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Plans Derailed

Well, as any of you who have been with me for a while can expect, my plan was derailed.  I mean, after all, it’s right in the title of this blog that things are going to interfere with my plans on a fairly regular basis. haha.

If you recall, I was going to take large chunks of time on the weekends and dedicate them to one project or another so I could really invest some productive time and effort to make measurable progress.

I didn’t even make it one week.

My husband works 4th shift in a manufacturing plant. Fourth shift is a weekend only shift, so he works 12 hours Saturday and 12 hours Sunday. Because the plant is open 24/7, they need machines and equipment running 24/7. The 4th shift alternates with 1st, 2nd and 3rd…so when 1st shift works their weekend, he works 3rd shift and so on.

The next weekend after my big announcement that I was going to invest all of this time into my projects, hubby happened to be on first shift.  I was looking at 12 hours days of being completely on my own. He works 10-10…leaving our house at 9am and not getting back until 10:30pm.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this:  I love my husband. I do.

I completely enjoy those weekends when he’s off at work all day. When he’s working third shift, I have to be quiet in the house so he can sleep during the day. I have to watch what I make for lunch so the smell doesn’t wake him up (fish, spinach and mushrooms are no-no’s). I feel the need to run outside and kick our neighbors in the shins when they get their lawn mowers out. Generally, I spend more time worrying about helping him get the sleep he needs than I spend doing anything else those weekends. This is, actually, the best time to just leave the house and go shopping, but that’s a whole other story.  haha.

On his first shift weekends, all bets are off.  You’ll find shrimp and salmon cooking on the stove. I’ve got the radio turned up so I can sing along as I fold laundry. I turn off the air conditioning and open windows to let in the smell of all that freshly cut grass.

So, it was a first shift weekend and I was doing everything else but writing.  My back and knees were protesting loudly about the amount of housework they were forced to participate in. I cleaned out closets, my office and the laundry room. I organized and purged. By the time I was done, there was no way I was sitting at the computer. I was flat out on my super comfy sofa.  🙂

The weekend after that, I was preparing for one of everyone’s favorite exams – the colonoscopy. I turned 50 in April and my doctor just couldn’t wait to hook me up with another old person exam. The doctor’s office had, ten years ago, gleefully sent me up for my first mammogram. That’s been an annual joy ever since. Happy birthday, Julie! For your birthday this year, we’re giving you a referral to Charleston GI. Best birthday gift ever. 

Last weekend, I needed a break. I didn’t do one damn thing but read my book (I still have 200 pages left of the old confederate widow book) and watch TV. That’s not completely true…I also did a book review.  But you know what? It felt great! Every once in a while, I think everyone needs to just have a weekend to lay low and waste away the hours. It felt so indulgent…almost naughty. In today’s world, we are truly not conditioned to relax, but to just keep moving, moving, moving!

So after my mini sabbatical, this weekend rolls around and I feel recharged. It’s another first shift weekend for hubby, but I was focused and ready to go. I’ve been working on my story about my dad all morning and made some great progress.  To the point where I felt I needed to stop, print it out, and do a first bit of editing.  I’ve been busy with stream of consciousness writing…just getting as many of the easy parts coming from my head and my life experiences down on paper. I know there is repetition that needs to be cleaned up. I also need to find the breaks between each experience where I plan to cover dad’s military service and what was going on in Vietnam while he was there.   It feels like a good place to stop for today so I can let the writing breathe a little before I get my red pen out and begin slicing and dicing.

That does not, however, mean I’m headed to my sofa (although it looks so very inviting). I’m spending the rest of the afternoon working on my family tree. I’ve got some tintype photos I want to try and get restored…I have Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers I’m searching for details on their war service, and I have to begin collecting birth certificates that will enable me to keep going backwards in time with confidence that I haven’t accidentally taken a fork in the road.

I’m blogging about that journey as well ~ check it out at: https://applesfromourfamilytree.blogspot.com/

 

Word count: 11,639

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A New Plan Takes Shape

I’ve been forced to make a new plan.  I was trying to do a different project each night of the week.  One night was for my crafts…one for writing…one for genealogy…you get the idea. But by the time I got home from work, made dinner and cleaned up afterwards, I didn’t have all that much time left.  And a lot of nights, I just didn’t have it in me to do anything but relax on the previously mentioned sofa.

Well, this weekend, I thought I would try something different.  I decided I was going to dedicate a block of time…4 hours…to working on writing projects, whatever they might be. So, I wrote an entry into my Story of My Life book. I did a little research and wrote a bit more for my dad’s story, I wrote a synopsis of my novel for my latest submission, and I’m writing this blog post.

I’m pretty damn proud of myself.

On top of all of that, I started reading another book review book, and read a few pages of the book I’m reading because I want to: Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. I’m about halfway through it right now and it’s been a little challenging to get into, but it’s been a great story. If you ever wondered what the world was like through the experiences of a regular person during the Civil War and beyond, you’ll feel like you are actually there, living it along side the characters. There is a little bit of flashing back and forth from the old folks home where the widow is living out her final days back to the days of her youth. The transitions are sometimes jarring…I don’t expect them and sometimes don’t realize we’ve time traveled right away. But otherwise, I’m enjoying it.

I would keep going, but I’m exhausted.  I didn’t take one of my weekend naps today (I absolutely love a good nap) so I didn’t get a chance to recharge. Now it’s almost 10pm, so I may as well just go to bed and begin again tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to an equally productive day tomorrow. I wish productive days for all of YOU as well!

 

Word Count 6,500

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Writing What I Don’t Know

I’ve come to a bit of a stand still.

This is the problem with not following the advice of your 10th grade creative writing teacher (and, frankly, every writing teacher you ever had) who said,  “Write what you know.”

Because if you write what you don’t know, you have to do research.

This isn’t a huge deal for me because I enjoy doing research ~ it’s one of the reasons I love genealogy so much. But the problem is that I don’t want to research the whole of the Vietnam War to write this story about my dad, but I’m not sure how easy it is going to be to find just the information I need (the time he was actually involved in the war) and be able to understand what was going on without…you know…researching the whole of the war. 

The frustrating part about doing the research is that it’s time spent not writing. And y’all know the last thing I need is another excuse to not be writing.

Plus, I still have my other story waiting in the wings. I wonder if I could work on both at the same time.



Yep…and then pigs will fly and hell will freeze over.

But yet…maybe that’s the solution.  Maybe by keeping myself writing, I’ll be inspired to keep going.  It’s like, when I’m cleaning the house, baking and running errands ~ if I keep going, I’m fine.  As soon as I stop for a “quick break,” it’s all over. We all know there’s no one getting back up off the sofa to finish the dishes after 4 hours of cleaning toilets and baking cookies (not necessarily in that order), and running to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. At least none of us who have started receiving AARP registration materials in the mail. Once I’m sitting, I’m sitting for the duration of the day. My back and my knees will allow nothing else.

Too bad my computer isn’t next to my sectional…I love my sectional…the corner where the two pieces come together is SO cozy.  And we have blankets and pillows…well, have a look for yourself…

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There’s even room for the cat to snuggle up (as evidenced by the cat toys and scratchers) and the ottoman that can be pushed over there so you can put your feet up.

How is this not the most comfortable looking piece of furniture ever?!  Sometimes I spend whole days there.  haha.

But that’s not the point.

Maybe by keeping going, I’ll get through the research more efficiently…or I can break it up into chunks so I can research a little and write a little. Then research a little more and write a little more.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m sitting here trying to write this post while I look at a picture of my comfy place with the soft blankets and the fuzzy pillows. We all know I’m not writing anything else tonight.

There’s always tomorrow!

Word Count: 5,286

 

 

 

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And the Book Goes On…

I finally finished my first round of edits. My BFF/writing friend noted at the end of the manuscript that she didn’t want it to end there.  Partly because she liked the story and wanted to know more…and partly because it seemed unfinished to end it at the point where I chose to stop writing.

But my problem with continuing on was that the next part of her life would take just as much research as I put into the first part and, quite honestly, I don’t have it in me right now. To do justice to the second part of my character’s life will require I dive headlong into the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionists movement in the north.  If I continue on at the rate that the original manuscript took to create, I’ll be 60 before I finish the rest. (For reference purposes only, I turn 50 in April.) Now, please forget I said that…in fact, because I started counting backwards about a decade ago, I’m really only 29.  So, let’s go with that.

Anyhow, as a compromise, I wrote an Epilogue.  I’m pretty proud of it, honestly, and it will be a great outline to follow if I do get to the point where I circle back to write the rest of this character’s story.

The next step, near as I can figure, is a beta reader.  I’m in a little bit of a writer’s group black hole here in Charleston and I really want the book to have one more read through by someone outside of my circle. With a lack of local writing groups here, I have spread my search to the internet, and signed up at www.betareader.io.  I’ve uploaded my book in the hopes of getting readers interested in taking a look and telling me what they think. We’ll see what happens. I’m not sure how long to give it before I decide it did/didn’t work. I suppose if I even get one person to read it and give me some insight, I can say it worked. But how long do I wait if no one reads it before I move on to Beta Reader, Plan B?

While that manuscript percolates, I’ll be getting started on…you guessed it…THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL!

Hint: I’ve always been interested in the Salem Witch Trials. I’m not sure if I want to write a historical fiction story about the trials or if I want to do a more modern-day tale. I think my first step will be some free writing to try to get my head wrapped around what the story line should be. Wish me luck!

 

Final Word Count: 48,902

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First Draft is Done!

I never thought I would be writing this post, but I think I’m finally done with the first draft of my book!

And even better, I think a book two might be possible to continue my character’s story!

I just wrote myself to a point that I feel is a good stopping point.  I’ve been wondering lately, as I’m over 43,000 words, when I should stop.  How do you know when the story is told?  When the book is complete? I didn’t want this to become a Stephen King, 1,000 page book that takes the reader months to finish. But I also don’t want to cut my character’s story short. I don’t want to leave readers (or myself, for that matter) hanging and wondering what comes next. I wondered if I would just know when I get to the end in a similar way to how I knew where the story was going next.  Every time I wasn’t sure where to go from where I was, I would sit down to write and my character would tell me and I would take down her dictation in my head.

Just now I wrote:

They said nothing and I turned to leave.  I turned around once as I opened the door, “This is why we lose to the white devil. One thing they do better than us is stand together to fight a common enemy. They have taught us to run and hide, they divide and conquer. And it will always be this way if we cannot find a way to come together as a people. Win together or lose together, but at least we would have tried. Good luck to you, my friends.”

I shut the door behind myself and walked out of their lives.

This seems like the perfect place to stop.  It can absolutely be an ending in and of itself, but it can also be a pause on a story that can be continued in another book.

It feels surreal to have finished. I’m sitting in a hotel room (at a work event) writing during my downtime and to come to the end of the story without any fanfare feels…strange. I’m not at home to run upstairs and jump around in front of my husband, yelling, “I’m done! I’m done!”

My brain whispered, “This is the end.” There are no fireworks celebrating my achievement. No balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling as if I had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right. No knock on the door with a huge check from Publisher’s Clearing House, no cheering from the home team as I score the winning goal.

Finishing a work you have labored over for several years is absolutely an internal celebration.  I knew this would be true…after all…my book is the center of my universe, and no one else’s. But it still takes a little of the wind out of your sails that you’ve completed this huge feat and no one really notices.  For everyone else, life just goes on.

I know the work has only just begun as I start the editing and publishing process, but it still feels a little bit like I’ve lost my best friend.

This might be why we keep writing.

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Our Annual Pilgrimage for Custard

This last weekend my husband and I took what is quickly turning into an annual trip 3 & 1/2 hours northwest of our home to get Culver’s Custard.

custard

We go to the mountains of South Carolina — where you will find the only Culver’s Restaurants in the state — so we can get a taste of home and some of the best custard we’ve ever had. There are Culver’s restaurants all over the greater Milwaukee area in Wisconsin where we are from and we love the custard. Those of you who live near one, know what we mean. The flavor of the day would entice us there even on days when we had other plans.

My favorite flavor is Bonfire Smores.  Chocolate custard with pieces of graham cracker, marshmallow creme and little chunks of chocolate.

My husband’s favorite flavor was red raspberry. Vanilla custard with raspberries in their natural juices. They don’t seem to have that flavor anymore, so he’s changed it up a little – chocolate raspberry, chocolate covered strawberry and double strawberry.

All are delicious. I mean, just look at it. How do you not love that?!

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But it makes people laugh when we tell them we are going that far just for custard, so we make weekend getaways out of it.  We’ll search out a waterfall and go to a local race track. This year we also went to a flea market and to just get out-of-town to celebrate my birthday.

But don’t ask whether or not we tried any new restaurants, because we didn’t.  We can try new restaurants back home in Charleston. It’s a foodie town, after all. We drive the three hours for Culver’s custard, so we eat every meal there except breakfast.

That was a fairly long pre-amble to get to this:  not much writing has happened this last week.  I wrote, but not as much as I could have.

In my defense…well, I guess I don’t really have a defense.

But dang, that was some GOOD custard!

Word count: 41,888

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Writing Calendar Success!

So, last week, after my post, I actually….

wait for it…

…WORKED ON MY BOOK!

Can you imagine?  Actual writing getting done because I set myself up on a schedule! I didn’t write a lot, but I finished a chapter and that’s something to celebrate.  I’ve come to a crossroads in my story. Remember the character I couldn’t get to come back when he walked off the page? And then finally he came back?

Well, he’s now just died. As was his purpose.

So, we have come to the climax. The fork in the road. The s**t or get off the pot moment.

My main character has some decisions to make and I’ve gotta say, I have no earthly idea what’s going to happen next.  Well, I know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, but after that, I’m walking in the dark without a flashlight. You might recall my story is based on an actual person and I know a little of what that person did with the rest of her life from census records.

But being loosely based on a real person and writing a biography are two completely different sections of the bookstore, and I want my version of this person to decide what she wants to do and not what historical records say she has already done.

I mean, I’ve been following her lead this whole way, so why would the rest of the story be any different? I just wish she would give me a little more advance insight into her plans, because fly by the seat of my pants writing has gotten me stuck in more than one pickle jar as I’ve gone along.

It’s a good thing I like pickles.

 

Word count: 37,576

 

 

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