Business Musings: Focus Again (A Process Blog)
I had two major challenges in 2021. The first was the stupid pandemic. I hadn’t realized how much of my brain it consumed. Even after I wrote the blog called “Focus,” I still wasn’t back 100%. At some point in early 2022, I clicked over to this: Covid will be ever with us, and I needed to put the fear and the hypervigilance in its place. The way I do when I drive on the freeway (which I hate) or when I enter a tough situation.
Yes, yes, I know: there’s still a lot to be done with Covid, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be done with Covid in our lifetimes, but I’m learning to live with it.
Making that decision, as I mentioned in the previous focus post, helped. I can’t say I made that decision one day and everything changed the next. It’s been a process, a rather slow one, to be honest.
The other challenge I gave myself in 2021 was to work on the Fey. I had blamed traditional publishing for the fact that the next series didn’t exist and while that was true, it’s not the whole story.
I have a lot of baggage on that series. A lot. All the bad things that can happen in traditional publishing happened to me on those books. All of them. We set up a Kickstarter to get me off my ass to write the books. I promised a novella, which was easier said than done.
First, there’s the 20 years of stopped-up idea-making. I knew where the books were going next. I knew I needed to do some world-building. I knew the next books would have a touch of steampunk, which, ironically, was not even a recognized subgenre when I came up with that idea, and now is damn near passé.
An editor rewrote me horribly, and did some of the work without my permission to make chapters shorter. So the rereads were traumatizing. I did them by hand, so I had to put in the corrections and restore what I could (because some of the original files were lost). I stalled out.
But I kept writing on the Fey project. Since I write out of order, it took me most of the year to realize I was writing outlines for the next several books. I’d write maybe 100 pages of the book and then outline. I’m good at writing something that seems like fiction, but really isn’t.
That’s what I was doing.
I finally sorted out that mess, but the story just wasn’t flowing. I blamed the pandemic. Then I found the novella at the heart of everything, figuring that would solve the problem. Nope.
But it did mean that the deadline pressure was gone. The novella is out and I’m very pleased with it. But the writing still didn’t get smoother.
Until one morning, I woke up and realized I needed to schedule my writing year. I hadn’t over-scheduled my writing year in maybe ten years. First, I was so sick that I didn’t dare. (I underscheduled then.) Then, I stopped trying to schedule at all. (Nearly died, so was focused on just finishing words.) Then we moved (always disruptive). I got better…and the damn pandemic hit and ate my brain.
So figuring out the schedule made Dean happy. (“You’re back!” he said. Yeah, maybe he’s right.)
But it also made my subconscious happy.
What does figuring out the schedule mean? It means I had to figure out what I was writing when. Then I had to figure out a realistic word count for the week/day. Then I had to do math to figure out when I would finish Project #1 and so on and so forth.
I know myself well enough to know that I can’t write the same subgenre for each and every project. So I had to switch off.
I outlined it all…and I not only mentally relaxed, the stories started flowing. I was able to get lost in them. I would wake up and there, in my brain, was the solution to some problem I hadn’t even realized I had in the book(s).
I’m excited about writing again.
I think this is because I believe I have a future. Or we have a future. Or as much of a future as the human race always has, subject to the whims of crazy leaders and stupid viruses and personal emergencies (note the word personal, not a worldwide emergency like we’ve been living in).
It’s not normal. As some grumpy pundit said about the whole returning to normal movement: there was no normal before the pandemic. There was just what we were used to.
My brain has transitioned into a world filled with Covid and other problems. I feel less of a need to be hypervigilant about the world around me, and I’m able to escape into a world I invent.
And I have to be organized to do that, or I write bits and pieces of a million different things, like I was doing.
How did I schedule? Rather simple really. Here’s an outline of the method:
- Book 1 will be (roughly) 120K. Which will take roughly 8 weeks. Add a week of leeway, and that’s 9 weeks.
- Project 2, a novella, which will take max 3 weeks before it’s not a novella, but a novel. But that gives an extra week of leeway.
- Book 2 (roughly) 80K. Which will take 5 weeks, with that leeway…
And so on and so forth. The first two or three books/projects are always clear to me. The remaining ones for the year are hopes/guesses that might or might not work out.
Because when I finish Project 1, I will reassess, like I used to do, over ten years ago.
I can’t tell you how good this feels. Sure, I feel like I got my brain back, but more than that. I feel like I found my joy in creativity again.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a project to finish. Not today, of course. But in a few weeks. But to get there, I need to move forward. Pages, word count, story.
It’s nice to be back.
It’s nice to have fun again.
It’s been a long time coming.
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“Business Musings: Focus Again,” copyright © 2022 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / prometeus.
I stumbled on this video today, that seems to echo what you are saying.
The Greatest Song Ever Went Nowhere
I’ve watched the video multiple times now, and the song is haunting, and so is the story.
There are so many stories, ready to go, that are collecting “digital dust” because they never got published.
Wow, congratulations on getting to the other side. As someone with chronic issues I know what a victory that is. Not only to get well enough, but to lean into it and trust it will hold.
Go kick ass and have a blast doing it!
Good to have you back. 🙂
Great article, Kristine! So glad you’re getting your groove back…but I do have to disagree with one small point. Steampunk will never be passe. LOL
I hope you’re right!