considered Final, but I also know that the ending to this draft will look very similar to the ending of that final published story.

I keep thinking about all of the other ways I could tell this story. What if my protagonist was less capable in her survival? What if the dynamics of her family were less positive? What if, what if, what if?

Writing a story is like entering the Multiverse and trying to decide which of the infinite timelines you and your characters will follow. Ending a story is deciding that you followed the most compelling, the most believable, and the most satisfying timeline.

That’s why I think ending a story is an act of courage, from a writing perspective. You need the determination to say to yourself, “Yes, this is the ending I have intended for this story.” And then you need to prepare to move on from that ending, whether that’s publishing the story or starting a new one.

So I’m overthinking my ending, even as I write it. The moment will come quite soon when I need to decide that it is The Ending. Now if I could just get back to writing it.

Steve D