On Being A Mom Writer

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Kids.

They are such a joy, aren’t they?

Each and every day my children bring so much happiness to my life. Watching them grow into productive members of society should be my #1 priority in life, shouldn’t it? Seeing these babies succeed should give me a huge sense of accomplishment, right?

As much as I love my children, I know that there are things in my life that would likely be much different had I focused more on my career as a writer, though. I hear the collective gasps, the hushed whispers.

“Did she really say that?”

When you sit at the laptop to focus on writing only to have a toddler at your feet screaming for whatever reason they deem fit, or a school-aged child come in with a pile of homework, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to focus on writing that future bestselling novel.

For an example: As I started on that last paragraph at 11:00 PM at night, thinking I had finally found an opportunity to write this post, my 1-year-old woke crying and tried to come and crawl into bed with me. I could have given in, but instead I set my laptop down and took him back to his bed. After laying with him for several minutes he passed back out. Even when I think I’m safe to sit and focus on my writing, my children instead often end up needing me in those times.

Being a mother, and a writer, is hard work.

Over the years I have read many opinions on being a mom writer, too. Some saying that it is impossible with more than one child (well, gee, had I known I would have reconsidered the second child), some saying it involves a lot of discipline (I imagine this is a bit more probable with older children as toddler logic does not include discipline), and others simply say you should write whenever you can fit it in.

So what is my opinion on the subject? Simply do what you have to do. If you can hire someone to watch the kids while you work a few hours a week, do it. If you can squeeze in some writing before the kids wake, or after they go to bed, fit it in. If you can write a paragraph while waiting in line at school to pick up your child, make sure that you have pen and paper at all times. If you find your time so limited that writing has to take a backseat to your children, do it without guilt.

As mom writers we have a duty to our children first, and our writing second. Our children will only be little for so long, though. As much as I wish I could write more than I do now, I know soon enough I will have all of the time in the world.

Being a mom writer is so hard, but so fulfilling at the same time. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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When You’re Stuck In a Rut

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Don’t you just love how easy the words flow? It is like a constant stream of consciousness that flows in and out of your brain, and down into your fingertips. Somehow, from there, it ends up written on the page. It’s beautiful, it’s profound, and you’re so very proud of all you have accomplished in such a short span of time.

What is that?

Did I just hear you laugh? Was that a roll of the eyes I spotted?

Okay, yeah, I am going to level with you. I rarely ever feel that way anymore. Between my two kids, being pregnant with our third, and keeping our household from burning to the ground, writing has become more of a chore that takes a lot to accomplish on most days. Some days I feel like the idea of writing is like listening to nails on a chalkboard (you know you just cringed!). Other days I would love to be able to sit at the screen for longer than two minutes, but I’m accompanied by a screaming toddler, and questioning how he got into the markers again.

Not every writer finds themselves in the same situation as I am, but every writer knows there are days when it’s just so hard to focus up, and write on. Do you know what I do on these days when the words just won’t come to me?

I back away.

I breathe.

Writing has to have a little element of fun to it. If it is feeling more like a chore then sometimes it is better in the long run to let it go for a bit. Have other hobbies? Do them. Have kids? Soak up all of the family time you can. Do what makes you feel good. Ultimately, writing will happen again if that is a huge part of who you are. If you take a moment away from the screen (or typewriter, notebook, etc.) it doesn’t mean you have given up. You are not a quitter. You just need some time.

What are your ways of handling the inevitable rut you find yourself in? Can you think of any new ways that could benefit you when you hit a rough patch?

How I Outline

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Believe it or not, I used to be a pantser.

For non-writer types that term might be a bit confusing. Essentially, a pantser is a writer who doesn’t outline and writes “by the seat of their pants”. I did this with one successful outcome (Bloodstream) out of many unsuccessful ones. I cannot tell you the frustration when I would lose steam halfway through a project, or forget the basics that I had in my head at the time that I began a new project.

Since then, I have been trying to find the “right” outlining method for me. There isn’t a one size fits all outlining template out there. Actually, there are many, and though each one seems to work to a degree there has never quite been one that has fit like a glove.

So I began to pull what does work and leave out the pieces that don’t. I decided to snatch up a few (cheap) empty binders and designated them for my novel projects. These are what I call my book manuals. So what goes in a book manual, you ask?

Each area has designated information. Outline, the characters, and the setting are the important parts of my manual. I don’t feel I need anything aside from these three things so I haven’t added anymore. I’m keeping it simple.

So while this particular project is set in modern day Earth, it’s nice to add a few bits of information in case I need a quick fact about the State my book is primarily set in. Plus, it keeps me from Googling it and then getting lost in research. Distractions are limited that way.

The character portion will have detailed character sheets, and maybe a portrait or two of what my character looks like to keep them in mind when I’m writing them. This way, I can just double check the manual to make sure I got the info right the first time.

The outline portion is a beast. It hosts practically the entire story itself; main plot, plot twists, timeline, scene outlines, and practically anything else I need to remember. This is also the most flexible and ever-changing portion of my manual. I’ll add the bits I need, or take away what I decide needs to be discarded as the book progresses.

This is still a huge work in progress for me, but so far it’s working. I’m so excited to delve into this novel with my book manual at my side. But, for now, I am still filling it with the information I know is still needed in order for me to begin.

The New Year, The New Me

Well, it’s 2016!

Sure, I could talk about all of the promises I’ve made to myself this year, but we all know that by the end of the month I had already messed up on more than I can count. Between sickness, an infant, and a million different distractions from every direction my “good intentions” were left in the dust.

Does that mean I am giving up on those resolutions I made?

Of course not!

A few years back I set my writing to the wayside and let it collect dust. It was the best thing I had ever done for myself, to be honest. At the time I needed space; I needed time away from something that I loved to do in order to get a fresh perspective. The idea that I needed to write something spectacular in order to get it out there had taken over my love of writing. Everything had been replaced with the ideals that if I couldn’t show off what I wrote and feel good about it, it was crap. A steaming pile of poo, if you will. I wasn’t sure what had caused this line of thinking, though. So it affected my mood toward writing, it affected my mood toward others…

I knew something was wrong.

I slowly realized that it wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good, it was that my line of thinking toward myself that had caused this. I wasn’t myself; I had locked myself away in my own mind to not deal with reality. So I got help, I restructured myself, I let go of toxic relationships, and I rebuilt the ones with those I love.

Now here I am.

I may not be in the place I need to be, but I am working on it. Ever so slowly, my writing has again become a priority in my life. While I have a goal to be published this year (by any means), I no longer take myself or my writing too seriously and allow myself to be locked away in my own head. I’m happier for it, too.

So this is my year. I have goals, and I will meet them. I will fail at times, but I will strive to be better. I’m discovering so many new things about my writing that makes me excited again that I can’t wait to begin.

This is the new writer me. I like it so far.

Stuck

For me, blogging doesn’t come naturally. It never has. Back in the day I used to have a personal blog where I would bitch and moan about all of life’s little problems.

I was a teenager. Life’s little problems meant my baby brother had done something to annoy me.

Well, now I’m stuck. I’ve been stuck before – in the writing sense of the word, anyway. Stuck is that moment when you look at the project you have to complete and dread it. Stuck is when the characters that typically rule your head are oddly silent. Stuck is when you just don’t care about the thing you once loved.

Sometimes it takes a few days, and sometimes it takes a few months before I feel “unstuck”. Normally I just shrug it off and say: “Oh, it’ll be back before I know it!” but this time is different. I miss it. I miss every bit of writing, but yet I can’t bring myself to think for too long. If I do, I get a headache. Writing literally has been giving me headaches. I’ve not written a thing to my current project in almost three weeks. Editing my rough draft has come along okay, but it’s still a pain at times. There is often a lot of sighing, or frustrated groans when I sit at the computer to write. I’m so ready to get back into the groove of it, and yet I’m not sure where I left my groove.

How does one get their groove back? Maybe I should as an emperor.

Oh well…time to get back to the grind!

Oh, and Happy 3rd Anniversary to my Husband, who’s always been there to listen to my frustration, my excitement, and even my insanity when it comes to my writing. I love you, dear!

Camp NaNo

So here I am, at it all again. Camp NaNoWriMo is an off-shoot to the official NaNoWriMo website. It’s basically a watered down version of NaNoWriMo where you can set your own personal word goal, you have a “cabin” full of writers, etc. It runs April and July this year, but in previous years it ran at different months. You can write just about anything from novels to screenplays, or even just work on editing. It’s perfect for those who can’t commit to NaNoWriMo in November, or who need to start off with a smaller goal.

Now last November, I hit the 50k mark within the first two and a half weeks of the event. I was on a high so after a full day of celebrating I went right back to it, and completed the rough draft. It ended up just about 55k total. Not amazing, but not bad either. Since then I had issues trying to get started on editing; I was terrified because I’ve never completed a rough draft and I didn’t know how to edit. It’s scary the first time around, and even though I tried I often stopped a day into editing and quit, only to try to restart a week later.

When I found out there would be a camp in April I thought I might take a break from this editing fiasco and write something different. I figured I needed to get my mind off of my “baby” before I came back to rip it to shreds. Of course, two weeks before camp I began to feel as though I needed to continue on with the story – just book 2. After a little consultation with some fellow writers, I decided to go for it.

April 1st rolled around and it took me a while, but I managed to hit my personal goal for that day. By the 2nd I was doing well, and by the 3rd I was really sick and lost some writing time. It’s been rough going due to being sick, but I’ve muscled my way through it. I set a smaller goal this month of 35k, but my ultimate goal is to still hit that 50k mark by the end of April. Of course, having only hit 5k so far it’s hard to see the 50k goal line in the distance. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t. At least I’m writing what I love and I have people to encourage me to do it.

5050/35,000

Update on Bloodstream Series

I’m terrible, it seems, with blogs. I have a bad habit of creating them only to let them sit around for days, weeks, or months at a time. In hope to remedy that, I have been trying to break my bad habits. One is to try to use a blog more, and keep it regularly updated. For me, regular is at least once a week. I’ve also starting journaling on occasion to keep myself writing on the days I don’t feel like it, and to also have a “hard copy” of something that will remind me of the struggles I’ve faced, and overcome, in my life as a writer.

A while back I read a book about being a writer. The book, which is called You Are a Writer, really helped me to realize something that I had been doubting for many years: that I am a writer. For the longest time I thought saying the words meant you had a publishing contract, or you had sold at least one book. Well, that’s wrong. A writer is someone who writes for the pure joy of writing. It isn’t measured in how many books you have completed, published, or sold. It’s about one thing and one thing only: writing. I used to use “aspiring writer”, but nowadays I simply tell people I’m a writer.

Because I am.

In 2012 I finished my first ever rough draft. I had started projects and stopped them, and never finished anything in my life. I haven’t a single clue how to begin editing the thing, and creating something out of it that I can be proud to show off to friends and family. Do I think it’s worthy of publishing? I don’t know. Do I love it and feel accomplished? Yes.

I already have two more books planned, making it a trilogy. The second book will begin April 1st for Camp NaNoWriMo, an event I hope to win by not only exceeding my expectations, but finishing another rough draft. The excitement I feel over this series is nothing I have ever felt before when writing. I cannot wait to begin.