October Retro and NaNo Updates

Well folx, if you haven’t seen the news on Twitter, I have quit my software development job and am now working full-time as a writer! This…doesn’t mean much in a “employment” sense at the moment. I’m not published anywhere nor have I made any money yet, but I’m living the dream! 

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

That about sums up the blog, and I guess I can quit now – juuuuuust kidding. Not only do I not count this (it was more of a “I’m literally dying in this job and have to bail and we have the funds to do so” kind of thing), but even after getting published and whatnot I want to still blog about what it’s like. Plus there’s always something to say about ways to improve, and I’ll of course always be improving myself as well.

One thing I’ll say for now is that I haven’t had to think too hard about anything the past 6+ months, so sitting down to do writing-related work that all requires thinking and planning and creativity and organizing was a) so much fun and b) exhausting. I am having to do a lot of mental adjustment, but it is well worth it.

So, how did a week of full-time writing pan out?

Monthly Totals

Total words written: 13,620
Days worked: 17
Average WPD (words per day): 801.2

Last Month’s Goals

  • Prepapalooza articles finished
  • Get myself prepped for NaNoWriMo
  • Finish reading research books for novel

What went well

  • I quit! I no longer work for anyone but myself.
  • On the first, I got my first piece of personalized (and lovely) feedback from a submission I turned in, so definitely cause for celebration
  • I have FINALLY figured out the bigger chunks of my NaNoWriMo story, both the basic plot as well as the progress points I want to happen.
  • Got to take a little vacation from writing since I was going to be starting up full time the last week of the month.
  • More personal notes: My birthday happened (I’m old af) and I started to learn how to be a person at work instead of an anxious ball of nonsense. Not that this is going to matter much now…maybe if I even have/want to go back to working for someone else.

What didn’t go well

  • I started burning out again starting at the beginning of the month. This is actually what prompted me to quit sooner than expected and why I really needed to take that break from writing.
  • Now that I don’t have a “real” job to stress about anymore, I’m just finding all new things to be anxious about (this has since gotten under control, so don’t worry).
  • I didn’t meet the goal of getting everything as planned out for my novel as I wanted, including not having all the research done by the end of October as well. That’s okay though! Plenty of time to learn.

Goals for Next Month

  • Finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words at the very least.
  • That’s it. That’s the goal.

This will require me to work in a lot of planning sessions and some extra research occasionally (only when absolutely necessary, mind you!), but that’s basically what I’m focusing on right now. I’ll get more into the business side of working for myself after NaNo is over. 

My plan right now is to get into a groove where I can write a draft of a novel in a month while blocking out the whole world, and then get back into the social media/extra writing game after. I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to do that, or if I’ll want to once I have more experience, but that’s what I envision at the moment.

NaNoWriMo Update

Every day this month, I plan on recording how my day went as far as how many words written, how I’m feeling, how I’m staying motivated…generally anything that comes to mind after getting my minimum daily word count in (or not, we’ll see how it goes!). I’ll probably be brief for each of these entries, for obvious reasons, and then I’ll combine them together for an official update at the end of the week in lieu of a normal blog post. These are the entries for the very first week of NaNoWriMo 2020:

11.01.20

In order to keep myself from burning out, I promised that if I managed to get to write full-time, I would keep my weekends work free. At the very least, keep them writing and editing free if I needed to take care of other aspects of the business I could, hopefully without feeling like I am going to die at the end. This complicated NaNo for me. Today, the beginning of this challenge, is a Sunday, but I really wanted to make sure I got a word count in on the first day (gotta do it for the badge, son!). So I have decided I’m just going to waive this “no weekends” requirement for November, and just concentrate on getting my first draft finished. But how did it actually go?

Being a weekend, there were many different things that needed to be done and time that is set aside for my spouse (yeah I know, even though we’re locked in with each other we still like doing stuff together, go figure). After all was taken care of, I finally sat down to write and…felt like I had done zero prep for this. Every part of my (as of yet unfinished) outline fell flat and seemed so flimsy. I immediately saw all the flaws in my world and the order of events, and this completely took the wind out from me. But I wrote anyway, keeping track of my time spent with Toggl

One word in front of the other, friends. That’s the only way I’ll finish this. And, once it is finished, I’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong with what and fix it. Make it better. Make it awesome. 

Today’s word count: 1679 in 1:41:03. Not bad. Maybe I’ll do better tomorrow.

11.02.20

Today was my first full working day that I had to write for NaNo. There are still some other work items I need to take care of (such as the retrospective post and getting my homework worked on for class), but for the most part I wanted to concentrate on NaNo writing. I feel like it was even more difficult for me to complete today if I’m honest. Something isn’t quite sitting right with this story, and I can’t figure it out just yet. It might be the story or it might be me. Some thought holding me back or something. I’m not sure. 

It doesn’t help that today I was battling a headache of stupid proportions. 

Today’s word count: 1746 in 3:02:53. Not…great. But I’ll get there. 

I think tomorrow I might take some time to dissect what’s going on. Hopefully I can get settled into a groove by the end of the week or so.

11.03.20

Election day. I spent most of my morning writing time being angry at Past Charlie for not planning as well as I wanted to, and getting me stuck in a story that was passing harder than a kidney stone. I liked the general premise of the story, but something about it made it painful to write. I kept grabbing a scene from my piss-poor outline and writing like three sentences to cover everything I planned, and then going to the next scene.

While complaining about this to other writer friends (very important that you make these types of friends, by the way, they are the best), I started to form the question I needed to answer to fix everything. It took some exercise and a shower before I finally got it sorted. 

Fixing it got me super stoked to continue with my story and I ended up getting the word count I wanted before it was time to start obsessively checking election counts.

Today’s word count: 1709 in 1:26:49. Not bad at all! I’m hoping to eventually get to where I know enough of my story and know where I’m going with it enough that I can breeze past the 5k in a day mark. That might take awhile though. We’ll see.

11.04.20

Today, I found another issue with my novel, one completely different from the other. It started with not understanding the nature of the universe I was working in, leading me to do a little worldbuilding before I could continue. Just a little – literally just talking to myself in the shower for a little bit. Then today, I realized I had an issue with the story just not being enough. I worked on this one for quite awhile longer. It led to me fleshing out a B plot that already existed, just in a vague sort of way.

These set backs the past two days have inspired me to write an article in December or January all about how to troubleshoot your writing sessions when they aren’t going how you like them to. Basically if you’re sitting down to write and the words aren’t coming, what can you look for in what you’re feeling or how it’s going in order to know what you need to do to fix it? I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot more sessions like these – it’s the nature of the beast – but having a guide ready to help when my brain starts going numb will benefit me. I hope it will benefit you as well. 

Today I’ve hit a little over the minimum word count for NaNo. I’m going to take a little break from everything and then get into drawing up a better outline. Maybe that will help with tomorrow’s progress. A little work now hopefully will save me a boatload of time later.

Today’s word count: 1765 in 1:52:00. I’ll take it!

11.05.20

After spending each of these days kind of floundering around more than I would like, I decided to get to work on an outline and do some “scene work” today. What this means is I’ll actually sit down and write an outline (in the form of post-it notes on my wall), and then decide what scenes need to happen to make each of the major plot points or specific ideas I want to incorporate happen. I’m going to look at what is the goal I have for the scene, what are the goals of the characters in the scene, are they going to achieve those goals, how do they plan to go about it, and will there be some external thing that happens to disrupt what’s going on.

At least, that was the plan. I am still a bit stuck on the outline. Confidence is waning hard. It would have any way, but now this is my job, so I have extra self-consciousness about it. Which is natural whenever you start a new job, but that doesn’t stop it from sucking. 

Anyway, I have a much bigger chunk actually laid out in front of my eyeballs now, so that’s good. I’ll eventually get to what I need, but it’s going to be painful getting there I think.

Today’s word count: technically none. I made up a bunch of post its to map out points in the plot, though, so work has been done.

11.06.20

My spouse took some PTO today so that we could go hiking. It’s something that we’ve been planning and trying to do for awhile now, and we finally got to. It was great, but now I started working at about 1pm today. Time to try to catch up a bit.

(A few hours later)

That didn’t quite go as planned. I have a lot of doubts about this story and whether or not I’ve got enough of a grip on any part of it to actually tell it. I ended up doing a little more worldbuilding and plot hole plugging, and I’ve got it at enough of a place now that I can get some more scene work done tomorrow.

Today’s word count: 1050. Not great. Not bad. But progress is progress, no doubt about that. I kinda forgot to keep track of time today, but I think it was about 1.5 hours or so.

Today’s update will be included in next week’s updates, as it’s still early yet. Until then, good luck WriMos and have fun!


How has your NaNo been treating you, assuming you’re participating? If not, what ways have you been keeping sane in these crazy times? Any plans or goals you’ve made?

September 2020 Retro

This post contains an affiliate link! If you use the link to make a purchase, I will be given a commission, but I will ONLY suggest products I truly believe in.

After about three months of being completely thrown off my game and disorganized due to packing, moving, and…unfortunate life events…I am finally back! Let’s see what that looks like:

Best (tracked) month yet!

Monthly Totals

Total words written: 19,210
Days missed: 1 (not including scheduled breaks)
Average WPD (words per day): ~835.2

Last Month’s Goals

  • Writing space setup
  • ClickUp
  • Research for novel

How’d I do on these goals? Well…not as good as I expected. I did not finish setting up my writing space, and I think that might just have to wait for when I am free to work on it without worrying about my day job getting in the way. I will probably need to move all of my stuff out of the office when I go to paint the rest of the room anyhow, so I should wait until I can do that.

Clickup now organizes all my writing work and for some parts of my home life. My spouse introduced me to the program, but we were slow to get him “onboarded” for the house. Now that he is, he’s working on getting that organized more than I am.

Research…well…I did say that was going to be a stretch goal. I planned on doing all my research and then work on my characters, setting, and plot after, but I also needed to work on those enough to write the prep articles as well (that was kind of a “duh” moment, honestly). But this translates into not being behind at all! I’m done with the books I had originally meant to study and have already gotten a big chunk of planning for the novel underway. I think I’m on schedule as far as NaNo goes, so I’m not too worried. 

What Went Well

file cabinets
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com
  • First and foremost, I am BACK ON TRACK for writing down my word counts for the day! Due to all the chaos of the past few months, I completely dropped the ball on it, but I’m writing them down every day now to keep track of my progress.  
  • I also used ClickUp to sort out my goals for the year (adjusted due to circumstances), and ended up being really inspired to get back to work. This did kind of lead to a bit of burnout, which I’ll talk more about in the next section. 
  • At the beginning of the month, I did some proofreading/editing on a friend’s short story and it opened my eyes to how I need to start editing my own work. I think this really pushed me because I edited his and then immediately went into editing my own. The difference was quite stark. I will be writing about this once NaNoWriMo is over, so keep an eye out for it in December!
  • A couple more submissions have been sent out to lit mags (already added to the site), and I am obsessively checking to see their status every day.
  • I have gotten back on track with journaling as well…sorta. I have kind of been slacking the past week because of life stress getting in the way, but it is something that I am slowly building the habit back up to do regularly.
  • Every post for the rest of the year is now decided. I should be able to just sit and write it out. November will be mostly NaNo updates, but before and after will be writing or retro related. 
  • FINALLY, I have started watching YouTube videos about writing and how to do it better. There is a course that is basically “writing basics” at BYU that is blowing my mind, and then some author channels that are mostly small lists of tips per video. I don’t have much of a formal education as far as creative writing goes minus what everyone did in highschool, so I feel like I am learning so much more this way.

I told you, burst of motivation. It’s been crazy.

Lessons Learned

Haelga (left) and Frederick (and Spleen, the succulent) chillin.
  • TAKE BREAKS. I think I said this last month or the month before, but I get a little carried away sometimes. There is a calendar on my desk, however, that I write my daily word counts on, and I’ve started marking what days I’m going to take a break through the month, so hopefully this will get me to do it. I also occasionally have a lazy weekend because right now is crazy, so I need it.
  • Another thing I have done is set a timer to go off twice a day to remind me to get up and stretch or exercise. I put it off the past week and a half and I am now paying for it. I was barely able to get into bed last night and get out of it this morning due to back pain. I would say I finally learned my lesson, but honestly this is the second time this has happened. We’ll see. One day I’ll figure it out (I hope).
  • Reading recharges my brain! I picked up Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey (again, finally) and I found that reading something really interesting, engaging, and fun is a great way for my brain to rest and recharge after nearly burning myself out all over again. 

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • October is all about prepping for NaNoWriMo, honestly. I think that will be my biggest priority, other than making sure to get the rest of the Prepapalooza articles out for you fine peeps.
  • NaNo prep means figuring out a basic plot, the main characters (including antagonist(s)), and the logic of the world (which goes into worldbuilding – I’ll talk more on that later). 
  • I also have a couple of extra books that I’ve found for research that I want to take a peek at. I’m hoping to have everything I need by the end of October to at least get a basic, terrible first draft by the end of November.

Those are all the goals I’m really going to worry about for next month. There’s a lot going on at my day job that is stressing me the hell out (on top of, y’know, the world ending), so I need to not push myself too hard right now. There will definitely be time for that later. 


If you have goals you’re keeping to this month or completed last month, I’d love to hear about them – but I also want to hear about how you’re taking care of yourself through these crazy times. Have you been taking breaks? Journaling? Exercising? Binge-playing video games? 

August Retro and Update

It’s that time again to take a look over the month to see what we’ve done well and what we could do better.

It’s that time again! 

The last couple of months have been filled with chaos and heartache, both personally and nationally, but we’re still here. That’s got to count for something, right? But now, it’s time to take a look back over the past month to see where “here” is for ourselves. I’ll start:

Goals I set last time 

  • Set up my writing wall.
  • Get my Patreon page more fleshed out.
  • Learn how to (and then) write my business plan.
  • Write more, submit more, be rejected more.

So how’d I do?

Actual picture of a lazy writer’s writing wall.

Eh, not too bad. I don’t quite have a writing wall set up yet. I do have some sporadic post-it notes slapped up onto the plaster like a lazy conspiracy theorist, but I’m not full-blown, red-string-connecting-bigfoot-to-Captain-Picard yet, so I have some work to do.

My Patreon page is still a tad skimpy, but I’m currently working on a plan, and I do have some posts up. I’ve finally figured out at least a little bit of what I will be posting there, so please stay tuned.

As far as business plans go, I’m still learning about those. I think it’ll make a great topic to write about in the future, once I figure it out enough to put it into words. For now, I’ve started on building a better marketing strategy for the future.

I’ve written another story! I even had it critiqued by a fellow writer, but something is still off about it so I’m fixing it. It should be ready for submission soon. I have also had an additional rejection (already added to the count), and I’m starting to work on setting up the emotional guide for the novel I want to write.

What went well

  • I have SO MANY PLANTS! This isn’t strictly writing related, but I do have them, and they make me happy, so into the “went well” pile they go.
  • It feels so good to get back into long form writing. 
  • I was really nervous about having a piece of my work critiqued, as I haven’t been through that since the last time I attempted college, but it went really well! The person I worked with used to work as an editor and they were professional and extremely helpful, and the story is much better for it.
  • I have a lot more plans (as has already been mentioned, I suppose) on how to improve and new things to try. All shall be revealed in time.
  • I have some new organizational software. I’m still figuring out how it works (I only just heard about it like 3 days ago), but so far I think this will be how I get my entire life in order. Once I’m full-time it’ll be an absolute godsend. More to come.
  • I think I almost have a new routine figured out. I haven’t kept to it as much as I’d like (see below), but it’s a start at least. In the mornings, I get up early, drink my coffee, (usually) go on a walk with my spouse and get to writing. This gives me about 2 hours to write before I need to start my “day job.” During lunch, I do smaller writing tasks or read. At night, I typically spend time with my spouse once he’s done for the day. I try to finish up anything I started for the day, and then read or research while I wait for him. I’ve also set an alarm for twice a day to get up and stretch or exercise. I’m trying to remember to stand during meetings, but I hate standing so I forget a lot.

What didn’t go well

  • I’ve almost completely stopped journaling for about two months now. I just sorta tuned out a lot of thoughts and emotions, and I think that’s making this whole “blog about life” thing a lot harder. Part of it also comes down to timing, but I’ll get that ironed out soon.
  • Also related to timing is that I still haven’t been recording word counts like I want. As of the second, I managed to get my (absolutely pathetic) count written down for yesterday, but August was a wash record-keeping wise. 
  • While I did write a new story and have been working on my novel more, I feel like I haven’t written much. I don’t know if this is an accurate representation of reality or just because I don’t see the numbers in front of my face yet. It could also be that I only just started this new routine and haven’t pushed to the “habit” stage yet.
  • Dealing with loss has made my motivation plummet. It’s natural, but it is a fact nonetheless. I’m making it a point to keep working as much as I can to avoid the whirlpool of grief. It’s hard, but I think it’s been working. Breaks happen when I need them of course – self-care is paramount – but I try to keep going as much as possible.

Goals for September

  • Actually set up my writing space for real this time. The desk and all are ready, but I need to hang my cork board and paint my wall with special paints. This will let me start to take notes so I can easily visualize novel as I plot it out. We’ll see how well it works. Worst-case scenario, it means I have a place I can draw on the walls when I get stuck.
  • Get this new software set up for every facet of my life. I can’t wait until I have it ready and can write about it. It’s such a wonderfully designed set of tools.
  • Finish the research for my novel. This is going to require a bit of work, but I have faith I can get it done. Maybe. Possibly. Let’s just mark this one down as a stretch goal…

So how did your August go? How have you been dealing with life in general? Anything you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.

July Retrospective

This retro is a touched up version of what was prepared before July 29, 2020. On that morning, the best and sweetest creature I have ever known passed unexpectedly in my home, and I have been a mess of ups and (mostly) downs since. I appreciate your understanding as I try to recover. 

Monthly Totals

Total words written: ???
Days missed: a lot
Average WPD (words per day): not as many as I’d like

This month was CHAOS – I bought a new house, moved, and have been spending a lot of time not only making the new house a home, but also figuring out my next moves as far as my professional life goes. 

For just a taste of things I’m up to:

  • PATREON! Many times I will bring up that I have a blog to someone I know, and almost immediately they ask if I have a Patreon page. I am a little embarrassed to admit, but I never really interacted much with this site. After the fifth person asked me for a link, I finally decided to get with the times. The tiers and benefits, etc. will evolve as I figure everything out, but if you’d like to take advantage of it while also supporting my goal of being a full-time writer, please take a gander.
  • Medium. If you want to support me, but don’t really have the funds to do so directly, consider checking out (and sharing) my attempt at working with Medium. As an experiment, I’ve just imported a post from this blog into their site, but I will eventually be writing posts unique to Medium as well. 
  • A secret project! I was asked to collaborate with another peep on a project that I am absolutely stoked to start on, but I will not be sharing the information on here just yet. I will definitely be sharing it as soon as I can on Patreon first, naturally, so don’t be shy about being a little Mayhem-curious.

What Went Well

  • I got thrown out of whack in buying and moving into this house, but I am slowly starting to settle back into my writing groove. 
  • I now have my new writing space and it is beyond amazing. No longer am I in a literal closet or on the couch in someone else’s office. I have my own office that is quiet, bright, comfortable, and mine. I haven’t gotten my WRITING WALL set up just yet, but I have some neat plans for how to do this. More to come, naturally.
  • After needing to get myself back together again, I have found the ability to work through being sore, tired, hungover, or otherwise “not in the mood” to write. This is a lesson that everyone who wants to write professionally needs to understand: you can’t just not write every time something isn’t perfect. You will never produce enough work to make a living. I have known this, but haven’t yet seemed to be able to do this until recently. Maybe now that I have a place I can call my own, on top of pursuing other avenues for funding, I finally feel like I can take myself (even more) seriously. I am reading this line now, and I’m keeping it in because it is usually very true. But thinking about my current state, I think I can hear God laughing in my face about this idea.

Lessons Learned

  • I need more time to write! I wake up typically at about 6 am and keep hitting snooze until about 6:30. After which I go make coffee and stare into space until my brain caches up to my body at about 7 – sometimes even actually drinking the coffee in the process. My financially relevant job starts at about 9 am most days, so that gives me just two hours to do what I want to do. So I have changed my alarm to go off at 5 am every morning, and am trying not to snooze any longer than 5:30. It’s only an extra hour, but it feels like I get miles more work done. Miles? Piles? Llamas? I don’t actually know what you measure work in, but it’s more now than before.
  • As you probably already read in my post about research, a lot of what I have published on this blog is fluff, and I’m not a fan. While there’s nothing wrong with fluff exactly, I would like to have a habit and a reputation for writing something of a little more substance. That goes for both fiction and nonfiction. Plus, I’m here to learn, so let’s get to learning!

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • Set up my WRITING WALL. This will probably be a temporary set up at first, because I have some plans with magnetic and whiteboard paints for extra fancy, but I need something to get me back on track visually.
  • Get my Patreon more fleshed out and maybe actually have a patron or two.
  • Have a better business plan written up for what is, essentially, my writing business.
  • …learn how to write up a business plan. 
  • And of course: WRITE MORE. SUBMIT MORE. BE REJECTED MORE. Always a goal, not because I want to be rejected, but because the more rejections I get, the closer to acceptance I get!

What are your goals looking like for next month? How did your goals from last month turn out?

June Retrospective

I am so tired, folx. Between anxiety attacks, I’m working full-time, doing a night class, and trying to make this whole writing thing my side gig. I haven’t come close to the rejections goal I set earlier this year, which is mostly due to having set that goal before having enough pieces to actually send out or a list of publishers ready to actually send to. Silly mistakes. But that’s what you’re here for, isn’t it? I can live with that.

I whine, but there are so many people out there who have it far worse than I do. This doesn’t make my exhaustion any less valid or, well, exhausting, but it does put things into perspective. Perspective is a good thing to keep a hold on, especially when you’re trying to do something far out of your comfort zone.

It’s been a crazy month for me personally, but also all over the world. So much so that I have forced myself to stop reading the news as much. I still keep track of the outside world through Twitter, but mostly I focus on not burning out while trying to produce work. Let’s see how that’s panned out:

Monthly Totals

Total words written: 9,523
Days missed: 5 (not including planned days off)
Average WPD (words per planned working day, missed or not): 433

Okay, not super well this month. Burn out is definitely something I’m struggling with recently. 

What Went Well

CHICKENS
One day, this will be a picture of my OWN chickens!
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com
  • I set goals for myself! I’ll talk more about this next post, but I figured out what I actually want to accomplish and broke it up into increasingly smaller goals until I can set tasks every day that are relevant to them. This also allows me to:
  • Schedule breaks. I keep burning myself out at work, in class, and with writing, and it’s mostly making my love of the craft suffer. After figuring out that I can still achieve (most) of the goals I set while taking days off, I’ve been able to schedule days where I do nothing but chill – and by days, I mean one full day combined with days where I write but don’t work or work but don’t write. I’m still working on figuring that out, but it’s a start.
  • I’m in the process of trying to buy a house, which takes up so much time and mental energy. It’s a lot of “I hope this doesn’t crash down around me” combined with “that’s going to cost how much?” and a lot of “we can have chickens??” I’m excited, so it’s going in this category, but damn it’s exhausting.
  • Because of the budgeting we’re doing for buying a house, on top of the fact that mortgage will be cheaper than our rent, it looks like I’ll be able to attempt to take a year off from “traditional” work much sooner than anticipated. This, of course, is really showing my privilege, so please know that I am ridiculously thankful for it, and will be paying it forward once everything is settled.
  • After setting up a schedule and a plan, I’ve finally been able to finish a few drafts of something. It’s just flash fiction, but it feels nice. Now I just need to figure out who the hell to send it to. Which is exactly how I don’t recommend you do this whole writing thing. Find a place first, kids. Then you can make sure it fits their requirements as you go.

Lessons Learned

  • See the last point above. This isn’t mandatory, especially if you are writing for personal expression or don’t care about being paid/published, but it’s helpful.
  • I’ve been a little cocky, I think. This year that’s coming up will not necessarily be the year that I actually start making money as a writer. It might end up being when I find out I have a long way to go to write what others want to read. We’ll find out, I suppose. Either way I’m excited to start improving, and my expectations have now been sufficiently lowered. 
  • Speaking of cocky, I’m going to be taking some time to rethink this blog. I’ll still be writing as transparently as I can about my experiences, but I think there are a lot of ways I can improve the content. More to come!
  • I’ve decided that I’m not much of a “morning pages” type of person. I am definitely able to write a lot of words that way, but it’s all unusable freewriting. This helps when I have writer’s block, but only takes up time I could actually be working on something otherwise. With the precious little time I have to work, I need to reserve as much as I can, which precludes morning pages. I’ll probably get back into it once I have the time to.

How I’ve achieved, failed, or abandoned last month’s goals

  • I planned to take planned breaks and stick to a schedule last month, and I’ve started working on this. It’s going to take some time to get into the habit, and I need practice to figure out exactly when and how to take the breaks, but I’m getting there.
  • Whether or not I’ve been exercising and eating well is debatable. I’ve taken lengthy morning walks twice a week with my partner, but it’s not the same intensity I used to exercise. One of the first things I’m buying when we move will be gym equipment, so maybe that’ll resolve itself.
  • As I mentioned above, Morning Pages are just not my thing. I tried them, but until I have more time to write, it’s not something I can indulge in.
  • An Errant Crow hasn’t been touched since I wrote last month’s retro! Instead, I worked on something I thought would be a quick edit (the flash fiction story I mentioned above), but I am second-guessing everything I write now. I have faith I’ll shake myself of the problem, but it’s something important enough to mention.

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • Join a writing group! I mentioned this already but I need to find a group of writers that I can workshop stories with and who’s writing I can critique as well.
  • Keep working on figuring out when I should schedule breaks to maximize my productivity while minimizing my encroaching burnout. I sound like one of those “rise-and-grind” bros, but honestly I’m just trying to make more time for doing what I love without completely frying my brain as I do it. It’s the mandatory stuff that’s making it difficult.
  • Get settled in my new home. It’s not really a writing goal directly, but will allow me to get my WRITING WALL set up. I literally just made up this term while typing the first draft of this post, but basically amounts to the random shit I will be putting on my walls for organization and motivation. I’ll be sure to take pictures and write about it, don’t worry. 

Your turn! What goals did you set last month? Were you able to achieve them? Why or why not?

April/May Retrospective

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

As this is the first retrospective, allow me to explain what the heck that is.

In the software development world, a retrospective is what’s called a “ceremony.” The dev team looks back at the last “sprint” (typically about 2 weeks of work) and writes down what went well, what didn’t go well, and if there is anything they can do differently for the next sprint. This places great importance on improvement.

With that, I bring you my first monthly retrospective! This one combines April and May, since I started mid-month and didn’t launch anything until recently.

Monthly Totals

Totals for May
Why yes, that 52 IS representative of how many days I’d been quarantined by the 3rd of May…

April:

Total Words Written: 18,840
Total Writing Days (since April 12): 16
Days Missed: 3
Average WPD (words per day): ~1,178

May:

Total words written: 19,209
Days missed: 11
Average WPD (words per day): ~620

What Went Well:

  • I actually managed to launch a thing! I honestly never expected to grow a pair big enough to put anything online. 
  • Lots of work happened in April, and my consistency with writing overall has been pretty cool to see. Again, I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself, with work wearing me down and the ‘rona keeping me stressed.
  • At the beginning, I didn’t have a great sense of what needed to go into an outline. I’d have some that were four pages long and others that were four lines long. This obviously produced inconsistent results. With practice, however, I got better at crafting an outline to get an article of good length without too much effort when it came time to write.
  • Improving my editing skills is a similar story. I actually sucked at editing in general until I needed to do it with all the posts I’ve prepped. This is what people mean when they say that you should finish your stories, by the way. You can’t improve until you actually do the thing you need to improve upon. 
  • I’ve narrowed down what my voice should be for this blog. It took time, and lots of editing in the beginning, but it is consistent and natural now.
  • After doing some more reading about writing, I’ve figured out what my recently rejected story “The Errant Crow” needs to be better.

What Didn’t Go Well:

  • Physical/mental/emotional neglect. I didn’t take breaks as often as I should. I stalled my health by not exercising. I didn’t take any planned days off. This all accumulated until I burned out for a bit and pulled muscles, pinched nerves, and had panic attacks. This might be more related to anxiety over the ‘rona, but burning myself out definitely didn’t help. 
  • At the beginning I tried to write without outlines, and this lead to a lot of unusable crap on the page. Which isn’t bad when you’re still trying to figure things out in a story, but isn’t sustainable when you need to write a bunch of posts within a short amount of time.
  • I kept trying to write just whenever. A lot of mornings were spent shuffling about until I had to log on for work, costing me writing time. At lunch, I typically needed to, y’know, eat, and after work I wanted to hang out with my spouse – or rather, he was done with work and it was impossible to concentrate with him loose. So the morning was the only guaranteed time I had to get some work done.
  • I had originally started with the plan of alternating what I was going to write every day. Monday would be a post writing day, Tuesday a short story day, Wednesday I would work on my novel, repeat for Thursday through Saturday and then Sunday would be whatever I needed to work on most. What it turned into was me writing a lot of outlines, then some posts, then a tiny bit of a short story, then burning out and not writing anything for a few days, and then realizing I’m not on track to meet my self-imposed deadlines and panic-writing posts for awhile, then feeling guilty about not writing any fiction, then burning out again…whew! That’s exhausting just to type out, let alone live.
  • Having not sorted this last point out until very recently, means that I didn’t actually write anything toward any of my novels (as you can see in the picture above).

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • Take planned breaks.
  • Stick to a schedule that makes sense and is doable, while also allowing for flexibility.
  • Exercise regularly – at least stand up and stretch every so often.
  • Eat well and (gasp) don’t drink too much coffee.
  • Continue to revise and change “The Errant Crow” until ready for submission.
  • Start working on my novels again, alternating with the short stories, if at all possible.

The schedule that I’ve settled on (for now) is writing posts in “seasons.” Basically I’ll write a bunch of articles during a set time while taking a break on my fiction. After I’ve got enough to last for a few months (assuming new developments or feedback don’t require rewrites or extra articles), I can go back. This is excluding the retros, obviously. I can’t write those in advance.

This takes away the stress I feel not doing one or the other, since I’m not expecting to do both at the same time (which is madness, really). 

I’ve also written up a loosely-structured schedule for both weekdays and weekends and have posted it up on the cork board in my office. We’ll see how well I actually stick to it, as I’ve taken up some side projects. If I don’t, it gives me another method that doesn’t work, and I can try something new next month.


What about you folx: how has your month gone well, not gone well, and what can you do in June to improve?