Accountability Wednesdays: Week 13

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The A to Z Challenge is well on it’s way! I enjoyed the company of several new visitors to the blog yesterday (*waves* Hi everyone!) as well as a spike in stats, and I also visited some truly wonderful posts by my fellow bloggers. Keep it up everyone! We can make it through April together!

And as promised, an accountability post, because I can’t just quit being accountable for a whole month. 🙂

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

Believe me when I tell you that it does make me cringe and hang my head to come here and hold myself accountable for this particular goal, but that accountability is not exactly helping at the moment. I seem to be going through another one of my trademark “binge” modes. I’m telling you, I don’t know why this happens every so often, but once again I find myself eating everything in sight. I’m constantly hungry. Even when I eat things full of fiber and good stuff I still find myself hungry a very short time later. The best thing I can tell you about this past week is that I’ve been able to mostly avoid pop.

On the “healthier” side of things, I have a doctor’s appointment first thing tomorrow to discuss the results of the procedure I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I’m expecting that it was all clear, as the doc who preformed it suggested immediately afterwards, but we’ll see. I’d love to have some answers for a change, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.

You can’t see, but right now I’m holding up my hand and waving it back and forth in a “so-so” motion to indicate how the past week was for social media. I’m finding myself on Facebook a lot more than usual, but Twitter is a little harder. I dropped in a few times this week, but I rarely find myself with anything interesting to say that can be reduced to 140 characters or less, so I mostly just read other people’s Tweets and “favorite” them. 😛

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

On the bad side of things, I once again went through an entire week without even touching this. On the upside of things, I worked my arse off the past week so that I could get my A to Z posts planned and out of the way, so now there is literally nothing stopping me from working on my manuscript, aside from the obvious desire not to do so. Really, truly, I do want to get this finished, but I’m just so sick of editing, you have no idea. I desperately just want to lock myself in a room with my laptop and a blank Scrivener file and start something new. But I mustn’t. Editing. Dammit.

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

As mentioned, I put a real push on last week to ensure that I had April pretty much covered for blog posts. It was literally the only thing I did as far as writing, but it worked out in my favor, all things considered. I wound up with a very respectable 9054 words this week, and I am very close to hitting the 100,000 mark for the year so far. Now if I could just get that editing out of the way so that I can do some fiction writing again…*mumble, grumble*…

And that’s it for this week! Later peeps!

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 1

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Here we are at Week #1. Barring any strange incidents or complications there will be 52 of these posts over the course of 2014, and it is my genuine hope and desire that Accountability Wednesdays will turn out to be less whiny and more filled with actual accomplishment than Accountability Tuesdays were. Unfortunately week #1 of 2014 was marred by the demon cold from hell, but I still have a little bit to report, so let’s move on with it, shall we?

Goal #1: Lose at least ten pounds and become healthier overall.

As mentioned above, the past week was greatly affected by the hell cold that has been afflicting my family since Christmas. My husband has since gotten over it and my daughter is only clinging to a bit of a cough and an occasionally runny nose, but the beginning of this week was the worst for me. I got through the holidays, but by the time the 3rd hit (cruelly, the day I was supposed to head down home for a family party) I was in absolute misery. For two days straight nothing I did could make my body feel any less icy cold (except for the very middle of the night when I would start to sweat like my insides were on fire), and every inch of me ached like I’d been run over by an entire fleet of Mack trucks. I could hardly move, and my playful daughter had absolutely no sympathy.

I’m on the mend now, except for a stubborn cough that refuses to go away, but you can probably understand that I didn’t do much any exercising this week.

On the upside of things I’ve been readopting some good habits, like drinking water throughout the day, and because I was having a hard time eating anything for a few days there, I’ve actually cost a couple of pounds. I started the year at 159.2 lbs, and as of the typing of this post I’m weighing in at 156.6. I know it’s not a healthy weight loss by any means, but I’ll take the little boost in return for a few days of wanting someone to put me out of my misery.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.

I’m realizing now that this is going to be a hard thing to report, but I’ll do the best I can. I was slightly more active on social media this week. I made a point to hop on Twitter a couple of times, and one of those tweets ended up being favorited by someone, so that’s a good sign that someone is still paying attention to me, ha ha. I’ve also been working myself back into reading other writers’ blogs, which took a back-burner during the holidays. I’ll be back to commenting and commiserating in no time.

Also, a friend “shared” one of my blog posts on Facebook the other day which, while not a direct result of my own action, is always nice to see. Please keep sharing, friends! I need all the help I can get!

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

Don’t hit me! I haven’t touched this one this week. Mostly this is attributed to the fact that I’ve been on my own computer a grand total of about two minutes a day lately. But I’m hoping to work on this one this week, before I end up flying back out West for my first shift. There’s really not that much left to do, and I’d really, really like to be done of it and have it sent off to my beta-reader before I head out West, since there’s not much productive I can do via my tablet when I’m out there.

Wish me luck!

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

All things considered, it was a fairly decent week since I lost two days to near-death and all. I am, however, a little disappointed in myself. In order to complete this goal this year I need to write a little less than 10,000 words per week. This week I wrote 4535 words. Every one of those words was for the purpose of this blog. I’m disappointed not only because I didn’t even come halfway to the weekly goal, but also because I realized that it’s been a long time now since I wrote any new fiction. Aside from working on my manuscript, I have a fantasy adventure and a major fan fiction that I could be working on, not to mention things like drabbles, flash fiction, or hell, even morning pages. If I could convince myself to start doing morning pages again I would be in for an extra 5000 or more words each week.

So yeah, there’s work to be done, but we’re only on the first week of the year so I won’t be too hard on myself.

Keep me accountable, ladies and gents! Keep me accountable!

Accountability Tuesdays: Week 52 and A Year in Review

This is it. Not only is this my last accountability post of the year, but at midnight tonight 2013 will be complete.

Image borrowed from seaandbescene.com

It’s been a busy and interesting year. I spent the first six months of the year working out West in the Alberta oil sands on a 2 weeks out, 2 weeks home schedule that involved a heck-of-a-lot of flights back and forth across the country and quite a bit of time away from my daughter and husband. The other six months I spent contentedly unemployed, enjoying just being home but also very busy with a growing toddler, your usual insane amount of housework, and trying to fit lots of writing and a reasonable amount of leisure time in there was well.

This year I turned 29. Thanks to my work out West I paid off both my and my husband’s student loans, and completed the payments on our car, leaving us with no other debt besides our mortgage. I also struggled – both during work and during unemployment – to work as hard as I could on my writing, both the fiction and the blogging varieties. This year I participated in my sixth NaNoWriMo and netted my fifth win.  I also (nearly) completed editing on my first ever finished manuscript, and I wrote a significant amount toward a fantasy adventure that I’ve been working on for several years now.

I wrote 248 blog posts this year. Two hundred and forty-eight.

My daughter turned three years old this year. I made her a kick-ass MegaMan costume for Halloween, which she loved, and I built (from scratch) a tickle trunk for her for her birthday. Speaking of which, I baked and decorated about a million My Little Pony cupcakes for that birthday as well.

We had an awesome holiday, I was given some truly awesome presents by my husband and my whole family, my daughter proved that she could quickly figure out the use of a kid-tablet that’s marketed more toward older kids, and here we find ourselves at the end of 2013, just waiting for the clock to tick over.

And so here is my last bout of accountability for the year, with comparisons to the “Wildly Improbable Goals” that spawned them in the first place.

Health and Body Image Goal

1. Get into some kind of shape that makes me feel good about my body again…I’m not looking at a particular amount of weight-loss or anything specific, just a state of physical being that I feel good about. I slate this as a wildly improbable goal because, as I’ve mentioned before, my work schedule makes devoting time to such a thing particularly difficult.

A year has passed since I wrote the above, and not a lot has changed outwardly. If I were to go hunt down a photo of myself from last January and compare it to a photo now you probably wouldn’t see much of a difference. I had periods throughout 2013 where I did an excellent amount of exercise, and periods when I was more slovenly than I’ve ever been in my life. I had periods during which I ate pretty well, and periods during which I deserved every second of the stomach pains that I incurred. I managed to work myself toward running a 10 min/mile, and then completely lost that ability.

But here’s the thing: though I didn’t lose any (significant) weight or inches, wasn’t able to go down a pant size or stick to a healthy eating routine, I did accomplish something. I came to a realization that while I do want to lose some weight and become healthier overall, I am perfectly satisfied with my body the way it is right now. I don’t feel fat, I don’t feel ugly. I feel like a mom and a wife and a tradeswoman, and that’s okay with me, even if I go a whole year more without losing a single pound.

Editing Goal

2. Finish editing my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide. It’s time to get this f’er on the shelves, damn it!

A good chunk of 2013 saw this goal effectively ignored, due to my complete inability to find a decent word processor to work from my tablet while I was out West. But when I did finally get to work on this goal, I really went crazy. Everything came to a screaming halt once the holidays hit, but to date I only have approximately two and a half chapters (which, I think, are the best-written chapters anyway) to finish editing. So while I didn’t technically complete this goal, I feel very good about where I managed to find myself and am confident that I’ll be able to do something great with my manuscript in the new year.

1,000,000 Word Goal

3. Write 1,000,000 words in 2013. This is the big one. Where am I going to find the time? I have no idea. But between blog posts, drabbles, new stories, and new scenes added to NtH during editing, I want to accomplish a total word count of ONE MILLION words by the end of 2013. Wouldn’t that be something? I think it would.

It became evident within the first few months of the year that this wasn’t likely to happen. There just weren’t enough hours in the day while I was out West in order to write the 83,333 words per month necessary to complete this goal. I eventually came to the conclusion that 500,000 words was a more reasonable goal, though I continued to refer to it as the 1,000,000 word goal, because wouldn’t that be awesome? Unfortunately, as with my editing goal, the holidays hit at just the right time to keep me from progressing quite far enough. As of the completion of this post, my grand total word count for the year of 2013 came to 457,067 words. I didn’t come anywhere near my original million word hope, and I came several thousand words short of my revised half-a-million word hope, but I have to be honest: I’m quite amazed with what I did manage to do. I’ve been writing for more than 15 years, and I don’t know if I wrote so many words over the course of the first 14 all together, never mind that many over the course of one year. I’m incredibly proud of myself and have every intention of blowing away that personal record in 2014. Here’s to acting like a real writer. 🙂

So there it is. One year ends, another one begins. I hope everyone has a great New Years Eve, and that everyone greets 2014 with heads held high.

See you all next year. 🙂

A Memorable Idea

This past weekend was full and tiring. My parents visited Friday night, and two awesome friends visited Saturday night. There was drinking and eating and cleaning up before and after visits, and between all that we had the baby outside in her pool, going for walks and playing with the neighbor’s grandkids. In addition to all that I had a hard time sleeping Friday night, and we were up drinking and playing foolish trivia games until 3 am on Saturday night, so I’ve developed a rather debilitating sleep debt.

This is currently the face of my jealousy.
This is currently the face of my jealousy.

So it is with bags under my eyes and an enormous yawn on my lips that I sat down at my laptop and struggled to think of something to blog about for today. I considered a number of previously-planned options that made my head hurt because I am simply too tired to deal with them right now. I thought about reading the first chapter of The Artist’s Way and talking about that, but it turns out that there are half a dozen introduction chapters that seem pretty important before you get to the actual program part of the book, and my addled brain can’t really handle that at the moment. I thought about simply writing about my weekend, about the tomfoolery that occurs when the husband and I get together with our friends and some good liquor, but I couldn’t figure out how to work that into anything coherent and interesting.

With those ideas set aside, I thought I’d mention something that I had been meaning to bring up for a while. It’s an idea I came up with one day a while ago, something that’s one part memory exercise, one part mental therapy, and one part keepsake-that-can-be-helpful-when-writing.

I call it a Memory Book, for lack of something cooler. I don’t remember when or why I came up with the idea, but one day I picked up a pretty notebook and a nice pen, and I began writing down memories. I don’t make the memories long and complicated; they’re generally just a one-or-two-liner that gives the basic idea. For instance, I might write, “That time I decided to roller-blade to school, but the hill was too steep and I ended up having to admit defeat.”

The memories can be good ones (“The first time Jason told me he loved me…he looked so cute and nervous!”) or bad ones (“The first time I left for out West and I was waiting for the plane while struggling not to cry.”) or just random things from my past that mean nothing but that are non-the-less cluttering up my brain (“The time our cabin water was shut down so we kept having to collect stream water in buckets in order to be able to flush the toilet.”). Any random memory that I can think of can end up in the book.

So what’s the point?

Well, for one thing it exercises my memory (which has gone so downhill over the past six or seven years of my life) to bring up information that might be buried deep; alternatively, re-reading it allows me to recall things I may have allowed myself to forget about.

For another thing, it can be very therapeutic. Instead of struggling to think of something to write for my works-in-progress or my blog, I can just sit with this notebook and spill out information that’s already in my head, like a mental Spring Cleaning.

And lastly, having this notebook handy has actually been helpful to my writing. See, one of the hardest aspects of writing fiction (in my opinion) is coming up with relatable characters, people whom the readers will love and sympathize with. Part of this is making the characters feel more real, and in the past I’ve been able to accomplish this by using my Memory Book and juicing the memories up a bit to craft pasts for my characters. Why is a certain character so shy? Because of this embarrassing event, stolen from my Memory Book and blown up a bit to make it sound even more mortifying. How did two other characters meet? Steal something from the Memory Book and spruce up the details a bit. See what I’m saying?

A Memory Book might not be useful for everyone, but it’s been useful for me in several ways, so I thought I’d share and invite everyone to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy…it could be a Dollar Store notebook tucked into your purse or wallet, or a Word file on your computer. You can write about any kind of memories you like, and you can write quick one-liners like me or write a whole page for each. Whatever makes it work for you.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear from you!

The Trick is to do it Sneakily…

Despite the fact that I currently have no fewer than four projects on the go (not counting the manuscript I’m in the process of editing) I have recently had one hell of a case of writer’s block. On new than a couple of days I found myself staring at my notebook for hours, unable to come up with the words. Even worse, when I did find words they were terrible ones. The bits that I was managing to get onto paper were making me gag.

It was with that gag reflex in tow that I found myself searching the Internet for ideas on battling that great evil we know as writer’s block. I skipped past a number of ideas and suggestions before landing on a list of writing exercises, on which I found a simple prospect: observe the world around you right now…describe it in as much detail as possible.

I whipped out my pen and notebook and began immediately, but soon found my pen stalling. While an interesting idea, it wasn’t exactly exciting to describe an industrial control room…it’s pretty much just desks and computers. But then I got a different idea…I glanced at the coworker to my left and began describing him: his face, his clothes, his mannerisms…whatever I could see or knew from having talked to him. Then I moved on to the next coworker and the next. I wrote everything I knew about them or could see by a quick glance in their direction. I wrote about the bosses and the secretary. I wrote about the field technicians who came in the discuss issues. I wrote about the engineers we share the building with. I wrote thoroughly and honestly. Over the course of three days I wrote over 3000 words just on descriptions of the people around me at work.

I thought this turned out to be an excellent exercise for two reasons. For one, character descriptions is something that is difficult to get right when writing fiction, since you want your reader to be picturing the character the way you do, but you don’t want to bore them to death by ranting on and on about physical details and personality traits. I found over the course of this exercise I slowly got more information in while being more succinct. The other reason is that when I was finished with my exercise I found myself presented with approximately two dozen perfectly viable characters. Names would have to be changed, to protect me from my own brutal honesty, but other than that I now have a small smorgasbord of possible characters to choose from the next time I need a new addition to one of my stories.

What do you think? Does my exercise sound like a worthwhile one? Will you give it a try? Or have you done something similar before? Please share! 🙂