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83K Or Bust: Day Twenty-five

Well, I didn’t quite make a 10K day or even a 6K one, but 4K is nothing to sneeze at, either. Everyone has just arrived in Hellas and are on the royal trireme headed to Hellaspont for the second wedding, Danaë just got hit with two pieces of bad news, and Matthias is helplessly watching the captain of his guard losing his lunch over the side. Well, things can’t always be roses, right?

Also, I’m in the mood to tease. So here’s one of the banners the amazing Jay Aheer made for me from the cover. I’ll do the full cover reveal very, very soon, I promise.

Empress-of-storms-CustomDesign-JayAheer2015-banner1
Today’s stats:

Started With: 48,647 words
Wrote: 4,041 words
Total word count: 52,699 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cat chores at my friend’s house, mailed off jewelry sales, hit Walmart up for #0 padded envelopes, went out AGAIN in the middle of the night to get tuna for my eldest cat because it’s the only way I can get him to take gabapentin for his sore right front leg

Writing Tips: Listen to your characters. Sometimes they will go off script (another reason why it’s a good idea to consider your outline as more of a general concept for the story rather than step-by-step directions). Frex, in this chapter I learned that my master mage Ife plans on retiring once she sees Danaë gain full mage status, and Schrader the cavalry subcommander really, really hates being on a boat. Also, a particularly sleazy grand magister in Hellaspont is making things difficult for my empress of storms. Somehow, I think he’s going to get his comeuppance soon. Heh, heh, heh…

83K Or Bust: Day Twenty through Twenty-Four

getlit“And what do you call THIS, young lady?”

Well, a sinus infection, as it turns out. I really should have known something was wrong last week when my energy levels dropped to rock bottom on Wednesday. I was able to kep things going on Thursday when my friend came into town, but by Friday that was all gone. I spent the weekend trying to write and not being able to concentrate on what I was doing. This morning, I woke up, stared at the ceiling and wanted to cry at the thought of getting out of bed, I felt so damn miserable.

So I finally caved and went into a local doc-in-the-box for evaluation (my second doctor in a row just retired and we got passed on to a family practice that I’m not all that thrilled with. I actually went in a month ago to get evaluated for a sinus infection, and left after cooling my heels in the waiting room for 45 minutes, hence my decision to pay an extra $50 and go to urgent care). As it turned out the most excellent doctor I saw confirmed my diagnosis of a bacterial sinus infection (the apple green mucus is the dead giveaway), said my chest sounded good so it had remained confined to my head, gave me a scrip for Biaxin, and then did something that no one since my first doctor here has done — offered me a steroid shot.

Hell yes, I said, and bared my hip for a nurse who had the most amazing touch with shots — I literally did not feel the needle at all, just a cool sensation going into the skin. She said, “I’ve taken this before so let me tell you what’s going to happen. It’s a mixed dose — the first steroid starts working immediately and you’re going to feel so much better. The second is time-release and will kick in around three to four hours from now. It’s great but trust me, you’ll need to take something to help you sleep tonight because you will be staring at the ceiling at 2 AM due to this stuff.”

TillDeathDoUsPartHoo boy, she was right. Within five minutes I could feel pretty much every sinus and gland in my head opening up, my energy levels went through the roof and my brain came back online for the first time in about a month. I spent the rest of the day dropping off the Biaxin scrip, driving out to another suburb to take care of a friend’s cats while she’s on vacation (I’ve been doing this since Saturday), driving back to pick up the scrip, photographing jewelry I’d made weeks ago for my Etsy store (see left) and promoting that, going out for food, and then, THEN sitting down to writing.

The proof in the pudding? I knocked out 3,377 words in four hours. For the last two weeks it’s been taking me 8+ hours to do that. I already told Ramón that we’re going back to LegacyER for any future sinus infections or other non-chronic issues. Oh, man, I feel good.

Now, because I was out for the count over the weekend I fell way, way behind — I mean, right now I should be at 72,000 words and I’m actually at 48,647, giving me a deficit of 23,353 words. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss my publishing deadline because that’s how professionals roll. So I’m giving myself two extra days to finish the first draft, but will do my utmost from here until Sunday to crank out serious wordage and make my original draft deadline. I can do it if I can manage two 10K word days and one 6K day. Hey, it’s doable!

Today’s stats:

Started With: 45,270 words
Wrote: 3,377 words
Total word count: 48,647 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cat chores at my friend’s house, got my dumb ass some steroids and Biaxin, cleaned up cat hork, photographed six jewelry pieces for sale and processed said photographs, went out and got food, and generally felt like a human being again.

Writing Tips: No one writes very well when they’re sick, and a sinus infection is one of those things that can come and go, come and go, come and go until you’re so used to it that you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be well. I know writers are usually among the last to have health insurance, but if it’s dragging on for weeks and weeks and you’re feeling worse and worse, you’re simply not going to have the energy and presence of mind to write. If you can, go see a doctor and get whatever meds you need. If you can’t, see if there are any viable remedies for what you think is ailing you (in the case of a bacterial infection, stuff that has antibacterial qualities like raw honey, garlic, and frankincense essential oil (not the fragrance oil), which has been scientifically evaluated and shown to boost antibiotic efficiency, can be lifesavers).

83K Or Bust: Day Nineteen

HelloDarlingWritingFirst off, I am pretty much doing handsprings because the awesome Jay Aheer has delivered the digital cover files for Empress of Storms and it is a freaking treat. She found an image that blew my original concept for the cover away and I think it’s going to be fantastic.

And no, I’m not going to post it. Yet. It’s my carrot to myself that I get to share it on the day I write THE END on the book. Right now that’s looking to be October 18th, but a miracle could occur and I wind up finishing things a little early. I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen because right now I should be at 57,000 words and I’m actually at 45,270 so I’m 11,730 words behind. Guess whose butt will be nailed to a chair come this weekend playing catch-up?

Secondly, word count today is a bit trashed because I went to sleep early last night due to exhaustion, woke up at 3:30 AM absolutely famished, came down and had a peanut butter sandwich and two Angry Orchards (shut up, I was trying to get back to sleep) and wasn’t actually able to shut down the brain until 7:00 AM or so and yeah, my day was totally hosed. I also went out in search of a new lap desk because the one I’m using is literally around 20 pounds with desk, laptop, and pressure of my wrists added in and I suspect it may be the cause behind my screwed up knees since the last time I was pain-free was on last year’s cruise (when I did not have a heavy lap desk on my lap every day. Couldn’t find what I wanted in Staples, Office Depot, or Michael’s, so I came back home and did some searching online. Finally found what I wanted — something big enough to sit on the arms of my chair so that there’s no pressure whatsoever on my knees — so hopefully it’ll get here in a week or so.

But I got wordage in, plus I splurged on half-price autumnal decorations for the house, plus I have a spectacular cover so I’m counting today as a win.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 44,710 words
Wrote: 560 words
Total word count: 45,270 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, household chores, laundry, food shopping, hit three stores looking for the perfect lap desk, picked up decorations at Michael’s, and allowed myself the next three episodes of Con Man. Alan Tudyk, how I love you.

Writing Tips: Carrying on from yesterday’s topic of pushing away from the writing desk once in a while, ergonomics are your friend. Make sure that you’re sitting comfortably, that you don’t have to strain to reach the keyboard, your screen is at the correct height so that you can look directly at it, and you’re not hunched over. A lot of writers swear by standing desks, but that’s your call.

83K Or Bust: Day Eighteen

This is one of those days where Real Life™ interferes with writing and I didn’t have all that time to work, hence not quite meeting word quota today. Which is okay — sometimes you need a bit of time off and a chance to do something else while your brain relaxes.

Well, sort of relaxes. See, my friend K came into town on his way to Oklahoma. K is also an editor at a rather major NYC publisher and we have some projects we’d like to do together so breakfast was spent talking about that and how best to get them underway and what assets we could bring to the table (God, I sound so professional). The rest of the day, however, was spent wandering around the State Fair, riding the Texas Star, taking pictures, and then having a late lunch at Tallywackers (the male equivalent of Hooters — food there is damn good, by the way) with a friend of K’s. Looking at pretty boys always makes me feel happy.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 42,202 words
Wrote: 2,508 words
Total word count: 44,710 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, spent the bulk of the day out with my good friend K at IHoP, the State Fair of Texas, and Tallywackers, did laundry, and broke up a lot of cat fights for some reason.

Writing Tips: while setting goals for yourself, meeting word quota, and being professional about your writing is very necessary if you want to make it as a professional writer, it’s also helpful to push away from the desk at times, get out of your writing den, and go see what’s going on in the rest of the world. Not only is it good physically for you (sitting all the time is seriously detrimental for your health) but talking to people and seeing stuff is often very inspiring and will give you a boost when it comes time to sit back down at the chair and pound out wordage. So yeah, go to a museum, a park, a dance club, your Stitch and Bitch group, whatever, and let your brain disengage from your current WIP.

83K Or Bust: Day Seventeen

And there goes the midpoint of the book, smack dab in the middle of Act II where it should be. The whole game just changed with the addition of a very important (and very small) new player. To quote Danäe, “I’d always assumed I would have to be a mother before I became a grandmother. That teaches me to assume.”

Granted, I’m still 9K behind. Looks like my ass will be planted in my office chair this weekend.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 39,202 words
Wrote: 3,000 words
Total word count: 42,202 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, dyed my hair a lovely shade of deep purple that gives off magenta highlights in the sun (whoa), human food shopping, cat food shopping, made a wonderful pot of soup, and now I’m going to bed early because I have to get up at Oh Dear God It’s Early tomorrow in order to spend the day with a friend, tra la!

Writing Tips: Be careful of what writing advice you take. This includes from myself. What works for one writer may not work for another, and if someone is telling you that you absolutely MUST do X in order to successfully finish a book but X just doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. All that matters is that you get words on the page. Absolutely need an outline before you start? Go ahead and outline. Hate outlines with a fiery passion? Feel free to pants your way through the story. Want to start from the end and work your way back to the beginning? Lots of mystery writers do it that way. Want to jump around in the story instead of writing it linearly? Awesome (although I would point out that having an outline helps with this maneuver). Can’t write everyday? That’s okay — some people just don’t have that luxury. Write when you can.

Also, if someone tries to tell you to write only one book a year and you can write faster than that, go ahead and write faster. Jeez, some people…

83K Or Bust: Day Sixteen

Okay. Got some rather serious news today that may change certain things for me in the near future. I’m sorry to be so vaguebooky about it but I’m still processing this. It’s not horrible — nobody’s sick or dying, the bank isn’t about to foreclose, nothing like that. It’s just one of those curve balls that life throws at you out of the blue. And as was pointed out, this could turn out to be an amazing opportunity if it’s handled right. I’m choosing to think positive, because otherwise I will dive headfirst into a large bad of peanut M&Ms and nobody needs to see that.

On the plus side, I’m just about at the midpoint of the book and Darius just dropped some news on Matthias that I didn’t even know but explains a lot about Danäe’s behavior. Yeah, sometimes my characters take the plot and run with it, usually making the story much better in the process. But this little wrinkle is going to cause problems when everyone gets to Hellaspont. Oh, well, throwing the kitchen sink at your characters is how you make good drama.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 36,178 words
Wrote: 3,024 words
Total word count: 39,202 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, put clothes away, cleaned the bathroom, gave reassurances that everything would be all right, made some jewelry for the Etsy store, went to sleep a bit early.

Writing Tips: If you are lucky, your characters will occasionally say, “Oh, by the way, did you know this?” and dump an amazing subplot in your lap. This can be tricky because said subplot does not always fit in with your outline, which is why you should try and keep your outline as flexible as possible. How you first envision the story is not necessarily how it winds up on the page, and that’s not always a bad thing. Storm Season was supposed to be a fast, fun story about a guy who gets seduced by twin sea gods. It somehow transmuted into an fantasy ecothriller that spawned a six book series. Apparently I like adding complexity to my sex scenes. Who knew?

83K Or Bust: Day Fifteen

Yay, brain’s more on-line today and I’m closing in on the mid-point of the book and the middle of Act II, whereupon Matthias and Danäe wind up getting one hell of a surprise in re: Matthias’s missing son Lukas, something that could very well change the game for everyone. Also, Danäe gets introduced to the marvelous tipple that is hard cider (and I sneak in a Pratchett in-joke) and discovers its side effects the next day, and Matthias gains an insight into his new wife.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 33,226 words
Wrote: 2,952 words
Total word count: 36,178 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, shower, met up with the usual suspects for our Monday writing session at Starbucks, attended my biweekly writers group meeting and critiqued a couple of novel chapters, broke up at least three cat fights.

Writing Tips: If you can use humor well, don’t be afraid to add a light scene or two to your WIP. If you can use humor well, that is. Not everyone can, and humor is notoriously difficult to pull off well. If it seems forced or just isn’t working, yank it. The last thing you want is to club your readers over the head with “funny.”

83K Or Bust: Day Fourteen

Still dealing with the migraine — it’s making me irritable as all get out (I should mention that these are atypical migraines, not nearly as horrible as the regular kind but still rather debilitating because my sensory system goes straight to hell) but I managed to nail my ass to the chair and get in my word count. Now I’m only three days behind. Whee. I would pound my head on the keyboard, but that would just make things hurt more.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 30,222 words
Wrote: 3,004 words
Total word count: 33,226 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, and we threw caution to the wind and went to go see The Martian and have dinner at IHoP afterwards because that’s just how we roll.

Writing Tips: If you know you need to fix something but don’t have the time (or need to do research, or your brain is malfunctioning and you can’t remember the words you need), highlight it in some way, either by a genuine highlight or a comment or even adding XXXX in the spot. Later on when you’re editing, you can come back and fix the issue. Just remember to, you know, actually go back and look for this stuff. I’ve known writers who will put SEX SCENE HERE if they’re not up to writing something hot and sexy at the moment. Whatever works for you.

83K Or Bust: Day Twelve/Thirteen

This is short because my brain has decided to throw a weather-triggered migraine at me. Stupid brain.

Day Twelve’s stats:

Started With: 27,100 words
Wrote: 3,122 words
Total word count: 30,222 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, copyediting, and then Ramón and I went to see a really awesome burlesque show.

Day Thirteen’s stats:

Started With: 30,222 words
Wrote: 897 words
Total word count: 31,119 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: I have no idea. I did something. Head hurts. Can’t remember.

Writing Tips: If you have a migraine, it’s okay to kick the writing in the head and go lie down. You have my permission.

83K Or Bust: Day Eleven

Didn’t make word count today, mainly because I was busy doing promo for Evernight Publishing’s 5th birthday bash and blog tour (go check it out — I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate as my personal prize), working on another editing project, and copyediting a friend’s novel (it’s a pay job — I’ve got a cruise coming up and I need all the shekels I can earn right now). Not making word quota is annoying but as I said earlier, it happens. I’m currently about 7K behind where I should be, which is still makeupable (is that a word? It is now), especially with a couple of weekends ahead of me. If I can get a good head of steam up this weekend I should be able to whittle that down to 2K or so, the gods willing and the crick don’t rise.

I won’t be working tomorrow night, though, because I have ringside tickets for an awesome burlesque show and I’m bringing Ramón, my buddy Stretch and her husband. I may be behind at the moment but I’m also a hair under 1/3 of the way through the book, and that deserves a reward.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 26,064 words
Wrote: 1,036 words
Total word count: 27,100 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, did knee PT workout, promo for Evernight’s 5th birthday blog tour, started copyediting a friend’s book, more editing on the video project, a touch of food shopping, made a big ol’ batch of tarragon chicken salad so that Ramón can continue to eat as low carb as possible while I’m working, and laundry.

Writing Tips: There’s a reason why the carrot and stick analogy works so well. Don’t be afraid to hold out rewards for various things — making word quota, reaching certain milestones in the book, and most definitely when you finish the book. Want to watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries? Finish a chapter. Want to play Solitaire? Finish a chapter. Etcetera. I always buy myself some jewelry when I finish a book, and I’m already on the lookout for what I want as my carrot on October 18th.