The Hardest Part Isn’t Waiting for Word

It’s the waiting that follows after you receive word.

Currently I have five short stories hanging out in limbo. A couple are on their first submission, while others have been steadily making the rounds to this magazine or that anthology. One of the recently written ones I’m particularly anxious about, as I think it’s a good fit for the anthology I submitted it to. But, I’m sure it’s up against others that are equally good, if not better. So, we shall see.

It’s easy to get something written, fire it off, and then just sit on your laurels, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for word when you really should be working on the next story to submit, and then the next. Yet, in the past I’ve fallen into that trap of getting so caught up with the act of submitting something that I don’t do anything else. I focus on my day job, I piddle away my writing time with reading or brainstorming, but no actual outlining or writing. No real forward momentum at all.

I thought I had broken that habit a few years ago, and then I wrote a piece and submitted it to a big publisher for an anthology. A few months after that I received word that the publisher was very interested in the story and they were holding it for consideration. I thought, “Oh, wow, this is it!” And even though they said it would be some time before they would get back to me, I settled in and decided to wait.

And wait. And wait.

After a few months I realized it was going to be a bit longer than I had originally anticipated, so I arose from my stupor and stumbled back to the writer’s desk, but that eagerness still clung to me like a limpet mine from a VUX Intruder in Star Control 2. I spent more time brainstorming sequel ideas for an as-yet homeless story, and a way to expand that short story into a full length novel, or at least an episode in a greater work. And none of those are bad things in and of themselves, but I let it… if not paralyze me, then at least slow me down and keep me from doing the things that really mattered. Namely, writing new stories.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. Maybe you get something written, polish it up a little bit, then fire it off and get on to the next work. That’s the better way to be. That’s the way I strive for daily. It’s very easy for me to get dragged down by whatever is going on during a given day, and waiting with bated breath for word on a story I have out there is one such temptation. I’ve gotten better about letting the anticipation spur me on to write more, but it’s still a struggle.

(Oh, if anyone is interested in Star Control 2, there are two ways to go about getting it: from GOG.com or the freeware remake The Ur-Quan Masters. Of the two, I’d recommend the second, and not because it’s free (The game is definitely worth the low price of $5.99 for admission, if you’re into space exploration, an epic good-vs-evil-vs-eviller battle, and you love a lot of humor). The freeware remake includes the voice-over that came with the game’s 3DO release back in the day, and for the most part it’s quite good. It helps with the immersion. But, I’ve played it multiples times either way, so you can’t go wrong no matter which you pick.)

New Month, New Work Routine

All right, so we’re a few days into the month already, but today’s the beginning of a brand new work routine. My day job has officially gone full-time, and while this may sound like it could put a damper on writing, it could actually help. My schedule will be a steady 40-hour week from here on, and that little bit of rigidity will allow for a better writing routine. 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM, then writing until close to bed time. Before I would have some weeks that were 30 hours of work with a lot of time for writing followed by other weeks that would be 60+ with little to no time for writing.

The goals for the next few months are set, and all that’s left is to get to it. I’m not sure if any of you struggle with setting – and then following through on – goals, but for me those first couple weeks are the worst. If I can stay on task, then the routine will become a habit, and once a habit’s established… Well, it’ll be a lot harder to break.

For any who are wondering, the goal for February is to write the rough draft of the first Necrolopolis book. It’s a tall order, but I’ve got most of the critical scenes planned out, as well as the main and supporting cast. Some of the minor scenes and characters are hazy, but that could prove to make things a bit more fun and allow for a little bit of discovery in the drafting process. Again, as long as the core plot points are maintained and hit, I can be flexible with some of the in-between stuff.

And for those wishing to do better with their own goal planning, an article I just came across today is timely, to say the least: “Effective Goal Setting: Practical advice for setting, measuring, and hitting your goals.” One of the main keys is focusing on smaller goals. This allows you to see more immediate results, even if the overall goal is a long-haul one. For my particular goal this month, that’ll be mostly word count goals. Each day, write X-amount of words. It seems like common sense, but for me it really does help. So, set some goals, and keep at it!

Getting Ready for the New Year

Woah, the new year is almost here! When did that happen? They need to put that on a calendar or something. Wait a second…

Our pastor began his sermon today with an acknowledgement of the year ending and how his e-mail inbox is getting flooded with “Start the year with a new workout/diet/financial planning/whatever” advertisements. If he’s like me, he’s been deleting them every time they pop up, but they do have an effect, at least on me. While I have no desire to buy into some fad program, I do want to take the time to figure out what went right and wrong over 2017, and how I can do better in 2018.

If you’re like me, it’s very easy to get sidetracked, even with a New Year mindset. “This week I really need to get this written or that finished up, but I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and my car needs to go in the shop on Thursday, and so-and-so is coming over Friday…” Looking back on my goals for 2017, I can see every single instance of where I let my plan get derailed. And, with rare exception, they were “good” excuses: things that needed to get done, or people I needed to visit or spend time with for whatever reason.

The problem is: there will always be good and valid reasons to not write or work on whatever side project you have going on. You – and I – have to work past that. The writers and entrepreneurs who go from “want-to-be” to “presently-am” are the ones who carve out the necessary time to get done the things they need to get done. Larry Correia, for instance, wrote his first book while he was laid off and between jobs, then once he was working again he wrote late into the night, slept the minimum number of hours he needed to function at his daytime job, then got done what he needed to do. Even after he was making enough that he could quit his day job, he kept at it until he was successful enough to have first Sunday off, then Saturday. That’s where I’d like to be in a few years, but I’m not going to get anywhere unless I carve out the time now and finish what needs doing. And the same applies to you in whatever endeavor you’ve got going.

I recently started following retired Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and his SOFREP TV channel on YouTube, and one of his videos was an hour-long discussion on New Year’s Resolutions and how goal-setting can really improve one’s success rate for the year. It’s long, but worth listening to if you have the time. I’m blessed with a day job that allows me to listen to audiobooks and podcasts and whatever else I want to while I’m working. If you are so blessed, then enjoy:

At the very beginning of the video, he recommends coming up with a list of goals, broken down by personal, professional, and friends/family goals. I won’t go into all my goals, but below are a few:

Personal:

  • Personal fitness – get into an exercise routine that keeps me in shape and doesn’t take up too much of my day.
  • Bible reading – get one of Audible’s versions of the Bible (The KJV) and listen at least an hour per day.
  • Audiobooks – one per week, reviews and posted on site (Semi-professional, but also personal)

Professional:

  • Daytime work – complete XX hours per week.
  • Novel writing – write four books.
  • Short story writing – write four short stories.
  • Blog posts/reviews – five posts per week.

Anyway, just some food for thought as the new year begins! Now, back to making some black-eyed peas. It’s a bit of a tradition where I come from, for good luck or some-such. I eat it because it tastes good, and this particular recipe from Carnal Dish is a bit of work, but well worth it.