Finding Our Footing—CoronaLife Day 544

We have a few days of school under our belts now, and we are starting to find our footing. I am getting used to having time to myself again, after a full 18 months of remote learning/summer. So far I have not been using my time wisely, but that is typical for me at the beginning of the school year. It’s almost like having so much free time paralyzes me with choices. But I know that will settle down.

My daughter is also starting middle school, so that’s a big change for her. But she, too, is starting to find her footing in more ways than one. We are also transitioning from her walking boot to a walking brace starting today, and hopefully her ankle will be back to full strength October 1st, when the brace is due to come off.

Although I have been spending time doing a lot of “catch up” work (little things I never seemed to find time for while my daughter was home) and searching out last-minute school supplies that I didn’t realize we needed until we actually got there, I HAVE made progress on the genealogy book.

I should finish indexing the final chapter today. Whoo hoo! After that, the equally painstaking job of formatting the book properly, making sure the margins and page numbers are correct, and that page breaks do not fall at inopportune places, begins. Once that’s done, I will send it to my proofreader to catch all the mistakes I thought I caught but didn’t.

Finding our footing has been a bit harder this year, as we spent the last 18 months in a period where every day was much the same, and time seemed to stretch endlessly. Then, abruptly, on Friday, everything changed and we were back in the world. It is disconcerting and a bit overwhelming.

But we will get through it, as we do every September, and hopefully COVID will not hit our school and send us back to remote. Whatever happens, we will adjust.

We always find our footing.

An Unexpected Break—CoronaLife Day 516

So there I was, chugging away at my maternal genealogy book. Compiling and indexing until I was dizzy. Deciding who was important enough to add to the Name Index, what places I would tag in the Place Index. Figuring out how to insert section breaks and make my indexes into two columns. Coming along well and then…an unexpected break.

My daughter broke her ankle.

She broke it walking. Inside. On a flat, clean, carpeted floor. She was texting her friend, and she likes to pace while she texts, and somehow…she broke her ankle. All I know is that she started yelling, “Mom! Mom! I think something snapped!”

Sunday was the emergency room. Monday was the orthopedic urgent care. The end result was a boot and crutches. Tuesday we both recuperated. Today I went to the library to get her a bag of books to read over the next few weeks.

Therefore, I have not gotten much more work on the genealogy book this week. On the other hand, I HAVE been getting a good workout running up and down the stairs bringing stuff to my daughter, since she can’t carry anything up and down the stairs. I might lose some weight out of this deal.

My plan is to get back to the book tomorrow (well, today by the time this posts). Aside from a follow-up on Friday, things should be quiet. The ankle break was very small, so perhaps we will get the go-ahead to be weight-bearing on Friday. It would be great if we do, because my daughter has mostly ignored the crutches anyway and just hops around the house. I worry she will injure her good leg, and then where will we be?

Hopefully things stay quiet, because our Norse Lineage awaits!

Nuts and Bolts—CoronaLife Day 509

I am progressing on my maternal genealogy book, getting into the nuts and bolts of putting it together.

I realized many of my trees were too large for the page size, and some of the tree would be lost in the binding. So I resized all of them to fit properly.

Up until now, all my chapters were in separate files. So now I am compiling of them into a single file. I proofread one more time, then paste it into the compiled book file. Because the margins are slightly different (I need a wider margin on the binding side), there is usually some minor cleanup of each chapter.

I then make sure each chapter is a new section, and add the chapter header. Then I go through the laborious project of tagging each person and location for my indexes.

The indexes are driving me a bit crazy. While the Name Index is fine, the Place Index refuses to wrap into two columns, thus leaving half the page blank. As far as I can tell, both indexes were set up the same, just referencing different tags.

I did multiple indexes successfully for my father’s book, so I know it can be done. I will look back at my father’s book and see how I did it there. Perhaps that will give me the answer.

As painstaking as this part of the process is, I feel like I am making decent progress. Five chapters down, twelve to go!

After this, I need to do the artwork for the book. Cover, chapter pages, any photos I want to include. Those will also be painstaking, but fun to do.

Onward!

The Non-Writing Part of Writing—CoronaLife Day 432

This was one of those weeks where my other responsibilities fell on me hard, and I got very little done on any writing front. Although I hate weeks like that, they happen and I have to learn to roll with it.

People who are not writers think that if we are not getting words on the page, we are not writing. And while that may technically be true, that doesn’t mean we are not making some sort of writing progress.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I have been struggling with rewrites of my science fiction YA novel, Veritas. I’ve been chipping away at it, and feeling fairly happy with the new direction, but I have put it aside for now while I work on the non-fiction genealogy book. I am not in the right headspace to dive into fiction at the moment, so it is a good detour for me to take.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. I sometimes get ideas that I hurry to jot down in the notes for when I return. And I recently have been enjoying K.M. Weiland’s blog series on archetypes, which is making me think differently about not just Veritas, but the structure of possible follow-on books in a series.

So, my subconscious has been chewing on Veritas while I’ve been away. And I am also re-thinking the first chapter of another project, this one middle grade, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I really love this book, but it has not found a traditional home. My co-author and I are contemplating self-publishing it, but I feel that the first chapter is our issue. We get conflicting feedback about it—some feel it is confusing, others are just fine with it. I think if we can get that right, we might yet find it a traditional home.

I also have another project that is not even on a back burner, more like on the warming pan. It is the sequel to my published book, The Witch of Zal. The first draft is written, but it needs a good deal of editing. And I am in the process of getting a new cover and illustrations for Book 1, before I move on with publishing Book 2.

As you can see, I have been doing a lot of non-writing writing. Sometimes you can move forward even when you aren’t putting words on the page.

How are you advancing your writing these days?

Creating a Continuity Checklist—CoronaLife Day 425

I am working on my maternal line genealogy book, as most of you know. I had hoped to be a bit further on in this project by now, but other things came up this week that got in the way. Such is the life of a writer!

I didn’t get into the actual revisions as I had hoped, but I did get the checklist made up. When I write fiction, I am not a super-plotter, I lean more towards the pantser, but not totally. Nonfiction is a bit different, however. I used a Table of Contents to guide my initial writing, and at this point in the process I need to check for continuity. It would be foolish to try to do it all from memory. So I created a checklist in Excel. The first column lists all the chapters, and then the other columns are the things I need to check/fix/revise.

I have 14 chapters in the book, and 6 categories I need to check: Tense, Children, Cross-Lnking, Chapter Headings (& Subheadings), Chapter Title Pages, and Trees. Six categories doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? (*laughs hysterically*)

  • Tense means checking that I have used past tense throughout the chapter. In most cases, I have not, so this is the category that will take the most time.
  • Children is making sure I structured the children’s list for each chapter the same—did I use the same bullet points, did I include birth and death dates, did I highlight the direct ancestor child’s name only or name and dates?
  • Cross-linking is where I mention someone from another lineage within the current lineage, so I then put in parentheses (see [Surname] Lineage). Usually this is at the end of the chapter, when a woman leaves her surname for her husband, or in a subheading under the female’s name. Sometimes, however, neighboring families appear in the same historical events, so I need to mention that someone from another family was also involved, and which chapter they can be found in.
  • Chapter headings is pretty obvious. Did I use the same font, the same font size? Are the subheadings all the same? I also put the chapter name up in the header portion of the page. Did I actually do that? Are they all the same size, font, weight?
  • Chapter title pages precede the actual chapter. I still am trying to design those. Something simple but readable. I’d like to use some sort of graphic or photo, but that’s what I am still stumped on.
  • Family trees that also precede each chapter. I have most of them created, but I need to double-check them as for some families I now have more information on them than I had when I made the trees. And there are several chapters that I don’t have them done yet at all.

Once I get that done, I will compile all the chapters and work on the Indexes. I usually have three: Name, Place, and Cemetery. I know Word has a way to create indexes, because I used it for my father’s book, but I have long since forgotten how to do it and will need to re-teach myself.

That will all keep me busy for a while! I will keep you apprised of my progress.

How are your projects coming along?

Making Life Manageable—CoronaLife Day 250

First, because I know you are all waiting breathlessly, Zippy the fish is still alive as of this writing. I’m still keeping a close eye on the ammonia levels, and changing out water a couple of times a day, but it’s fairly stable.

Second, I am deep cleaning my house. No, not because of COVID exposure–because it badly needs it. It has been bugging me for a while now, but I haven’t had the motivation to actually embark on what seemed an insurmountable project.

I am not the neatest person in the world. (My mother will snort diet Pepsi out her nose when reading that understatement.) I am MUCH neater than I was when I was younger, mostly out of necessity. (When you reach a certain age, having specific places for things cuts down on the “where-did-I-put-that” moments.) I keep up with the must-cleans—bathrooms, kitchen, laundry. You know. But the rest of my house can go a while between good scrubbings. We are far from filthy, but I will not be winning any Good Housekeeping awards. And with a child who somehow manages to leave a trail behind her everywhere she goes, it is a bit of a Sisyphean task to start with.

However, when properly motivated, I can get a lot done quickly. That motivation is usually in the form of a parental unit coming over. We are not doing a Thanksgiving gathering in the Year of COVID, but my mother-in-law will be coming up to stay with us until the New Year. (We are all quarantining for 14 days prior to her arrival.) Nothing like a visitor to make you see the dust on the unused surfaces and the stuff stashed in corners for you to sort through “later”. Well, later is now.

We got rid of several bags of stuff, with more to go. Rooms are neat, carpets are clean, surfaces are shiny. Did I get every nook and cranny? No. There’s always more to do. Every time you clean something, the thing next to it starts to look dirty. But it is miles ahead of where I was at the beginning of the week.

Decluttering and heavy cleaning has made me feel a bit better (psychologically—physically it has reminded me that I am approaching a certain milestone birthday). The one good thing about cleaning is that when you have finished a room, you have that instant gratification of a job well done. And you’d best take that gratification instantly, because the next minute someone tracks in a leaf particle or a dust bunny hops in or crumbs somehow magically appear.

I tackled this huge job by breaking it down into smaller jobs—one room a day. By making it manageable, I could break that mental barrier down and get started, get it done. I tend to do this with my writing, too. I tell myself to just do one chapter, whether it be drafting or editing. Makes it feel achievable. With the writing, I usually end up doing more than one chapter, once I start.

Not so much with the cleaning. 😉

Whatever task you are facing that seems huge this holiday season, break it into its component parts. Make each one manageable, and savor the victory of each piece completed. You’ll be done before you know it!

Routines and Revisions – CoronaLife Day 187

This is my daughter’s second week of remote learning, and we are settling into a routine again. Unfortunately for me, every school-time routine means I don’t get enough sleep. No matter how hard I try, it is always later than I want it to be before I get to bed, and that alarm goes off awfully early in the morning.

However, a routine is helpful. My daughter is old enough now that she does not need constant help with her schoolwork. Unlike the spring remote learning, where we were all simply trying not to drown, her teacher is online live with her and the class for 4 straight hours (with small breaks in between lessons so the kids can move around, go to the bathroom, etc). Then a lunch break, then my daughter goes back up to her “art studio” to do her Specials work and anything she hasn’t finished in class.

Since she also makes her own breakfast and lunch, that leaves my day more open than it has been all summer. It’s still hard to concentrate, because my daughter pops down at every break to chat, but I can get some work done during the daylight hours (if I can stay awake!). As a result, I have been able to work some more on revising Veritas later in the afternoon and evenings.

As I said in a previous post, I have been using Lisa Cron’s Story Genius to revise, but I got hung up on what she calls the third rail—those competing desires that fuel the inner conflict of your protagonist. I wasn’t quite understanding it, or at least I could not clarify it enough to find one that felt “right” for Veritas, until I spoke to my friend Kathryn Craft, who is a wonderful developmental editor. She reframed the idea for me, coming at it from several other angles, and at last I “saw” what I needed.

I have spent the past week chipping away at the rest of Story Genius, laying the groundwork which will both support and propel the story. I feel like it’s finally coming together. This is a major revision of an already well-polished story, and what I am finding is that all the pieces I needed were already in the story—I just have to put them together in a different way. So, yay to my subconscious for knowing what needed to be in there, even while my conscious brain missed the point.

My plan from here on out, now that I think I grasp what I need to do, is to use Cron’s Story Cards concept to examine my existing scenes and align them with my new insights, and figure out if any more need to be added (or deleted). We shall see how it goes.

How are you settling into your fall routine? Is it much different from your summer one?

Slow Days of August – CoronaLife Day 166

This week has been slow for me, although productive. My Board of Education duties took up a great deal of time this week, with policies to review (they are good for curing insomnia).

I am also beta-reading a manuscript with my daughter. My friend Keith Strunk wrote a middle grade book and asked my 10-year-old daughter to give him her thoughts. I am reading it with her because she is always scared to read a new author alone, and it is a fun thing we can share. I was also glad to do it because I have been hearing about this book for a long time and couldn’t wait to finally see the finished story!

In my own work, I had gotten hung up with revisiting my story Vertias. Lisa Cron’s Story Genius was guiding me well, but then I ran aground on a concept I could not quite wrap my head around. I felt I was very close to crafting a compelling “third rail,” but I knew I didn’t quite have it. So I turned to my friend, author and editor Kathryn Craft, who simplified the concept and came at it from another angle so my pandemic brain could comprehend it properly. I need to re-read all that she put in her insightful and detailed email to me, but once I do I think I will be able to move forward with more confidence. I feel that if I can get this right, get the beginning right, the rest will follow more easily.

As summer comes to a close, we are preparing for a new school year. It will be unlike the beginning of any other school year ever, but we are up for the adventure and we know we will all get through it together.

How are you spending these last weeks of summer?

Family & Frustration – CoronaLife Day 159

We got tested for coronavirus at the end of July and it took 2 weeks to get the results. We got tested because we were trying to get my daughter together with her best friend for a long weekend, so both families were going to get tested. That didn’t work out, but we decided not to waste our tests, so we went to visit my parents for only the 2nd time since February.

We had a nice visit outside, distanced, with masks when we had to use the rest room, but this time we visited longer because it didn’t rain on us. My mother is recovering from back surgery, so it was good to see how she was healing. Our visit made the day feel almost normal, like pre-COVID times.

The writing front was not so fulfilling. I reported last week that I was making progress with Veritas by using Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. For a brief time I thought I finally had figured out my character’s “third rail” – what she wants vs. a misbelief that holds her back. But now I am not so sure I managed it, and the frustration has returned. I am hoping for some inspiration, or for something to “click” but sometimes I think maybe this just isn’t a story I am capable of telling.

I wonder how much of my struggle is the pandemic pressure. We have all been home pretty much 24/7 since mid-March, and my introverted self is feeling oppressed by it all. That and the constant anxiety suppresses creativity, at least for me. But with no end in sight, I will have to figure out how to work through it, because NOT writing is galling to me.

Hopefully next week I will have more forward movement to report on Veritas. I’m not giving up!

A Present Normal – Lockdown Day 47

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is May 1st. The month of March seemed to be about 3 years long, but April sped by. Perhaps this is a sign that I am adjusting to the new normal. Or perhaps I should call it the present normal, because the situation is ever-evolving, and there can be no true new normal until we have a treatment or vaccine for this virus.

In my present normal, I am able to indulge my night owl tendencies to an extent, by getting up a couple of hours later than I did when we had to be out the door for school, and therefore be able to stay up a few hours later at night. In spite of this, I really don’t feel well-rested. I am too on edge to sleep deeply and well. My anxiety is strange, in that when I am at a certain level of anxiety, I feel the urge to not sleep. As if my being awake can stave off whatever impending doom I am fretting about. I did this the night Superstorm Sandy blew through, as if my prowling the windows all night long could keep us safe. Apparently, that’s the level of stress I am currently experiencing. If I move into deeper stress, I move into the I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time escape mode. I am not there yet—and hope to avoid getting there.

Also in my present normal, I spend more time than I thought I would helping my daughter with her schoolwork. A large part of that is organizing and time management. My daughter’s organizational and time management skills are non-existent, so I spend a lot of my day putting her back on track and helping her with things she doesn’t understand. I also spend a lot of time feeding her. She eats constantly, but you’d never know it to look at her. Of course, she has grown an inch and a half in the last 4 months, so perhaps that explains the voracious appetite!

The one thing my present normal does not have is writing time. Part of it is because I am doing a lot more work with everyone home. Part of it is “pandemic brain” where a lot of the time my brain is fuzzy and it’s all I can do just to put out fires, forget about creativity. But even when my creative brain is working, I can’t seem to get to putting words on paper. I need some quiet alone time to do that, and that simply does not exist right now.

So hopefully my future present normal will have some time for that. I might have to wait until summer, when my daughter’s school will be out and I won’t have that time issue. But finding that time is my next challenge, the next step toward an inner normalcy, if not an external one.

How are all of you doing out there? How are you finding a new balance in this new world?

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien