Friday, 28 March 2014

Changing Habits ... The One That Scares Me ....

I've had some success recently in changing a few habits.  I'm drinking less and working out more ... and if you'd asked me a year ago if these were on my Top 10 list you would have been given a very enthusiastic thumbs up.  I'm very proud of myself for making 2014 a year for starting in on some positive changes.

But the premiere spot on the Top 10 list has been reserved for something very special ... I want to complete and submit my first novel.    And I have not yet accomplished that feat.

Writing scares me.

I'm a person with a day job.  I'm a Project Manager and I've moved around to no fewer than 4 organizations in the last 8 years.  Getting fired doesn't scare me.  Been there, done that ... I'll find a new job.  Quitting my job and starting at a new place doesn't scare me.  Been there, done that ... I'll make new friends.

But writing?  Writing scares me.

I'm not half as good as I want to be, and I'm completely paralyzed by that.

The smart girl inside me ... the girl who's figured out how to make a pretty great living at a job she's moderately passionate about, knows that this is a terrible excuse.  If you want to be good at something, you practice.  No one ever got good at something by avoiding it.  But avoid it, I do.  I watch myself struggle with words on the page and I wonder if it should be this hard.  If I was a talented writer, would I wrestle with it this much?? Should it be this difficult to get me to sit in the chair and write if this was my calling?

The truth is, writing is unlike any other career.  I've always succeeded at the day jobs because I understand there's a Boss. And he/she wants certain things, and I'm pretty good at figuring out what they need and delivering.  But writing doesn't work like that.  There is no Boss except me ... and I'm not a very strict boss. I accept every excuse that's presented.  Don't feel like you've outlined the chapter well enough to write it? Well ... take more time.  Don't feel like you've got the logistics of the scene nailed down?  Well, take the time to work it out.  Think you need to rewrite something back in Chapter One to really explain the protaganist's motivation?  Feel free to go back and do that.

I'm the Queen of making excuses ... and sadly, I'm also the Queen at listening to them ...

April is about making a habit of writing.  I have no idea how I'll do on that front.  I can tell you I have a plan ... which is important ... but I've made lots of plans over the years ... the problem for me is sticking to them.

Writing still scares me.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Changing Habits: Part Two

I've started working out regularly.

In February I decided to try working out every weekday at the gym.  I wasn't always successful, but during the month I only missed four days ... which I happen to think is pretty great, even if it's not perfect.

In March I decided to switch up my routine a bit and do more workouts at home .. but that didn't work out so well.  I had a good first week, and then the next two were more hit and miss, so I decided to go back to my 'every weekday' idea and hit the gym.   I went back yesterday and I have to admit that my body creaked a bit after the two week hiatus, but it felt so good to get that workout in.

Unlike the 'stop drinking' thing, I'm not sure why the gym workout stuff worked so well in February.  Obviously, I know I'm making better choices when I go ... but that wasn't really the driving force for getting me there each day.  I understand that now that I'm over 40 I have to make regular workouts a habit ... but I still don't have my finger on why this worked when other times it hasn't.  I'd still like to figure that out

It appears my husband might be right ... I may not know everything after all ...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Changing Habits - Part One

This year I'm working on changing my habits ... and so far, I'm killing it.  Of course, we've only completed two months of the new year and the habits I've changed haven't probably looked that big a deal from an outside point of view ... but I'm sensing a momentum shift.  Truly.

The first habit I changed was drinking less.  I like red wine.  A lot.  And over the last 3-4 years it's become a serious habit and it's been extremely tough for me to break it.  I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say the word "alcoholic", but when you can't keep a promise to stop drinking .. and that happens over and over again ... you start to wonder.  Can I quit this?

Okay, that definitely makes me sound like an alcoholic.

In January I decided "no more wine on weeknights".  I have promised this to myself a million times and never followed through ... but this time I actually kept the promise.

How?   I think there were two key things I did right this time ....

1) I started thinking about how much better I'd feel if I didn't have that glass or two of wine.  I wasn't waking up painfully hungover ... but even one glass of wine the night before can make me feel tired the next day.  I'd hit the snooze button more often on those days.  I'd have less energy.  It just seemed to slow me down in the mornings.  So I started to remind myself how great I'd feel if I didn't have the wine.

2) I developed a bedtime routine.  I started going to bed earlier, and I started putting together a routine for each night so that it didn't have wine attached to it, like my previous nightly routine.  This meant getting to bed at a good time and waking up energized in the morning.

It's only been a few months, but so far I've only had one slip ... and more importantly, it doesn't even become a thought for me anymore on weeknights.   I've been so happy with it, I'm starting to give up wine on Saturday nights too so that I can get up earlier on Sundays and get more done.

Momentum officially shifted.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Starting Up Again

It is almost a full year since I've put together a blog post. A year!  I knew I'd been slacking but I had no idea how long I'd left it abandoned.

I've been thinking about this blogging thing and whether or not I want to keep going with it.  Obviously, all signs seem to point to "no" here if the year-long hiatus is any kind of indicator ... but I'm not entirely ready to give it up yet.   I still think it's a great medium ... it gives you way more space to offer up your point of view on something, and you can attach as many pictures of Chris Evans and Chris Pine as you like ... but more importantly I think it gives readers a chance to get to know you better.

Not that I have readers.


I was perusing through Veronica Roth's blog a couple of days ago and it's interesting to watch her go from unpublished author who's a little scared of getting rejected by an agent ... to mega-author, all in just a few short years.

It was fun to read her early posts and watch her as she goes on her journey.  Reading that blog and watching her get her first deal, and her first ARCs, and all her other firsts, made me wonder why I left my blog in the first place.   And then I remembered that I put a lot of pressure on myself to want it to be perfect.

At the end of the day, it's supposed to be a journal .. and I shouldn't have to wait until I'm published, or I have some kind of crazy blog schedule worked out.  It should just be here ready for me to blog whenever I'm ready to say whatever it is I want it to say at that particular moment in time.

And right now all I want to say is that I think I'm ready to start again.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cage Match: Chris Evans vs. Chris Pine

Let me demonstrate the concept of
"perfect scruff"
No, let ME demonstrate the
concept of "perfect scruff"

I spend a considerable amount of time "researching" heroes.  Too much, some might say, but I feel if you're dedicated to this thing we call 'writing' then you need to show you're serious.

I am so serious about it that I know the difference between Chris Pine and Chris Evans. Trouble is, which one do I like better?

Chris Evans 

(Captain America, The Avengers,What's Your Number?, Cellular)

What do you think?  Too underdressed?
Should I put on a tie?
1) If you haven't seen Cellular (thriller with Kim Basinger), then you need to watch it.  It was the first movie I'd seen with Chris Evans, and he really held the movie together - which is a big deal when you're a newbie actor.

2) He looks good shirtless.  Correction.  He looks amazing shirtless.

3) He can do comedy.  And when you're in a movie with Anna Faris, you'd better be able to hold your own.

1) He's done a lot of superhero movies over the last few years ... needs to show his romantic side more.

Chris Pine

(Star Trek, This Means War, People Like Us)

My name?  Christian. Christian Grey.

1) Even thought I did not like the the movie This Means War, the man knows how to make out!

2) He rocked the James T. Kirk role ... and those were some big William Shatner shoes to fill.

3) He looks amazing in a suit ... which even though is not the same as shirtless, still has its own appeal.

1) He's not as classically handsome as Chris Evans ... but I'm okay with that

Nikki's Choice:   Chris Pine

I'm choosing Chris Pine as the winner of this one .. but who would you choose?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

If it's definitely broke, do you fix it?

Karen Wiesner's awesome planning
guide.  I will blame her if I don't
finish ... seems fair.
As some of you might know, I finalled in the 2012 GH contest.   I'm still drinking wine to celebrate that achievement (although, I do admit the appropriate celebration time has probably expired).     Reading back on my entry, I have to say I still like it.  It's a really solid 50 pages.  Heck, I would even go as far to say the first 100 are quite good.   The other 300 pages though?  Pretty much a mess.

I did try to edit it .. repeatedly.   But after a year of work I finally realized I was doing a lot more work "avoiding" the manuscript than writing it.  My house was exeptionally clean during this bleak period ... my toilet gleamed while my writing desk sat and waited for me to find my way back.    Even though I wasn't writing, I still wasn't sure if I should quit.  Quitting the ms and putting it on the backburner seemed like a bad idea.  What about all those agents and editors I met at conference that I promised the manuscript to?  What about finishing what I started?  What about learning to push through all the tough middle part?     And to make matters worse, I'd done this once before with this manuscript. I put it aside once before and worked on something new, only to give up on the new manuscript once I got to the middle.  I was afraid I was going to just repeat the same mistake.

After much soul-searching at the end of 2012,  I finally made the decision to put my GH manuscript on the backburner.  I still think it's a good story, but I have lots to do to make it great ... and I decided I needed some distance to get it to greatness.   I also decided to work on something brand new that I was excited about.   And in order to ensure I don't fall into the same pattern of failure again, I decided to give "First Draft in 30 Days" a go .... try to work out all my plot problems before I write the book so I'm not stuck in the middle wavering. 

I just finished my outline of my new manuscript.  It took longer than 30 days (it took 90 if you want to know the truth) ... but I feel really good about it.   I got stuck in many of the same places I did previously, but somehow pushing through an outline is a lot easier than pushing through a half-written novel (go figure).

And now I'm onto the scary part.  Writing it.  I'll be keeping track of my progress on the right rail so you'll all know how I'm doing.  Fingers crossed I get through this one!!

Monday, 1 April 2013

10 Great Secondary Characters

A few years ago, someone in my RWAC chapter did a craft session based on the Donald Maass workshops.  I don't know if you have his workbook, but one of the exercises is about writing down all the things you love in great stories, as well as all the things you hate.  The point, of course, is that in your own writing you should concentrate on the elements you love in other's writing ... thereby making people fall in love with your manuscript.
Spike in full scuba gear.  He says he had nothing to
wear (laundry day) but I think he likes the latex ...

One of the things I love in great stories is letting the secondary characters be the comic relief.  I think you want your hero and heroine to be funny (at least in chick lit) ... that goes without saying ... but the really outlandish stuff can go to your secondary characters ... they are the real heart of really great romantic comedies.

Your secondary characters can do things the main characters can't.  They can make bad choices, behave completely irresponsibly, wear weird clothes, hit on inappropriate men ... and they are often the reason I laugh out loud when I'm reading or watching a movie.

Here are some of my favourites from movies and TV:

10) Betty White - The Proposal
9) The Clergyman - The Princess Bride
8) Scarlett - Four Weddings and A Funeral
7) Ned Ryerson - Groundhog Day
6) Kevin, Creed, Oscar  - The Office
5) Morgan - The Mindy Project
4) Billy Mack - Love Actually
3) Cyn (Joan Cusack) - Working Girl
2) Spike - Notting Hill
1) Schmidt - New Girl

Do you have any faves??