An Unplanned Update

A casual post gets a casual picture. Behold: Hucky boi…

Almost all of the posts on this blog so far have been carefully constructed: I figured out what to write, wrote a first draft – possibly from an outline – and then I edited it. I knew what I was going to say beforehand or at least knew what I wanted to say from the beginning.

Today I wanted to try something a little different. I’m still trying to figure out what I want out of this blog beyond the clearly stated mission already posted. Do I want this to continue being very orderly and neat and planned and polished? Is that even a realistic expectation as I go forward with my plan to finish as many stories I’ve started over the years as possible this year? I don’t really think it is. And that’s okay.

I don’t really want to stop posting here. That wouldn’t be true to the point of the whole thing. But I also need to let go of this fantasy of the truly polished blog. Of perfect entries that are instantly shareable with infographics and research. I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to produce work in a way that is just so and it has started to eat me alive.

My time away from this blog and writing in general made me feel really fucking dumb writing all these “how to” articles when I still hadn’t published anything, and so I had decided not to do that anymore. But then I found a new problem: what the hell am I going to write instead?

…and Bumblebee!

Obviously I’m going to be writing fiction. I want to be a fiction author. I didn’t set out to be a blogger, not in the beginning. That wasn’t the thing I thought of when I considered my dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being that style of writing, either, but my point is that when I wanted to be a writer, “blogging” hadn’t been invented yet. I had never even heard of the internet at all before. I’m not here to write a textbook or whatever, so there’s not really a point to me trying to write a bunch of polished posts like I am.

So where does that leave me? With my original mission: I’m here to report on what this life is like for those who wanna know the more complete story. I think might end up sharing fiction I write here, but that’s for another day.

Either way, that’s where I’m at right now. I may or may not stick to a posting schedule. I think I will try, just so it’s both better for you to know when to come back and also better for SEO reasons (*~algorithms~*) but I might throw in the occasional random post depending on what’s going on.


It’s the day after typing this up – casual or not, I gotta edit – and I’m feeling much better about this. I’m going to work up to “diversifying my portfolio” and “income streams” or whatever, but I’m okay with keeping it simple for now. I’m still really new at this. I’m still learning. That’s okay.

Upcoming!

I have recently had the privilege of buying a house, and if you have also done this, you’ll know that the process is stressful, fluid, and chaotic. We were supposed to close Monday but it kept getting pushed back day by day until two days ago. Internet, having been turned off three days ago, was restored last night, so I haven’t had the time nor resources to produce a worth-while post for you all for today.

I have a post half-done in the style I want the rest of my less opinion/experience-based posts to be written, and I am SUPER excited to have it ready for you next week.

I’ll see you then, folx.

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?

Obligatory Introduction

I must have written a thousand of these introductory posts. Hell, I’ve rewritten this one four times. Normally I get excited about an idea, hop on over to a blogging platform and get to introducing myself again. I don’t typically have more of a plan than that and it all falls apart in a week. This time I have a plan and a dream. Though all this does is make me more nervous to put myself out there. Whatever. We’ll see where this goes:

Hi. I’m Charlie and I’m going to be a full-time writer even if it kills me.

Photo by Karl Starkey on Pexels.com

What does this have to do with you?

Ah yes, the age-old question.

I got tired of a lot of the other writing blogs. The blogs that give you guidelines on how to submit or find an agent, but don’t actually tell you what any of it is like. Those ones never say anything about how long it took them to be published or how many rejections they got, or what the rejections letters said. Those don’t talk about the many, many mistakes they inevitably made or what it cost them. There are a thousand and one blogs out there telling you exactly what to do, but few that actually tell you what it’s like.

If you want to be a writer as well but are afraid of the unknown, then this blog is for you. I’ll be recording both failures and successes, acceptance and rejection letters, things I know as well as those I learn along the way. 

There will be times, especially in the beginning, where there’s nothing happening. When this is the case, I will be writing about the process. My advice will be most helpful to those just starting out, but sometimes it’s helpful even to the experienced to read about it from a fresh perspective. 

The thought on the schedule – subject to change – is that I’ll post on the writing process for most of the month, have a review of something every so often (probably once every month or two), and begin each month with a post that dissects the previous month. I will write on the publishing game more as I get experience.

What to expect

Tips and tricks. How do you decide what to write? What do you do about writer’s block? Where do you even start when you’re worldbuilding? I’ll be answering these questions and more.

Reviews. Fiction books, guidebooks, organizational systems, writing software, journals, etc. I will only be reviewing things that I have personally used and recommend only things I like.

My story as it happens. Even if you have read another blog of this type before, this will still be unique in that no one will have exactly the same story. I want to have complete transparency into what the writing life looks like as I try to go from full-time software dev to full-time writer. 

Let’s get caught up with that story, shall we?

The Crisis. I won’t bore you with all my existential thoughts in the introduction to my blog; I’ll save that for another time. However, it boiled down to the fact that I have literally always wanted to be a writer and I haven’t actually made any real attempt to do so. Now I will.

The Plan. Knowing what I wanted to do, my partner and I sat down and talked about the logistics. He drew up a budget to figure out how much money we would need to save so that I could take a year off to make an actual attempt to do this. 

Everything I read said I should have an author’s site even before getting published, but what on earth would I even put on it? In doing research I found so many blogs that talked about what to do, but not how to do it, or they talked about steps but not experiences. Enter the idea for the blog. 

What I’ve Done So Far. At the time of writing this, I have added to a growing list of post ideas, outlined about 20 of those, and written up about 10 of those 20. I wanted to have a schedule of writing a post every other day while working on a short story or a novel the other days, but I’ve put that aside for now. Ultimately I’ll be writing blog posts in “seasons,” where I put everything else to the side to write up a batch of posts and then go back to writing fiction. I’ll schedule the posts so that I’ll still need to write the monthly review of course, but the rest of it will be released week by week.

After writing up those 10 posts, I began to edit them. Editing so many things in a row has made me realize that I am terrible at it, but that’s okay. Now is the time for learning these things. And I’ll be getting plenty of practice as this blog goes on. 

Now You

I have comments enabled for a reason! I’d love to hear more about you and why you’re here. How long have you been writing? What do you typically write? What would you like to see come out of this blog?