A Busy Spring

I’m behind in my ambitious writing goal for the year, which is no huge surprise given that I set the bar very high at 240,000 words. I’m counting editing and revision at 750 words an hour, which is three-quarters of what the NaNoWriMo site recommends, but it jives with the amount of work I usually get done in an hour when I edit/revise my work.

It’s a busy spring for me so far. I have nine writing-related projects on my desk this quarter, including encyclopedia articles on the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Indian Howdah for ABC-Clio’s The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; a biography and a cultural and historical context article on Ray Bradbury for Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury encyclopedia; my first draft for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology.

I’m also going to present a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies annual meeting, which is coming up the beginning of April, so I need to delve back into my research for that. Which brings me to another project, which is turning my master’s thesis (about 100 pages) into a full-length book. But for that, I need a lot more research, so it’s a time-intensive project.

And the last two items on my list (so far this year) are my novel, Seacombe Island, and a book on writer’s prompts. I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing my calendar and to-do list so I’m not having all the deadlines at once, but it means working ahead and I find that soft deadlines (ones I impose on myself) are easier to let slide by than hard deadlines (drop-dead dates, or dates imposed by the publisher). I pride myself on not missing hard deadlines, although I’ve had to ask for two- or three-day extensions in the past when an article has proven to be troublesome, or when holidays muck up my scheduling.

And so I’m avoiding working on articles right now by, well, writing about my writing. I guess that counts as words toward my yearly goal, so I’ll gloat on that for a moment and then clear my desk and get cracking on today’s list of things to work on.

Midnight Writing

Holiday decorations, New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. I took this photo in 2015 with a point-and-shoot infrared camera, then applied filters for a more artistic interpretation.

Holiday decorations, New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. I took this photo in 2015 with a point-and-shoot infrared camera, then applied the Topaz Adjust cross-process III filter in post-processing for a more artistic interpretation of the scene.

I slacked off writing last week and didn’t get very much done, so I had to do some late-night writing on Sunday to keep up with my weekly word-count goals. I know it’s too easy to fall behind and then not be able to catch up, and this past year’s NaNoWriMo I found myself continually treading that path between staying on par and falling behind. It was one reason that I found this last challenge so difficult. This year I’m determined to keep up my word count on a weekly basis so projects don’t get dragged on from one week to the next.

Last week I watched a Lynda.com video on food photography. It was pretty interesting and I especially liked some of the tips that the presenter had for setting up light reflectors. He used a floral frog, which is a metal or plastic circle with a bunch of pins stuck in it, like a porcupine. Of course I went to the hobby store this weekend with the idea of buying one and was unable to find them, so I ended up buying a set of six fancy place card holders that were clearance-priced.

They’re fairly heavy and they have a coil of wire designed to hold papers or cards, so I think they’ll work for holding the reflective papers that I have as long as I don’t use a large sheet at one time. On the plus side, if I keep them with my camera gear I won’t stick my hand into the bag and get stabbed the way I would with one of those metal floral frogs, so maybe it was a good thing I couldn’t find any of them!

I’ve been getting into cocktails and I have some ideas for taking photographs of the drinks, so I bought a bunch of printed papers to use as backgrounds for the photo sessions and some metallic-coated papers that should work well as reflectors. I have tomorrow off work for the holiday, so I’m going to take the time to do some creative photography and writing. I’ll post whatever works, but I suppose I’ll have to drink the failures. Get rid of the evidence, and all that. Ah well, all creatives must suffer for their art!

The Year of Numbers

numbersThis year I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for my writing and reading. I need to set some exercise goals, too, but that’s more difficult for me because I’m less fluent in knowing what exercises I need and how much. So far I’ve decided to read 50 books this year and write 240,000 words. I’ve signed up for the Zombies, Run! virtual spring race, too, so I need to get back into running training.

I’ve found that the more I slack off the less I get done. Maybe it’s because there is no sense of urgency because there are no deadlines. Crochet projects fall to the back of the closet and get forgotten. Other art projects disappear under piles of paper. The one thing I am really good about is maintaining my reading schedule, but I find that when I push myself to write every day I tend to find ways to avoid doing it. I don’t think it’s writing itself, but if I am working on a particular project and I get stuck then I just find ways of weaseling out of the task. And the more frustrated I get with other things in life the more likely that writing and other productive things get ignored.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t meet my writing project deadlines. I’ve only asked for two extensions on more than sixty encyclopedia articles, and I gave my editor a heads-up. It’s not the same as letting deadline go by without taking notice of it. I’ve never been late on term papers, either. When I need to I can pump out some words. It’s just a matter of lighting that fire under my chair and typing, typing, typing, until the work gets done.

So, my ambitious goals mean that I need to plan out my work and set reasonable numbers for myself. Nearly a quarter of a million words seems ridiculous, but it will include editing. I’m just not ready to count 1,000 words per hour as recommended by the good folks at NaNoWriMo; perhaps 500 would be more reasonable for me, judging by past rewriting and editing experience. I’m calculating on doing NaNo again this year, so that will be 50,000 words. Then I need 190,000 words in 48 weeks, so I’m setting a weekly goal of 4,000 words. I’m doing well despite a few days of ignoring the keyboard: I have 6743 words written since the beginning of the year and I’ve finished reading two books. Here’s to determination!

Losing Momentum

Nebble Lighthouse, which I photographed on a trip to Maine several years ago.

Cape Neddick’s Nubble Lighthouse decorated for the holidays. I photographed this on a trip to Maine in 2003.

This November didn’t exactly fill me with the drive to write, but I made myself go the distance and put in the requisite 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. My draft isn’t something that I’m happy with, so I put it aside for other writing that’s on my active project list, which includes a short story, a novel, encyclopedia articles, and a nonfiction book (maybe two).

So I’m sitting here with a basic sketch for a short story that will appear in Corrugated Sky’s spring anthology. I have the characters already, and a basic premise for the story, but I’m trying to sketch an outline for the plot before I start the writing process. I tried a bare-bones outline for NaNoWriMo but ran off the rails at chapter three. This time I’m doing a bit more planning, and the scope of the short story should help me rein in the urge to keep writing and writing.

I’m blaming my lack of concentration on a mixture of boredom, stress, and frustration. We have noisy road construction in the neighborhood and I’m pretty much the only one “in” the office through the middle of the first week of January (I telecommute). It’s a recipe for boredom and stress, and this year has been a monster at work, too. No wonder I can’t get any writing done.

I can’t take a vacation right now, but I can look through my vacation photos and do something creative with them. The Nubble lighthouse photo was taken in 2003 and was one of the first photos that I scanned. This morning I played around with cropping the image and using some Topaz filters to add texture and ramp up the details. Leave a comment and let me know how you like it. Meanwhile, I need to get back to plotting an airship race for the spring Steampunk anthology.