Hiatus - How Short Is It?

I'm taking a brief hiatus... yeah, I'm switching from briefs to thongs. Ba da DUM!

(That was the drum and cymbal crash for that terrible joke. Because the only thing that makes a joke worse is by explaining it! Always go all out, I say.)

No, really. I've been meaning to write here all month and it hasn't happened, so I'm taking a brief hiatus while I finish up a project. Because I'm... almost... done! But a lack of distractions would help mitigate some of the free-floating, ever present production-guilt in my life (as all writers have) so I'm giving myself an out. At least for this site.

However, talking about distractions, I am still posting on IG and twitter so if anyone wants to visit me there, feel free. 

BFFs! Stay Sweet! Have a nice summer! XOXO

See ya on the flip side.           - wg


Riesling Peach Jam Recipe

Recipe first, chit chat later.

Riesling Peach jam copy

Riesling Peach Jam

3 1/2 cups prepared peaches (peeled and finely chopped)
1/2 cup Riesling wine
1/2 a squeezed orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 box Sure-Jell pectin (regular)
5 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter (to reduce foaming, optional)

If you've never canned before, you'll need to do a little research before you start. Here's an article, but there are lots of resources online. The key to any canning is having everything prepped and ready to go before you start. For those of you who are canning old hats, here's what I did.

1. Peel, pit, and finely chop peaches. I used the food processor. Measure 3/12 cups in a large measuring bowl, add 1/2 cup Riesling wine, and the juice from 1/2 squeezed orange. Stir together and make sure you have 4 cups total of the fruit/wine/juice mixture. Discard any mixture over the 4 cup mark.

2. Transfer to a 6-8 qt saucepot. Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of butter, and pectin. Stir well. On high heat and stirring constantly, bring to a full roiling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when it's stirred).

3. Stir in sugar and return to full roiling boil. Stir constantly. Boil exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat.

4. Ladle immediately into prepared jars, fill to 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads, and cover with 2 piece lids. Screw bands to fingertip tight. Transfer jars to a canner, making sure jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Make sure the water comes to a gentle boil and then process the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and place them on a towel to cool, undisturbed for 24 hours. (You may hear popping sounds as the jars seal.) After the jars cool, press the centers to check the seals. If the center flexes, that jar hasn't sealed and you should put it in the fridge to eat immediately.

5. Tighten any loose bands, label your jars, and give to friends and family! (Or not. If you want to eat them all yourself, I'm not judging.)

 

So I've been wanting to make a strawberry balsamic jam forever, and I finally got the balsamic I wanted to make it with. But the same week I was set to make the strawberry jam, a friend of mine had a butt load of peaches all come down at once (one of the tree branches broke), so she showed up with a huge box of peaches. Honestly, I didn't know what I was going to do with them all. Sure, I could make regular old peach jam, but I was already experimenting with the strawberries... why not try something different for the peaches, too?

I googled around but most of the recipes I found were either restaurant jams, i.e. small batch, non-canned varieties that were meant to be eaten immediately, or the recipes just didn't thrill me. Like sometimes jam recipes get too fancy, you know? Recipes meant for cocktails or roasted meats. I wanted a dose of booze and a little something-something, but I still wanted to put the jam on a sandwich.

I decided to make my own blend, but I used the standard Sure-Jell peach jam recipe as my basis. (Props to Sure-Jell!)

Honestly, I was all excited about my strawberry balsamic and didn't have much expectations for the peach. Turned out that was a wrong move. The strawberry balsamic came out... good, but it's really just a rich strawberry. It almost tastes a little commercial. Like maybe older commercial jams used vinegar as their acid instead of lemon?

However, the Riesling Peach jam turned out fantastic! It's definitely going to be a keeper. So good and unexpected! The hint of cinnamon, especially, seems to enhance the Riesling with the peach. I always give out jam for Christmas but I'm probably going to make a second batch. I think this one is going to be in demand. Enjoy!


Maybe I Should Stop Blaming Age

I'm microblogging today because my back has gone out, but I can't stand the idea of just sitting around, waiting to go to my chiropractor, so I'm attempting my daily word count and writing in pain! That's called commitment. Or lunacy. I forget which. Anywho, I'm keeping it short. 

We got a new TV! Our last TV wasn't that old but it was getting harder and harder to see and I figured it was just ME, getting old. (Also, what is with these producers filming everything in such deep, dark, noir-tinted angst? Like seriously? People don't live in perpetual night no matter how melodramatic their fictional lives are.) So I kept moving a lamp closer and closer until it was blinding us, and every time a show did a lightning quick screen shot of a text message, I'd pause the show, jump up, run at the TV, and squint to read the text message, before hurrying back to my seat and unpausing. Ridiculous. But at least I was getting my steps in! Then my husband mentioned that maybe we should get a bigger TV because we were only getting older, and that both made sense to me and made me feel relieved that I wasn't the only one aging and blind.  

Anywho again. The new TV is all crisp and focused (frankly, the TV looks better than real life) and so much brighter than our old one. It turns out... the LED backlighting was going out on the old TV! That's why it was dark and grainy with weird spots. It wasn't US at all! No one could see on it! 

So maybe I might not be as decrepit and aged as I thought. (Senile, on the other hand, might still be a possibility.)               - wg   


Burning Ears

Sometimes I think my ears hurt when I'm doing something I'm not supposed to be doing. Like... scrolling social media instead of writing. I'll be plugging along looking up obscure authors to stalk and my ears will start aching. Or... I'll be playing a game on my phone instead of listening to a conversation. Or watching anime instead of cleaning. (Although in my defense, watching anime can be justified as studying story structure.) Things start off OK and then eventually my ear feels achy. And a little echo-y. Like someone's shouting into a canyon. 

Can you have inner ear Jiminy Cricket? Or maybe that's like the good angel that hangs out on your shoulder? Like it got stuck in there somehow? Mainly, it's my right ear, so I could totally see that happening*. I shrug that shoulder more and, I mean if an angel can dance on the head of a pin, it could get stuck in an ear, right? I know the devil is on the other side because he pulls my hair when I'm trying to meditate. So rude, dude. So rude.

Isn't there an old expression about this? Like burning ears, or if your nose twitches, or if the rabbit dies you shouldn't be doing stuff? I don't know. Old people believe in crazy shit.  

Anywho, I'm not sure how to solve the hurting ear problem. Suggestions? I mean, I could only do the crap I'm supposed to do... but that seems highly unrealistic. And disagreeable. I guess they gotta hurt. Sorry jiminy angel. 

Now I'm going to go listen to punk music instead of folding my laundry. 

       - wg

 

*I swear, I clean my ears. It's not like a wax swamp in there or anything.

 


Returning to Life As We Know It?

I'm having mixed feelings over California re-opening. On the one hand, I'm super glad that the mask wearing is minimized, that shops can open fully again, that hugging people is okay. I didn't like the world being closed but I totally understood the necessity. Now that we're opening, we bought tickets for a concert at the end of summer (Green Day!), and we have a mini-vacation (Disneyland!) planned for July. I'm happy that the worst is behind us. 

On the other hand, I'm out of practice having a busier schedule. And part of me wonders... do I want one? 

Life was kind of frenetic before the pandemic, even when I tried to live a balanced life. When you're a mom, your kids' schedules become your schedule (and sometimes the husband's/partner's schedule becomes yours, too). School functions, work obligations, outside activities, all the usual household chores... then if you have your own goals you're trying to reach, that adds up to a lot of running around.  

It was really nice to wake up in the morning, have someone ask me what my plans were, and I could respond, "Oh, not much. Just a little work." And that work? It was all mine. No one else's schedule. Just my own.

(Bad mom!) *she says with glee*  

With everything re-opening, I assume that the old pace will try to resume. Maybe not right away. I imagine a lot of people will be hesitant about exposure even if they're vaccinated. But eventually, life will try to go all frenetic again.

Unless I draw a line in the sand.

So. First additional duty in the re-opening busy schedule? Plan the resistance.  


Plotting for a Pantser: The Great Experiment Part 1.2

I did not get very far on my plotting experiment. First, I had resistance, but I tried to push through. Then I crashed. So hard! But I am sticking to my whole Pavlovian alarm system for writing time, so I’m building awareness, or at the very least, guilt. (Hear alarm, don’t write, feel bad.) Then I got edits from my freelance editor and covid shots around the same time. It’s taken me a good month to go through everything. It’s like: review, get shot, recover, review, repeat.   

Anywho, long rambling intro short… I’m excited to get back to big project writing! I’m starting the next draft of my novel, but I think I’m in a really good place and this next round won’t take too long. You know how, when you’ve got a story in your head, you also have all the background story for the characters but you don’t always include that backstory in the actual story because you don’t have to? Except sometimes you leave out a part that is important for clarity and tension? That’s where I’m at! There are a couple of details that I kept in my head that just didn’t quite come through in the text. (I was too busy showing not telling, and it was too subtle!) I can see exactly what I need to do, what I need to add back in, and where I need to add it. I’m happy with that.

So what does this have to do with plotting vs. pantsing? (Hmm. I guess I got sidetracked again. I wonder if there is a correlation between people with ADHD and plotting vs pantsing?) I think I was ruminating on how often I feel resistance whenever I hear story arc structures. Inciting incident, rising action, etc. or goal, thwart, etc. I get all prickly and growly about it and I don’t know why! I keep trying to dig down to the heart of the resistance; be introspective about it, but I’m not getting far. I just have this knee jerk reluctance, and it’s dumb because it’s not like I don’t use the same structures in my own writing! My stories have goals and inciting incidences! I just don’t name or outline them. It feels a little bit like giving pet names to old traumas. “And you, abandonment issue from that camping trip, you I’ll call Boopsie! Come meet Priscilla, my fear of commitment. Sit next to Anton, the voice of self-doubt. Tea anyone?”

But I still see the value in plotting and outlining and knowing what you’re doing ahead of time. That just makes sense on a system and efficiency level. So, after I finish this draft, I’m going to give plotting another go this summer for my next book. I wonder… if I go back and outline my finished book… would that help me outline the one I’m about to write? Can I keep practicing at it until I it will feel natural? To be continued.       - wg

P.S. Can you tell that I don’t plan these posts either? I just start writing.


I Only Got the Shot So People Would Leave

My house is falling apart. Not literally. But the housework keeps piling up and I have very little desire to do anything about it. Wait, scratch that… I do WANT a clean house. I dream of freshly dusted shelves and a spotless floor, of bathrooms with no mysterious stains. I fantasize about how nice it would be to have every dish clean and in its proper place. I toy with the idea of putting out bowls of fresh milk each night in hopes that friendly OCD brownies will scrub everything until it shines while I sleep.

But I don’t, because someone will kick over that bowl of milk without noticing and I’ll be left with a half curdled, half crusty spill to clean up. And therein lies the problem, I seem to be the only one who… not only cleans but… notices the mess building up around us.

I’m just so sick of cleaning.

This would be much easier if everyone would get the hell out of my house. School and work were blessings that I never truly appreciated, because when no one is home, there is no one to mess up the house. Especially with big male feet that drag in extra amounts of dirt, and big male hands that always seem to be sticky (what? why?!), and big male stomachs that seem to be constantly EATING! Wrappers, and dishes, and crumbs, oh my.    

Well, guess what, my dear family? We are all on our second shots. We are almost completely vaccinated! And I know, I know, everyone has gotten very comfortable being homebodies. We’ve got our routines down, and our electronic devices close to hand, and our butt grooves worn in perfectly. But the clock is ticking… AND YOU WILL GET KICKED OUT!

Or... you can get your butts in gear and clean up some crap. It's your choice.

Love, wg

P.S. I promise not to change the locks. Maybe. Bwa ha ha!


Inevitably the Fingers Itch

I got my covid vaccine last week! Yay! Shot number 1. I had more of a reaction than I expected. I developed chills about four hours after the shot and felt a little "off". Then the next day I felt great! Then the day after that, I had chills, fatigue, and a massive headache that lasted a couple of days. So worth it though. I have no regrets. Hopefully, that reaction is only with the first shot, but just in case, I’ll keep my schedule free the week of shot number 2. Because even though this reaction only lasted 2-3 days, I admit, I shlumped into the slug life for the rest of the week.  

It’s so easy to slide into slugville. What’s not to like about lying around on the couch, binge watching TV, reading, and taking long, leisurely naps? I mean, besides the sense of impending crushing boredom, vague guilt, and tender couch booty (not quite bedsores, but not nothing either). But oh! So relaxed! So nourishing! While I’m in it, I think, “I’ll stay here. I’ll leave all ambition behind me. I’ll stop reaching for the stars. I’ll keep active enough to avoid a heart attack and keep the house clean. I’ll spend time with my family and friends and read books. Who needs the frustration anyway, right? This is so much easier.”  It’s so easy to slide into relaxed mode, part of me starts to wonder if maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Stop fooling around with writing and art! Spend your energy on the simple things... live your life!

And yet…

Eventually, my fingers will itch. They’ll want to pick up a pen or type just to hear the clicks. Eventually, images will play out in my head. Lines will follow, then a scene, then story ideas. If not words, then it will be colors, and I’ll fiddle with this art project or another. I’m a dabbler, but I’m a consistent dabbler. Eventually, I will write something or make something or recreate a DIY project with my own twist, adorned with color and words. If I don’t my fingers will itch, no matter how good the couch feels. No matter how much I enjoy spending time with family and friends. It’s kind of been happening my whole life. Is it dabbling if it’s been going on for decades?

Maybe it means I’m not dabbling at all. It’s just a different kind of life.

 

  


It’s the Pits… In the Best Way Possible!

I don’t know how to start this one. I have been SO excited about it… and yet, it’s weird. I mean, not completely circus clown freaky weird, but probably not something most people would get that excited about. And yet. I AM!

I have been doing laser hair removal this year of our pandemic. I wasn’t excited to begin with. I was hesitant, and curious, and wary, and struggling with the decadence of it all! Laser anything is pricey and there are just more important things than burning your hair follicles to a crisp. However, due to age and fricking menopause I have been developing… well… whiskers. Whiskers on my chinny chin chin. Dark whiskers that irritate my skin! And, also because of ageing, I can’t see them! I mean, they’re not imaginary or anything, they’re really there; I just can’t see them very well when I go to pluck them. I’m at that stage where I have reading glasses and distance glasses and neither one of them seems to be the right prescription to see these fricking hairs that I can feel but can’t see! (I can see them perfectly well, btw, after I’ve put on my makeup and am standing at a normal distance from the mirror.) Then, if I ask Keen (who also can’t see) to help me, he just stabs me in the throat with the tweezers.  

Raise your hand if you’ve been stabbed in the throat with tweezers.

So naturally, I was bitching about my whisker-plucking dilemmas (and throat stabbings) when a friend mentioned laser hair removal. A-ha! That could solve everything! But I still felt kind of guilty and hesitant. So, like the good little wife of a CPA, I calculated how much time I spent shaving a day. Then I calculated how much time that would be in a year. Then I pretended there were cost analyses and interest and amortizations and other words my husband says that I only half listen to.

It turns out I spend about 10 minutes a day shaving, give or take, depending on the area being shaved. To be easy, I estimated overall shaving at an hour a week, or… 52 hours a year! What? That’s a week of work! Or vacation. Or some serious binge-watching. And that did not include the time I spent trying to pluck out these damn chin hairs!! Which takes a damn long time when you can’t see them. The chin bristles were also popping up at an alarming and increasing frequency, and extrapolating out I can only assume that meant it was an upward trend and soon my entire face would be covered in tiny, dark, vision-defiant whiskers. Sooooo between losing a week’s worth of valuable time and the fact that the hairs are clearly launching a territory coup on my face the only LOGICAL decision would be to burn the suckers off with lasers. Right?

Exactly. I had a consultation and set up my first appointment. I decided to throw my underarms under fire, too, because I figured, even if it didn’t completely work, a reduction of growth there would still be less time with a razor.

I don’t know if I can describe how much I love laser hair removal. Like LOVE IT! I thought it would make a difference, but oh my god! I saw a difference from the very first appointment. Half the hair shriveled up almost immediately. Over the months, the dark whiskers have gradually disappeared and what’s left are fine, downy hairs that you can only see if you get up close and personal. It is positively addictive. I’ve already added on my lower legs to the burn schedule and I’ll probably follow that with the bikini area. I walk around showing people my bare patches. Look! See? I mutilated myself! Isn’t it amazing! If I didn’t have my local dermatology office as a recourse, like if they (god forbid) banned all laser procedures tomorrow, I would probably lurk around lairs, trying to con supervillains into using their death rays on me. THAT’S how much I love it!

Now if I spend too much time in the shower it’s because I’ve spaced out under the lovely warm water, not because I’m shaving.

BTW, I’m pretty sure laser hair removal is a gateway cosmetic procedure. I’ve already picked up a pamphlet on micro-needling and asked if cold sculpting really works. You are warned.

              - wg

P.S. For those of you who are curious, getting laser hair removal is like having a group of tiny elves hit you with teeny, tiny rubber bands. Not that bad, in my opinion. But then, I went through 36 hours of labor, and I also once had an accidental Brazilian, so I’m not fazed by most mild discomfort. (Except for when the doctor tells you “you’ll feel a little pinch” before giving you a uterine biopsy. That’s just a flat out lie.)   


Makeover Games are Conspiracies

OK, so I know I said I was going to reduce playing games on my phone (and I AM! Really, I am,) however, at the reduced, allotted times I DO play I have been increasingly disturbed by the ads for other games that are playing on my game. (You followed that, right?) Especially the ads for Makeover Games.

I really feel like that should be followed with a dun dun DA! Or at least said in a voice of doom.   

These games' storylines center around girls receiving makeovers so they can catch the guy's attention. The girls in the ads are always mocked by other people and are shown as miserable until they get their makeover. In one of the games, the character is shown over and over getting dressed and then her male counterpoint judges whether she is dressed appropriately. The makeovers focus on getting rid of body hair, wearing certain types of makeup and clothes (anything outside a certain parameter is deemed a "fashion emergency"), putting on heels, etc. in a very narrow range of what is acceptable.  So... not only are the games teaching messages to girls that they are and should be judged on their appearance, then, the player herself, gets judged by the game on whether she did the makeover correctly? What. The. Fuck?

I took a moment when I first saw these ads to check myself. Perhaps, these ads are misleading and they're just to get people to download? Perhaps, there are other storylines in the games? But then I kept seeing ads for other games along the same lines.  Frankly, the ads are so off-putting I have yet to download one. I ALMOST downloaded one, just to check it out. Impartial journalism and all. But then I read the comments and many of them reiterated the sexist themes played out in the ads and more than one mentioned how the characters are told to get rid of their glasses! 

(Oh no. You don't fuck with glasses!)

One of the most disturbing things... almost all of these games are labeled for 4 years and up. I thought that we were in a new era of women empowerment? I thought we had left some of this crap behind. So why the hell are outdated, sexist, and repressive games popping up that are targeted to little girls, tweens, and teens?! Is this payback from some weird segment trying to hold onto patriarchal power? An intentional undermining? Because somehow this feels a bit like when the women's movement started to get rolling in the 60s and 70s, and suddenly there was ALSO a huge explosion in porn. (OK, ladies, you can go to work! But you're all nymphos or ball busters and no one will take you seriously.) But these games are worse because they are targeting children. The ads, in fact, tell girls that these are the type of games (and attention) they're supposed to want, even if they don't actually play them. It's conditioning them in restrictive stereotypes on multiple levels. And it's also conditioning them to normalize judgement in all its unhealthy glory.

So I have to ask... are there companies out there so fearful that the future is female that they have to tell five-year-olds they'll never be happy unless they dress a certain way?

I'm not paranoid if it's true.    

 


New Methods to Shake Up Old Writing Habits

Remember about a month and a half ago when I finished my last book and I was trying to channel all my productive momentum into the next project? Well, I failed. I stumbled around, flailing my arms, jumping from project to project, trying to stave off “the crash” but, inevitably, the crash came. I was mentally and creatively exhausted. I would start projects and then stare blankly into space, my mind refusing to budge beyond the vaguest of plans. I could do research fine but implementing creativity wasn’t working. But I kept fighting it! I thought, if I just keep plugging away it will all click eventually. But it didn’t. Finally, I had a long hard talk with myself and… took a break.

Whew! I feel so much better.

Now I’m ready to get back into the game. However, I realize I may need to shake things up a bit. This pandemic year has instilled some good habits and some bad habits. (Thank you James Clear!) At this point in my writing journey, I’m good about sitting down to write at least once a day, every day. However, I’m great at playing stupid crap on my phone ten times a day! This seems like it should be flipped, no?

So, I’m trying something a little new. (Besides the whole plotting thing. I’m still working on that.) First, I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes. I’ve realized I can get a lot done in 20 minutes chunks. I can do a laundry. I can paint a little. I can write 200-300 words. AND I feel satisfied by what I did in those 20 minutes, too! Therefore, 20 minutes of game play on my phone should be plenty. I’m also resolving to not play anything on my phone until the evening.

Second, I set up four alarms on my phone. Four times a day a special alarm rings and I sit down to write. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I’m writing. Four times I show up at my computer. Four times a day that should work with all my zoom schedules. For instance, I generally have meetings at 11:00, 4:00, or 6:00(ish). I set up alarms for 10:00, 12:00, 3:00, and 7:00.  I’m writing this during my 12:00 slot right now. 7:00 has traditionally been my go-to writing time. 10:00 will make me take a shower sooner (damn you, pandemic schedule)! (I mean, that didn’t work out today, I’m still in my pajamas, but in theory it should.) 3:00 is to work through the afternoon slump.  

Yes, I realize this will take discipline, and I might not make all four writing slots every day, but 2-3 times is still more than once, right? What I’m really hoping for is that I’ll hear the alarm and it will build the desire to write/be creative over picking up my phone. I know, I know, cold turkey doesn’t generally work, but I’m both highly motivated AND I’m at the point where I sick to death of every game on my phone except one, so I figure the opportunity is there. Fingers crossed.

What kind of changes do you make when you really need to shake things up?


Bullshit Butt

I just spent two and a half hours planting flowers. I kept waiting for winter rains to start here and it just hasn't happened (worrisome given our wildfires), so I finally went out front and filled in the scraggly, empty patches in my flower beds that, when it's raining cats and dogs, I AM PERFECTLY JUSTIFIED TO IGNORE! But, no rain, no justification, so off to plant I went.  

Sooooo... you know those TV shows and movies that always have some elderly lady happily gardening in her front yard? Like, almost every time you see her she's in her garden? Gardening all day, happy happy happy? I call bullshit on those images!  First of all, I know I'm getting older and I'm nowhere near elderly, however, I can no longer garden for long periods of time without seriously hurting! Like really, I should be doing an hour at a time tops, especially if it's heavy duty work.  My ass is already in pain from the stint I did today and that was "gentle" gardening. I'm sitting on a heat pad and just took two Aleve! 

Second, knees. Bending. Squatting. Getting up, getting down. I think people pay to have workouts like this. (Not me!) I basically hurt from my butt all the way down my legs.

Third! Those ladies are always adorably outfitted in light spring colors, with coordinating gloves! Sometimes, they are even wearing white pants. WHITE PANTS! Like grass and soil don't even exist! 

Fourth, I had dirt in my hair! Also, up my arms, all over my pants, and a smidge got up my nose. (Post-gardening tissue blow, am I right?) I wasn't throwing dirt around either, or shoveling, or tossing sod. I was sitting on a pad on the ground, planting flowers from a pack. Small flowers! I only had to dig small holes! My gardening gloves were covered in damp mud. Have you ever seen one of those gardening grannies on TV with muddy gloves? No. They're always perfectly pristine, in cute floral fabrics. Not, NOT dirt encrusted, stiff suckers that the rest of use. I mean, I know it's Hollywood, I KNOW it's all made up, but seriously people, have you never seen someone garden before?

I love my garden. I'm not going to stop gardening; I am perfectly aware of what's physically doable for me as I age. But geez, I'd just like to see a realistic version of life once in a while! Stop pressuring me with your images of pristine, elderly ladies who apparently kick ass in the garden! 

Show me a granny with an ice pack and pain killers, or better yet, a gardener, and we can enjoy our flowers together. Tired but realistically happy.  

That is all. 


Plotting for a Pantser: The Great Experiment

As a writer, I’m primarily a pantser*. I get a line or an image or a snippet of conversation in my head, I sit down to write and just see where it goes, letting events unfold before me. I also, often, will get a portion of a story in my head. These sections are larger than the snippets but they are far from complete. For example, the last book I wrote I had the beginning chapter and the final battle in my head before I began, but not a whole lot in between. The story before that, I had all the villains and most of the main conflicts ready to go but I struggled with my main character. Sometimes an overarching theme comes to me first, sometimes I think up a plot situation, sometimes I wake up from a nap and discover almost a whole story in my head, and sometimes I see a single color silhouetted against a sky.

Long story short, I usually work out a lot of the details as I write. This method allows me to play; to write lyrically, to take detours, to discover. I strongly believe that our unconscious is doing a lot of work without us realizing, and I’m happy to see what it tells me.

However, my average time for writing a novel is clocking at two years. TWO YEARS! That’s just to get the story down beginning to end. Add on to that editing, beta readers, re-editing, pitch materials, querying, etc. and the process really stretches out. Now granted, I tend to edit as I write (something that happens because I’m pantsing, i.e. not all those detours and discoveries work) so I will say my complete draft is usually pretty clean. But still, two years feels like too damn long. Especially if I truly want a career writing novels.

SO! I decided to move outside my comfort zone. Take Off Your Pants is a book about plotting. Written for pantsers (or anyone) by a self-proclaimed reformed pantser herself, Libbie Hawker says she also took two years to write a novel before starting her outlining method. Yay! I’m not alone! I dove into the book.

Then I took a deep breath… and now I’m trying to apply her methods to my next novel.

This is a bit of a struggle, because pantsers want to pants. On the one hand, I love that her method puts certain aspects of story-telling front and center; aspects I feel are critical to a great story. Such as, she recommends starting with your characters’ story arc(s), their flaw(s), the external goal, and overarching theme (not in that order), and leaving plot alone for later. I totally get this approach. I also develop these early in my own stories. But these elements can take a lot of deep thought and I am used to letting them unfold over a longer period of time, possibly 2-3 months. I also tend to let major symbolic points and lyric elements reveal themselves as I go. Her method is making me put the deep thought portion of my work on the front end, before I start writing. It’s also helping me really think about and flesh out all of my characters before I write. So that part I love love love.   

On the other hand, I feel simultaneously as if my brain hurts from thinking too hard AND that I’m not doing anything when I could be writing. That is totally all on me! Hawker claims that she can outline her whole book, front to end, in about a day. Which… GRRRL… mad props! I’ve been working on mine for about a week.    

Which brings us to the next step… start filling out, very loosely, some of those plot points. Hawker says to make the plot points super broad with plenty of room for creative freedom, mainly around the character’s drive for a goal and what’s thwarting them.

Oh my god, people! It’s like my brain just slammed the brakes on me! I don’t know what the problem is… maybe I’m still tired from the last book, maybe I need to switch to poetry or just read for awhile, maybe my pantsing just wants to pants, but whatever the reason, my brain does not want to work on this part of Hawker’s process. At least at the moment. I wouldn’t say I usually have a problem with plot either, because what’s more fun to a writer than dreaming “Hey! What happens next?”  

Now I’m in a death grapple with my own resistance. (Both of us are being incredibly stubborn.) I am committed to giving plotting a chance, because ultimately, I would love to write a novel in six months. Hawker successfully uses her method to write novels in incredibly short timeframes. My experiment is in process. Hopefully soon, I will have a developed outline ready to go for this next novel. How the writing portion turns out after that is anyone’s guess.

But it sure will be fun to see it unfold.  

(Ha! See, the pantser always wants to come out!)

*A pantser someone who writes by the seat of their pants, unplanned. As compared to a plotter, who usually has the plot outlined/planned before writing. I actually thought, before I read this book, that I was a main dish pantser with a hefty side of plotter. But after trying to apply this method I realize how singularly pantser I’ve been all my life. Like Atkins level.


Kitty Kai Never Dies!

So, years ago I did a post about introducing a new kitten into our household of older cats. One of those older cats being a massive, jealous diva queen whose temperament towards new kittens was like Johnny Lawrence’s reaction to Daniel-san in Karate Kid. (No Mercy!) Our kitten, Ginger, was and still is a sweetheart; very non-confrontational, would prefer to sleep than fight, and enjoys belly rubs from strangers (and no, it’s not a trap! She really likes her belly rubbed!). Rather than deal with our older terror, Ginger often hid in my lap under a throw blanket. And jealous diva cat never lightened up (*cough* Kreese) so poor Ginger had to deal with her for years.  

Well, over time we lost the older cats and now we have a new younger cat, Harriet. I really thought that things would go smoother introducing a kitten this time around, but instead this happened.

Ginger, seeing new kitten: What the…? Goddamnit! I thought I was finally an only cat! What. the. FUCK Mom?!

Harriet sees Ginger: FRIEND! Yay! Play play play play play!

Ginger: Yeah, no. *Hiss, turns her back*

Harriet: Friend play!

Ginger: No. Go away. You stay in your corner and I’ll stay in mine.

Harriet: No, YOU play! Plaaayy!

Ginger: I’m leaving now.

Harriet, manic look sparking in her eyes: Nooo! You will play with me! You will be my friend! *fly tackles Ginger from behind*

Ginger: Ugh! Get off me! I don’t want to hurt you kid!

Harriet tackles again. Which is rather like a ball bouncing off a wall.

Ginger: Damnit! I didn’t want to have to do this!  *throws out tentative paw in the nicest swat ever.*  OK, that means ‘no’! Do you understand? NO! Now go play somewhere else! *mutters under breath* Dumb kid, see what you made me do.

Harriet, eyes so wide they look like they’re going to fall out of her head and quivering like a junkie: NOOOOOOOO! You will love me! YOU WILL LOVE ME!!!!! I’LL MAKE YOU!!!!

Ginger, looks at me: Another one? Really?!

Me: Um… at least she’s not trying to kill you? *shrug*

*Harriet chases Ginger out of the room.*

Me: Oh, that’ll stop soon.

A year later… still waiting. I’m sorry, Ginger. It’s hard to be that adored.

Love Hard! Love First! No Mercy!