Stuck in the Middle

“… with you…” (Sing along with me…)

Okay, I’m not exactly WITH YOU all, but in a metaphorical sort of way, I feel like y’all are along with me, so I should probably tell you what the hell is going on.

I’m stuck.

The middle of Unquickened is a disaster. When I was stuck with Bloodbonded, it was more like trudging through molasses. The key pieces were there, but it was overwritten, too long, and had terrible pacing.

Unquickened is more like a tangled ball of Christmas lights that you fight with for hours until you finally give up and go buy new lights.

Except that I can’t go buy new lights. I have to untangle this ball.

If you understand that reference, you are my tribe.

To complicate matters further, client work is busier than ever, I’m still cajoling high schoolers through “distance learning,” and–oh yeah–I’m moving to another state in less than two months.

Needless to say, it’s a bit overwhelming.

Resetting… Again…

The biggest struggle I’m having right now, honestly, is just with time management. There are so many moving pieces in my life that I’m a little (okay, maybe a lot) overwhelmed. And when I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down.

Some of the things I shut down are unnecessary. I’m sure I’ve mentioned about a million times that I’m not much of a domestic sort. When I’m overwhelmed, domestic things are the first thing to go unless some other force insists on them. Right now, the only domestic thing I’m concerned with is purging stuff that I don’t want to take to Idaho. Everything else–dishes, groceries, cooking–is just damage control. I’m grateful that my benign neglect of my children over the years has equipped them with mad foraging skills.

Shutting down the unnecessary isn’t really a problem. Unfortunately, I also tend to shut down the necessary.

When I get overwhelmed, it’s really easy for me to end up spending time scrolling mindlessly through social media or playing word games or solitaire. My brain will be running madly from task to task, but my body will be sitting with my phone, unscrambling word puzzles. Which, obviously, does not purge crap from my house or write novels.

Hacking My Stupid Brain

So this reset involves hacking my brain. A lot.

This involves:

Organizing my projects: I’ve resisted the urge to get yet another app or pay for yet another tool in an attempt to organize my life, but I finally caved this week and subscribed to Monday.com for all of my writing stuff. I’ve set up client and fiction boards for all of my projects. I’ve been using Monday with one of my clients, and it does seem to help keep things moving forward and give a quick view into the status of various things. Of course, one has to update it for it to work, but honestly, that’s the easy part. Just being able to prioritize and easily view what’s on fire and what’s just smoldering is helpful.

Organizing my life: I wish there were some single tool that I could use to manage everything in my life, but there’s not. So I’m manually integrating the Monday.com boards with various things like a spiral notepad and an old school planner. I check my projects and write down what I need to do in my planner or on a notepad and check them off as I do them. And I write down my planned workouts and meals in my planner, along with personal tasks to accomplish each week. These things change every week, of course, because nothing ever goes as planned, but it does help to get my arms around it all.

Focusing my time: I think one of the biggest struggles I have is just staying focused when I should be working. When the work gets hard, my mind wanders. I have used the Pomodoro Technique for client work for a long time, off and on, but I’m going to use it more going forward and apply the technique to fiction as well. Giving projects two focused hours, more or less, seems to push a lot of things through to the next stage. And if I tell myself it’s only 25 minutes at a time, I seem to be able to stay focused.

Focusing my creative energy: I’m realizing that I have a limited amount of creative energy every day–about 2-4 hours worth, depending on the day. When I say creative energy, I mean energy for writing, brainstorming, strategizing, or content and developmental editing. Those are the things that require the most braining. Administrative duties, accounting, content management, line editing, proofreading–those things don’t require the creative side of my brain. I can do those things when I’m at the ebb of my creative energy. So figuring this out about myself, I’m using the Monday boards and my calendar to focus projects so that I use a couple of hours of creative energy every day for client work and a couple for fiction work. That means I can give clients about two hours of focused writing, brainstorming, etc. every day. That’s actually a lot. The other client time is used for meetings, reading background materials, interviews, managing content, light editing, and that sort of thing.

Focusing my creative energy this way also means that my fiction projects get a lot more of me. I am trying to do a little bit of fiction every day and save a full four hours or so every Friday for a really concerted focus on the big fiction projects. And with that, here’s the real point of this post.

The Real Status of Unquickened

Y’all had to know this was coming…

I’m delaying release of Unquickened until later this year. 

I honestly did not intend things to go this way. However, with a kid in college and one graduating high school soon, an interstate move, and a continuing need to pay contractors to help with my fiction, it was just not possible to turn down the long-term contract I’ve taken with one client. Between that contract and the move and the mess in the middle of the book, there is really no way I can have it ready to publish by June 1. I don’t want to give you a new date yet, because I don’t want to break my promise again, but I will promise to give a new date as soon as I’ve untangled this mess and finished this big edit. When it gets shipped off to beta readers, I will publish a date.

In the meantime… I do have some good news…

I am once again working on some novellas. Novellas are easy for me, and I think they help with editing the novels. Writing is a mental lubricant. It helps keep the skids greased, so to speak. And I can write 1,000 words every day on a novella without too much stress, and editing 30,000 – 35,000 words is a LOT easier than editing 150,000+ words.

It was always my intent and vision to write several Ian Mac Roy adventures to go along with Deception at Sea. I thought these little adventure stories would be a good way to explore the world of The Taurin Chronicles through another character who doesn’t have all the complicating factors weighing him down. And since the first Ian novella takes place about two years before Ravenmarked, I always thought it would be fun to write about three novellas around Ian before he shows up in Bloodbonded.

So, with that in mind, I am diligently working on at least two novellas to round out this little trilogy. It is my plan to publish these later this year. It’s not that hard for me to write 1,000 words a day, so I can conceivably write one novella every five or six weeks. Then I need a couple of weeks to polish them, get covers, and do the formatting, and voila! Novella! And with three of them, I might be able to bundle them together into one print book. We’ll see.

I know this is disappointing news for all twelve of you, but I am hoping you will be as gracious and forgiving as you always are. It may not seem like it from the outside, but the truth is that I am clawing my way forward in the realm of managing my life a little better. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m not where I was. Baby steps…

via GIPHY

That said… onward and upward we go! And if anyone has tips for untangling Christmas lights, let me know.

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