The Winter Blahs

It always hits around mid-January, doesn’t it? The holidays are over, you’ve shoveled way more than you want to, you’ve debated moving somewhere warmer for the fifteenth time, and there’s nothing left to do but sit inside in seven layers and wait for spring.

I like to write during this time. I’m not going to be leaving the house much anyway, so I might as well make some productive use of my captivity. I wrote three books in 2017, and a great deal of that work happened in January and February. (And again late in the year in November.) In the spring, I like to be outside, and in the summer, there are conferences and road trips and camping. Winter is a good time to write.

Except  – it’s January 14th and I’ve only put about five thousand words down on paper. But I’m not beating myself up. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be hard on myself. I’m going to follow the same advice I give my students. Sit down and write for at least fifteen minutes a day. No matter what else happens, you can make time for fifteen minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in fifteen minutes a day.

It’s my commitment to myself and my readers. Fifteen minutes a day. I may not write three books this year, but I will definitely write at least one.

 

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2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

NaNoWriMo

I guess after all the updating DURING NaNo, I forgot to mention that I did complete it. I ended at just over 51,000 words, and pretty much the completed bare bones rough draft of my YA fantasy novel. It was a lot of fun and I would probably do it again.

Maybe. If nothing else, it taught me that I could/should be writing a lot more than I generally do. Not that I think I should bust out 50,000 words a month every month. But I could at least be doing 25,000 a month without the rest of my life falling apart.

I had a pretty major push on the second to last day, proving yet again that panic and fear are two of my biggest motivators. Or that goal-setting works. 🙂

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What is giving up?

I sold 91 copies of my most recent novel, Eating Life. 91 copies of a book that took two years to write, countless hours of rewriting, several pass-through revisions with an editor, and, figuratively, a lot of blood and sweat. (The tears were sometimes literal.)

91 copies of what I consider my best work yet.

91 copies of the book that made the most rabid fan of my first novel, Man Enough, the person who read my next two books and said, “Excellent, but no Man Enough,” finally, finally say, “And now I have a new favorite Beth Burnett book.” And it got excellent reviews. Read them for yourself here. And if you have read this book and haven’t reviewed it yet, why not?

91 copies. Enough money to pay the electric bill. For one month.

I know I don’t know how to market. I know I don’t do enough for my books to give them an audience. I know I’m not out there pounding the pavement looking for bookstores that will sponsor readings or repeatedly asking my library to carry my books. I don’t like it, it makes me anxious. I know sitting around hoping someone will set up an event for me and tell me to be there is not going to sell books. I get that.

But I have to admit that I really wish there was someone that did that.

The thing is, I fell in love with Eating Life. I fell in love with the characters. I thought one of them, Ben Stagg, was one of the best characters I have ever invented. So much so that he is going to come back in another book. I love him and the rest and I wanted everyone else to love them, too.

91 copies and I’m finally beginning to wonder if maybe this is not supposed to be my career. I know money isn’t the whole point, but it is part of the point. And it’s a special kind of sadness that comes when my alter ego, who writes short and easy little erotica stories on Amazon, makes more money from those little hour-from-start-to-finish stories than I do on the novels I’ve worked so hard on. Long ago, when I was complaining to a friend about my books not selling as well as I wanted, she said, “Write for yourself, not for an audience.”

Well, if that’s the case, why bother publishing? If the goal is to just write what you love and not let it matter whether or not anyone is reading it, why share it at all?

I’m still writing. I finished an excellent YA fantasy during NaNoWriMo. I have a completed lesbian love story that just needs some revision. And I have a women’s fiction book that is, in my opinion, funnier than much of the bestselling women’s fiction I’ve read.

I still love writing. But I don’t have the heart to deal with everything that comes after. I can’t seem to make myself  research publishers and agents or send out query letters. I think I just need to take a break from it all. Not from writing – from writing for reasons other than to just write.

I’d love to know how other writers deal with this. What do you do when you don’t sell? How do you reconcile marketing versus writing versus deciding to just go get a day job? When do you decide to stop seeing writing as your dream and relegate it back to a hobby?

 

NaNoWriMo Midpoint

I am exactly halfway through November and guess what? I just hit 25,000 words on my manuscript. Seriously. I had to push through to get there. So much for my big, sexy lead in the first week of November.

I am nowhere near the outline I started with… in fact, I’ve just introduced characters who apparently have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the original outline. But I still think I can salvage this.

Except…. now I’m flying blind, my outline is in shambles, and my main character is DEAD. The last part might be a lie.

For the most part, I think I’m holding it all together very well. But I don’t have any clean underwear for work tomorrow.

 

NaNoWriMo

The day before NaNoWriMo and I’m nursing a crap-tastic cold. I figure it’s my body pushing out any possible ickiness before the big month so I’ll be healthy and energetic starting November 1.

I busted out 12,000 words on my last book to finish it before Nano. I finished on Saturday. I’ve cleaned up and submitted the few short stories for contests that were on my to-do list. I sat down on Sunday and wrote a complete beat sheet -based on the awesome book by Blake Snyder “Save the Cat.” (It’s meant for screenwriters, but I find it helps clarify my outlines for novels, too.)

I was ready, I was set…

And now, this morning, I’m obsessed with a character I created ten years ago who has never managed to make it onto paper, and I think my whole plan is in danger of falling through.

Coyote or Anna… Anna or Coyote. I have two outlines open in front of me and I think I’m going to have to play eeny-meeny to figure out which one to write.

Happy almost November, everyone.

 

Top Ten Ways to Have a Happy Life

This popped up in my Facebook memories today. A couple years ago, someone asked me to write my top ten rules for a happy life. It still rings just as true today as it did then.

 

1. Follow your dreams. At least one, at least once, even if it screws up all of the rest of your plans.
2. Love. Love hard. Love even and especially after your heart breaks.
3. Cultivate radical honesty. Some people won’t love the real you, but the ones that do will be the ones you want in your life.
4. Do something really difficult that you thought you couldn’t do. Me: Quit smoking. Got my degree after the age of 40. Walked a slackline. Threw tomahawks. Once you’ve done something you thought you couldn’t do, you have confidence you can do it again and again.
5. Take care of a someone or something that can’t give you the same level of care back. A dog or a child or a cat or a fish.
6. Love your family. Grow your own if you can’t do that with your biological one.
7. Learn to stop talking shit about yourself! And don’t let others do it to you, either.
8. Develop loving friendships with women.
9. Base your happiness on your own life, not on how it compares to others.
10. Recognize your own worth every day in some way. Value you.

Review of ‘Eating Life by Beth Burnett

Kitty Kat's Book Review Blog

Eating Life

Beth Burnett has written a beautiful story of a group of diverse characters whose connections to each other are vital to their happiness. Megan works in the corporate world but is forever linked to her free spirited best friend Casey. At opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of responsibility they give each other something essential. Anna has huge problems but can’t see a way to solve them herself. Brilliant is an accomplished photographer but true love evades her. Ben had that love but despairs and can’t see any light in his future . How each of them impact the other is at the heart of this emotionally-impactful novel. I loved Casey as she was so open and caring and there for people when they needed her.  One of the other characters I was not so keen on but I can’t imagine anyone would like this particular person.  She was…

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Are you a real writer?

I belong to several online writing groups. Some are geared toward feedback, some are instructional, and some, the bulk of them, are simply places for writers to get together and talk about writing. Online groups are an excellent way to connect with other writers when a live writing group isn’t a possibility.

Lately, I’ve found a disturbing trend happening in my groups – maybe it has always been there, but I’ve seen it a lot recently… People telling other people that they aren’t real writers. I have been seeing it constantly in my groups and it is pissing me off. Some new writer who is just learning to break out of the cage of self-doubt and flex those creative skills is going to read these judgmental posts and slip right back in. These are just a few examples of what I mean:

  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t write every day.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t feel compelled to write.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you aren’t almost overwhelmed by your ideas.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you haven’t studied the craft of writing.
  • (My personal favorite) Writing is hard. If you tell me you love writing, I’m going to assume you aren’t a real writer.

 

I’m a writer. I don’t write every day. I don’t always feel compelled to write. I am sometimes overwhelmed with ideas and sometimes, I stare at the blank screen for an hour paralyzed with the fear that all of the ideas have dried up forever. I have studied the craft of writing. I continue to study the craft of writing. I can’t imagine I will ever stop studying the craft of writing. There are a lot of ways to do that and they don’t all involve going to college and many of them are free. The fact that I have a degree in Creative Writing doesn’t make me a more genuine writer than anyone else. In fact, I think I’ve learned more about the craft of writing over the past year than I did in my years of school.

I love writing. I also hate it. Sometimes, I’m afraid of it. And sometimes, it even bores me. It’s a job, it’s a life, it’s a passion, it’s an addiction. It’s a dream come true and a way to make a living. It’s creating worlds and it’s forgetting to move the laundry to the dryer because the story is so compelling, it can’t be stopped until the end. Some days, it’s deciding all the heating vents in the house need to be cleaned because that’s easier than writing. Writing is hard and sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes writing is busting out an incredibly brilliant short story in twenty minutes and sometimes it’s laboring over a submission with a deadline for three weeks.

There is one thing that makes someone a real writer. They write. They write when they can, they write when they’re able. They write. End of story. If you want to be a writer, write.

Now, if you want to be a published writer or a freelance writer or a working writer or a novelist or a blogger or —- Well, that’s a different story.

But whatever you do, don’t sit in judgment of someone else’s writing process. A real writer is too busy focusing on their own work to point a finger at everyone else.