047. Six Resolutions for the New Year

Now that we’ve hit the fourth day of the new year, it’s about time I wrote down my resolution and goals for all to see.

1. Finish my novel. This is a pretty big goal, but it’s a doable one. Originally, following on the heels of National Novel Writing Month, I’d thought I’d be able to get my first draft done by the end of December. That didn’t happen. But my goal of finishing my novel (not just the first draft, but the revisions as well) and beginning to send out to agents by the time I head to New Zealand in September still stands.  My goal is to really finish the first draft by February, edit until May or so, and then write a query and send out over the summer. It’s my main goal this year, and I think I can do it if I buckle down and follow some of my other resolutions.

2. Write every day. This is something that practically every writer resolves to do. I’ve resisted it so far, because I don’t believe that a writer must write every day in order to be successful. One of my favourite authors rejects this idea completely. But the fact of the matter is that over the past few months I’ve really failed to write as much or as diligently as I need to. And in order to ensure that I do better with this, I really need to try to write every day. I know that for me, writing the same novel every day will be a nearly impossible feat. If I force myself to do it when I really, really feel I can’t, it will come out muddled and awful, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to write well and often — I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. So my goal instead is to write something every day: whether it’s a blog post, an entry for Brigits Flame, a random scene, backstory, or part of my novel. My goal now? To try and write my novel three or four times a week, with at least 1000 words done per day. It’s a doable goal, and as I grow more comfortable with the plan and the routine, I’ll increase the writing time and the word count.

3. Read a book a week. I want to try to read for at least one hour every day, but I think more importantly is reading at least one book per week. It’s less rigid than giving myself a length of time I must read per day, but it will certainly ensure that I’m reading (or rereading) at a good pace. Because as a writer — and as someone who wants to be an agent or editor — it’s absolutely essential that I continue to read with as much passion and interest as I write. I’d also like to vary my subject matter, alternating rereading books to choosing new books in a variety of genres — not just fiction, or even the genres of fiction I tend to gravitate towards. I will, of course, write reviews as well.

4. Go to the gym more. I want to go three times a week. Not twice. I really want to get into better shape, and going to the gym three times a week will really help with that — especially since it’s going to start getting too cold to simply walk everywhere instead of taking the bus or the T.

5. Cook more, cook differently, cook healthier. This seems like three resolutions, but for me, it’s only one. I love food. I am an enormous foodie, and I’ve been getting more interested in cooking because of this. This year, I want to make at least one new and interesting recipe a week, whether it’s a three hour roast, a simple but tasty soup, or a complicated and exotic Thai recipe. In the past, I’ve shied away from buying “strange,” expensive, or specialty ingredients for a variety of reasons. Some of them, like, say, squid, I have no idea how to cook properly. Some things, like duck, are too pricy to get on a regular basis. And lemongrass is only good for a couple of cuisines. But I think it’ll be worth it to, at least once a week, try something brand new, and at least once a month, get a more … expensive and “impractical” ingredient to work with, just to change things up. Because let’s be honest — pasta’s tasty, but it’s hardly the healthiest meal option. But if I can find ways to cook pasta with different sauces, different garnishes, etc. that may be a bit healthier, it’ll be great.

6. Save money. I’m not good at this. I’ve gotten much better about making coffee instead of buying it from Peet’s or Starbucks, and I don’t eat out too much. But I still eat out more than I should; I still spend more at bars than I ought to. I still buy things that I don’t really need, even if I’ve really done a good job at cutting down the frivolous spending. But I need to get much better at this — whether it’s getting cheaper items on menus, forgoing a latte and sticking with plain coffee or tea, or simply not purchasing things I don’t actually need. I think it’s doable — if a bit difficult.

So these are my resolutions for the new year — and hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with them.

021. In Which I Am The Unpaid Spokesperson for Scrivener.

It’s hard to organize my writing. I have my manuscript, which I like to have in one document, as well as split into separate documents for each chapter. Then I have my research — in this case, research on forensic psychology, on serial killers, on true crime cases, on forensic science. I have character profiles, notes on my crime scenes (including the evidence discovered and the victimology, among other things) — and if you put all of these things together, it adds up to having approximately two to six documents up at one time.

The other day, I found the solution to all of my writing issues. Its name is Scrivener, and it’s the most amazing program to ever grace this planet. I now can have all my information in one place, split the screen to reflect what I need, have floating windows that have reference material inside. It has a template for a novel manuscript; it allows me to even have a murder board, and multiple murder boards within the main one. It’s unfathomable.

Each time you make a new “page” within your project, you have an index card attached to it, which allows you to summarize that part of the manuscript. And that, of course, makes it super easy to outline. And don’t even get me started on the full screen mode.

Here are some screen shots of my particular work in Scrivener:

Corkboard view of my manuscript outline (so far), organised chapter by chapter. Lower half of the split screen is the text of chapter two.

The outline of my manuscript in the outline format. Very, very handy.

Character profiles: half of the screen as the corkboard view, the bottom half is Lilly's profile.

My main murder board is on top, mini board on the bottom (for the second victim).

015. Writing Things That No One Cares About.

So today I did something crazy: I started a crossover between my Black Angels series and What the Dark Looks Like. I feel odd about it, but simultaneously somewhat good about it. I think good things could come of it. Why? Several reasons.

ONE: Black Angels needs some serious revamping. It’s my oldest series. It’s got most of my oldest characters, including Sullivan. He’s changed as I have over the years, and has followed me through my most self-indulgent plot years. But now I’m a writer. Not just some kid trying to be one. Regardless of how people feel about my work, or how sometimes I feel really down on myself and don’t think I can make it in the Real World, I am an artist, a writer. And I can see things more objectively now. That means that Sullivan and co are becoming more fleshed out, more like real people and less like impossible personalities. It also means that I now recognise that my plot is no longer working. My characters have evolved and my plot has gone nowhere. And that's why I've been unable to write more than tiny character studies. I need to cut characters, add new ones, maybe change settings. I need to do research. I need to change up backstories. And honestly, uprooting Sullivan from his usual universe and combining it with WTDLL might give me some fresh ideas and a new perspective.

TWO: Marshall's got a backstory. But between his time at the academy and his move to New York is fuzzy. And I need more. I also just want to have some time to work with Marshall without Lilly; he never really gets to shine on his own now that I have the book in Lilly's first person POV.

And who knows? Maybe it'll work out in the long run.

008. Decisions, Decisions.

Writing-wise, things are looking up.

Novel is moving along smoothly, for now. Kate read the reworked first two chapters, and she agreed that first person is working out better. That’s one third of the opinions I want/need, but I’m not going to wait forever. If I don’t hear back definitively by Sunday, I’m moving forward and trusting my gut, which does officially say “LILLY FIRST PERSON POV” in large capital letters and a very loud, grumbly voice. Or maybe I’m just hungry.

I’m coming closer to a decision on The Catharsis; I’m 70% leaning towards not reapplying. Why? The following reasons:
1. I’m not happy with the prompts. At all. They’re uninspiring.
2. I don’t like various things about the structure of the magazine, and there’s no real way to change that.
3. I’m going to be working a LOT on my novel, and I don’t need the added distraction.
4. I’d rather keep writing for the weekly/monthly contests at Brigits Flame, which is a livejournal community that Jen and I participate in. I like competitions, the prompts are usually quite good, and I’ve gotten a relatively large fanbase there. I get feedback from multiple people (Jen included) and I write a lot more, and can also use this as an unofficial sounding board for my novel and other novel-length ideas.

Also, (un)fortunately — it really depends on how you look at this — the prompt for this week at the Flame in the regular contest (not the all-stars, which I’m also in) ended up inspiring a possible sequel for my first novel. I have the profile of the killer already. And a possible love interest for Marshall. I’m going to try and do something with it for this month’s contest, and then put it away and deal with it after the first novel’s been written.

In non-writing news: I hung out with Mirela today. Went to Smyrna. Hung out with Kate at Borders. Played Setback FOREVER. Watched Top Chef All-Stars. Tomorrow, I go shopping for internship clothings with Jen and Kate, and then see Black Swan with them! Yay! So excited. I’ll talk about how it is tomorrow. Which … actually is today. Fancy that.

007. Point of View Dilemmas.

I finished rewriting chapters one and two from Lilly’s first person POV. I’ve sent it off to Ali, Jen, and Kate for feedback. But my personal, gut feeling is that it’s working out better this way. I feel like the chronology, the dialogue, the personalities of the characters are less … forced, somehow. I feel like they’re naturally falling into place instead of my hand pushing all these elements into place. Of course, granted, that feeling could just be attributed to the fact that I’ve been rewriting instead of writing new chapters, and so I already have a base. But I’ll see what they think.

In other news, I have some decisions to make. One important decision is about the Catharsis. I applied for assistant editor and didn’t get it. Which is fine, because they probably wanted someone who would graduate after Jess, so she could therefore take over the permanent position, whereas I’m leaving in August. But … man. Their prompts are awful, the website is awful and they refuse to ask for help (even though they self-admittedly have no idea what they’re doing), and their way of structuring editing is terrible. I mean … I like Jess a lot. I respect her, I think she’s sweet, and she’s a good writer. But she isn’t better than me, she’s got no real authority, and she wasn’t voted into her position. So what makes her feedback better than anyone else’s? And the fact that only one person edits all the pieces in one genre … that’s ridiculous. That’s what workshops are for. And I’m not a fan of the fact that they clearly don’t know how to run anything. On the other hand, I do like Jess, Kimya, and Christine, and of course some of the other people in the club. But do I really want to go to campus for something I don’t care much about? Am I really proud of anything I send to them? I don’t know. It’s a bit of a dilemma, and the draft for January is due in twelve days. And the application.

We’ll see what happens with that.

009. Black Swan.

Went shopping yesterday. Came back with nothing. And I saw Black Swan, which was quite good but not what I expected. I loved watching it. I thought the dance scenes were exquisite, and Natalie Portman’s acting was just … phenomenal. I expected more of Mila Kunis’ character, and I felt that she needed to be involved more — in the sense that her character ACTUALLY needed to be present for more real-life scenes to warrant the sexual fantasy/paranoia that Nina feels. I also thought the mother’s character could’ve been developed a bit more. Basically, I thought that the narrative didn’t match up to the psychological power of Natalie Portman’s performance. But god, was it good.

Today is Friday. This means I only have three days, including this day, left in Ramsey. I’m not too happy about that, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. Today, Jen and I are going into the city (too bad it’s snowing. A lot.) and seeing Trent Reznor speak at the New York Times’ Arts & Leisure weekend. The event doesn’t start until 8 (and only goes for an hour fifteen), so we’re going in a little early to spend time with Jen’s boyfriend, who I’m very excited to meet.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Still waiting on feedback. And I’m about 1500 words into the sequel. Wheeee.

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