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83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-six

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I have made an executive decision. November 1 was an arbitrary publication date for EMPRESS OF STORMS, mainly chosen because it was the beginning of the month. Due to the sinus infection I had during the past five weeks and other sources of stress, however, I lost well over a week’s worth of writing time.

So I am pushing the release date back to November 8. That gives me enough time to do a good, solid edit and polish, and means my beta readers won’t have me hanging over their shoulders saying, “Are you done yet? Are you done yet?” Seven weeks still ain’t bad for going from zero to “Oops, it’s on Amazon.”

Also, by doing this I’ll release EMPRESS OF STORMS on my late mother’s 75th birthday. When I told her about my first science fiction sale, she sighed and said, “I wish you wrote romance — that way I could show it to my friends.”

Be careful what you wish for, Mom. You just might get it.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 71,134 words
Wrote: 3,077 words
Total word count: 74,211 words. I am now officially less than 10K away from finishing and should have everything wrapped up on Wednesday. BOOYAH.
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cleaned out the fifteen tons of dead leaves at the bottom of the pool, thank you weekend storm, did laundry, had dinner with a friend of Ramón’s, ran errands, and worked on jewelry.

Writing Tips: Missing a deadline is something to be avoided whenever possible. When it can’t be avoided, however, don’t beat yourself up and ask for an extension. Even a little extra time can mean the difference between a shittily edited manuscript and one that’s as clean and tight as you can make it. So suck it up, admit that you blew it, and ask for more time. Editors and publishers can be surprisingly understanding. They want your best product, after all.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-five

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I love my cats. I truly do. But if they don’t stop climbing into my lap while I’m trying to write and demanding cuddles, I will be wroth.

“But Nicola, cats are wonderful animals! Surely you can spare a few minutes to scritch a sweet little chin or stroke a furred back!” I hear you say.

Yeah. I have five cats. Multiply “a few minutes” by five, every hour on the hour. That is what I’m dealing with as I write. At this very moment Miss Grey, she of the Great White Shark coloring, has just jumped up and headbutted my arm in a meaningful manner. When I ignored her, she sloped off to the breakfast nook to moinge around the food bowls. Before her, it was Skitty Kitty, the world’s most nervous tabby, who makes a point of climbing on me whenever possible because I’ll keep her safe. Before that, it was her sister Brown Sugar, and before that it was The Big Orange Idiot, who weighs 18 pounds and very little of it is fat. My Bodyguard is the only one who’s content to sit on the chair arm and just watch me write. Everyone else jumps on my stomach, digging their claws in (I swear, if I ever die in mysterious circumstances someone needs to make sure that Ramón isn’t arrested on suspicion of battery because my stomach looks like I’ve been stabbed repeatedly with tiny little curved needles), shredding holes in my t-shirts and interrupting my flow.

Okay, Miss Grey is back, which means I now have to type one-handed because the other one is curled around her while she snuggles into it, purring like a motorboat and waiting for me to pet her. So I guess I’ll do that.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 67,987 words
Wrote: 3,147 words
Total word count: 71,134 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, went out briefly to get cat food and because I haven’t been out since Saturday, repeatedly turfed cats off me, cuddled Ramón and let him destress a bit, made a coffee date with my friend and beta reader Stretch.

Writing Tips: Find a room in which to write that is cat-free. Trust me, it’ll be much easier for you.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-one through Thirty-four

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I’m not giving up.

Let me just get that out of the way right off the bat. I’m not giving up. I know I’m seriously behind, but I will make my deadline one way or the other.

I’ve been having anxiety dreams. Partially about the book, partially about the financial situation (briefly, Ramón was laid off and his last day is October 30. We have enough money to get us through November, but after that things will get dicey. He’s searching for a new job and is stressing about it, and I’m brushing off my tech writing CV in case he can’t find anything). A few nights ago I dreamed that we had to give our house back to the credit union and take over this horrible little apartment that was falling apart at the seams. This is a recurring anxiety dream of mine, and I always stand there staring at rotting walls wondering how I’m going to make the place livable, much less bearable. A friend of mine went through this over a year ago when he was kicked out of his apartment because his landlord wanted to gentrify the property. He handled it with immense and astounding grace, turning it into an art project and giving away all of his things before setting off on the road to conduct another massive art project around the US and Canada. I just have anxiety dreams and eat more carbohydrates than are good for me.

Needless to say, I have not been waking up full of the creative spirit and raring to write. At this point, writing a novel is a marathon anyway, and the stress on top of it isn’t that conducive to writing prose. And I have also been spending a certain amount of time reassuring Ramón, copyediting his CV, listening to job descriptions and agreeing that yes, he could do that, and generally being a good and supportive wife. Because that’s what you do when you love someone and want to take some of the burden off them and help as much as possible. Especially since, bless him, he doesn’t want me to go back to an office job if I don’t have to. And I appreciate the hell out of that, but if it’s the only way to get income in the house, back to contract tech writing I go.

We’ll get through this, by the way–no need to do a GoFundMe or anything. It’s a crappy time of year to be laid off, but if we can struggle through to January we should be okay (we live in a tech corridor, lots of jobs going in the new year, etc.).

So, yeah, I’m behind. But I’m still planting my ass in the chair everyday and writing. I’m down to Act III and the last three chapters, then I do the world’s fastest rewrite and get it off to my betas and send them quality chocolate for the fastest beta review in the world. And on October 31st, we shall see what we shall see.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 61,322 words
Wrote: 6,665 words
Total word count: 67,987 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, did a humongous food shop that will feed us for weeks, made Italian wedding soup for dinner, edited a couple versions of Ramón’s CV, and wondered if anyone had ever done a crossover fic of Doctor Who and Outlander. Basically because I’d love to see Twelve wandering through Castle Leoch with Clara in tow saying, “Ooh, you think you can out-Scottish me, laddie! I’d like to see ye try!”

Writing Tips: Stress fucks with writing. It’s just a fact. It’s hard to write good prose when your stomach is tied up in knots and you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the bills/what the pathology report will say/etc. Or you’re the support system for someone who is going through a very stressful time and needs you to step up to the plate for them. If you can make yourself write during this time, congratulations. You have a will of adamantium and I salute you. If you can’t, that’s not surprising and for God’s sake don’t beat yourself up over it.

83K Or Bust: Day Twenty-seven through Thirty

Yeah, sorry about that. Our internet has been going up and down over the past few days like a porn star’s panties, and today it finally shit the bed, which did not make Ramón happy as it severely curtailed his work activities and required him to go into the office.

That being said, did you know that when everything goes spla you can contact Time Warner Cable help on Twitter? You can.

Long story short, apparently there is something goofy with our switch box and a tech will be sent out tomorrow to see what’s going on. I know that TWC has been upgrading its local infrastructure and network to the DOCSYS 3 protocol so maybe this’ll mean that our cable TV splitter box will finally work and we’ll be able to watch BBC America and Starz again. Would be nice, just sayin’.

On the downside, it also means that I have to clean my office, the living room, and maybe run a vacuum through the front rooms before the tech gets here because if anyone walks into my house right now I will bring shame on my family from the filth of it all. I’m going to clean once the book is done, I promise. But right now, the dust rhinos are running free in herds.

Also, I know I blew my first draft deadline. Will I still be publishing on November 1? You bet your bippy I will. In fact, I’m so confident of this that I’m hosting a release day party on FaceBook — details are here, and everyone is invited. The lovely and talented L.D. Blakeley will be cohosting with me, and there will be games, giveaways, and much tomfoolery, so make sure you come.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 52,699 words
Wrote: 8,623 words
Total word count: 61,322 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: The internet is a wonderful thing. It gives us immediate access to information, lets us look at pictures of cute kittens, and provides a wealth of other activities that are useful in our daily life.

What else is it? A ginormous timesink, particularly the twin bogs of Twitter and Facebook. And I say this as someone who keeps promising myself, “Just a few more posts and I’ll go back to work.”

If there’s a way to shut off the internet so that you can work, do it. Go find a place that doesn’t have wifi — I’m sure there are some remote fields and caves that aren’t wired. Or shut off your computer’s wifi connection. Do whatever you can to make it difficult or time-consuming to “just hop online for a second.” You’ll be astounded at your productivity. And let’s be honest, the latest meme will still be there once you’re finished.

83K Or Bust: Day Twenty-six

The health continues to improve at a frankly astounding rate and the last few days in particular have definitely benefited from the steroid shot I got along with my antibiotics (translation: I was more than slightly hyper and got a lot of shit done). That aspect is slowing down as you’d expect, but I still feel hella better than I did four days ago. Pity that prednisone has such corrosive long-term side effects.

Anyhoo, we’re starting to spiral in on the end of Act II where Matthias and Danaë are about to go through the Hellene wedding ceremony only to get word of what precisely Matthias’s son Lukas has been up to all this time, plus two acts of betrayal which pretty much scramble all plans and launch my royal lovebirds into Defcon Four. Hey, if you’re not throwing the kitchen sink at your characters there’s no drama and the reader starts to get bored.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 52,699 words
Wrote: 3,663 words
Total word count: 56,362 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cat chores at my friend’s house, made a bunch of jewelry, did laundry, and planning out the cleaning attack I’m going to launch on this house next week because Lord, I cannot stand living in this sty for much longer.

Writing Tips: Most people are generally decent, I believe. If you’re one of these generally decent people, you may be hesitant to put your characters in danger or pain, break their hearts, make them argue, or generally stress them out in some way. After all, no one but a psychopath truly enjoys someone else’s unwilling pain (consensual sadism is an altogether different topic and one we won’t cover today), so it makes perfect sense that you don’t want to hurt your MCs.

That being said, harden your heart and do it anyway. Drama comes from conflict, and without drama a story will collapse like a souffle in a gun range. It’s a truism of human nature that we like to watch trainwrecks, so don’t shy away from throwing some into your story. Not only does it add interesting conflict and drama, it often provides for terrific character growth and makes your MCs more relatable to the reader, which is always a good thing. And if you’re a romance writer, you can console yourself that your MCs will get a happy ending and all this sturm und drang will resolve itself somehow.

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.

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…