End of the Month Wrap-Up: January 2020!

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A good and productive month in some ways, not so much in others.

I read 18 books. Yes, I DNF’d four of them at various points, but still, that’s an outstanding month for me. I blame my enthusiasm for starting a fresh year of challenges!

I made my self-imposed mid-month deadline for rereading #rockstarnovel and all the note-taking that required, to organize the rewriting phase, which I’ve started since. I’m almost a quarter of the way through already, just counting by chapters complete, so I’m ahead of the pace I need, in theory, to meet my next deadline for finishing this draft: the end of March.

I barely exercised at all, I admit it. I ran once, I went for a few walks, I did no yoga. Running in winter in Michigan is a difficult proposition, and I was hoping to really push myself this season, and it didn’t happen. (I did run yesterday, since it was above freezing, but that’s February!)

I was also diligent about practicing my drawing at least every other day, for the first weeks of the month, but as I spent more time writing I had difficulty making time for art. The good news is, with a year-long goal, I can use each monthly wrap-up to assess my progress and what I can do to make it easier for myself to keep up.

So the goals for February are as follows:

  1. Read all the books on my challenge TBR and hopefully at least two or three others;
  2. Get at least halfway through the #rockstarnovel rewrite;
  3. Spend time drawing every day (as often as possible) or at least every other day;
  4. Run three times a week (under reasonable weather conditions, so that’s flexible);
  5. And on the video game front, replay the beginning of, then finally finish, Kentucky Route Zero because the final episode dropped after many, many years of waiting.

End of the Month Wrap-Up: November 2019!

Writing: Since I just made a post about NaNoWriMo two days ago, I won’t rehash it here other than to say I won! and pat myself on the back one more time. In the “other” writing category, I was more consistent about blog posts than I had been (at least in the sense of putting them up a day late when necessary, rather than skipping them entirely) and I intend to be more diligent about that in the future.

Reading: With my increased project-management skills for NaNo this year, I had more time to read even as I was getting my writing done every day. I read fifteen books in November, a good turnout for a regular month and a fantastic amount for November. (The fewest I’ve read in a November since I started tracking was in 2015, when I only read three books. Which for me is pretty much nothing.) In addition, I finished Mount TBR 2019, set this year at 100 of My Own Damn Books, and the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. I have one year-long challenge left to go, Virtual Mount TBR, 48 books from my TBR that I don’t own (and thus get from the library or borrow from friends,) but I only have one to go, so, pshh, easy peasy.

Crafting: I did not bother to take a new picture of the giant cross-stitch project, because I did not work on it. I haven’t ignored my crafty side completely, I’ve just been busy with Christmas gifts instead, which I won’t enumerate just in case the family members receiving them are still reading this blog. Which I’m almost certain they aren’t, but what a stupid way to spoil something! I’m taking that project with me for the traditional New Year’s visit to my husband’s family, so there will be progress made before the next update, I swear.

Exercise: I was doing great with my running, going out consistently three times a week no matter the weather, even upgrading some of my cold-weather running gear. Then I got sick, because this year’s cold and flu season is already vicious. I haven’t been running since, and I got lazy about yoga again. As soon as my lingering congestion clears up, though, I’ll be back at it.

General mental health: It’s been a good month, coming near the end of a year filled with lots of positive changes. That’s not to say I haven’t been stressed or had days where I felt down, but I can say pretty confidently that both my depression and anxiety symptoms are easing up, and that I’m looking forward to a lot I plan to do in December and in 2020. Things really do get better!

End of the Month Wrap-Up: October 2019!

So I was so completely obsessing about NaNo and dealing with extra hours at work that I forgot to make a monthly wrap up post for October!

Here we go:

Writing was mostly limited to NaNo prep, feeling vaguely guilty about failing to rewrite #spookyromancenovel, putting some effort into it anyway by collating my beta reader feedback from the various channels it used to reach me, and writing blog posts. Not a productive month, but they can’t all be. November is going much better so far.

Reading! I read twelve books, only DNF’d one of them. I am ONE book away from having read all of the books I acquired in 2016, so before the end of the year I shall briefly reduce my backlog gap from three years to two, only to have it bounce right back up in 2020 when I need to finish off the many, many 2017 books I haven’t gotten to. I am making progress on all three of my yearly challenges as well, and might conceivably finish them all by the end of November, leaving December free to read whatever the hell I want and tick those Mount TBR/Virtual Mount TBR numbers higher.

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Crafting: I did not, in fact, keep up my pace with the cross stitch project, though I did make some progress since the last photograph, at least. Look, I had to move the hoop!

In fact, I haven’t touched it in weeks, because I do things in phases and devoting myself to a project that long-term is going to generate a few bumps in the road. Also, working with that many shades of nearly identical green does require good lighting, and Michigan in fall/winter is not the best for sunlight. I will pick it up again soon. If not during NaNo, then definitely in December when I’ve got my yearly family visit and I’ll need crafting to keep me busy on the car trip and in whatever down time we’re all sitting around chatting/watching television. What will I do instead? Get to crafting the Christmas presents I’ve been ignoring all year to make or do other things, of course! What would the holiday season be without the last-minute gift making rush?

Exercise! Here, I’ve been doing exceptionally well (for me, anyway.) I have been running three times a week consistently since the last week of September. I challenged myself to finally set a PR for a 5K run, and I did, though it’s not a great time and I feel no need to share it until I’ve improved it somewhat. I’m slowly upgrading my running gear to be more cold-weather appropriate. I’ve been exploring different nature trails than the ones I usually run. I feel like a real runner again. A beginner, but not a terrible one. It’s a great feeling. I intend to run as much as safely possible through the winter, a feat I’ve never attempted before.

 

End of the Month Wrap-Up: September 2019!

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As my post history clearly shows, I wasn’t around much in September. I put in a lot of extra hours at work, didn’t do much writing, didn’t make much progress on the new revision draft of #spookyromancenovel, didn’t have much to share. I was in a slump.

So what did I do? Well, I still read a fair bit, though nothing like my August reading. I read and reviewed eleven books. I’m down to just one book left from the huge amount (over 300!) that I acquired in 2016 and have been trying to catch up with ever since–the remaining one just happens to be book #7 in a long series (the Realms of the Elderlings) and I’m currently reading #5 to get myself there. Definitely will make it by the end of the year. I’m closing in on my numerical goals for Mount TBR (83/100) and Virtual Mount TBR (41/48), so I should have no problem finishing those, too. I have 11 tasks left (of 50) for the PopSugar Reading Challenge, so I’m just ahead of pace there, as well. As I’m not participating in any monthly reading challenges specifically for October, as I have been the last several months, my plan is to prioritize PopSugar instead.

What else? The bread picture above is not mine–thank you, Pixabay–but is in honor of my new sourdough starter. I named him Cameron. He’s a week old and I’ve yet to make any bread from him, but I have used some of his feeding-discard to make brownies (I know that sounds strange but it works!) and they turned out perfectly delicious.

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Also a week old is my new cross-stitch project, and it’s a big one. It’s full-coverage (a stitch for every square) and I can say, thanks to the chart and some basic math, that it’s exactly 53,704 stitches. In the week since I started, I’ve done just over 1200–the benefit of working in 10 x 10 squares is I can easily track my progress. If I can keep up this pace (which I highly doubt, because I’ve been doing this in place of at least some of my writing time) I could be finished in as little as 45 weeks, or less than a year–but in reality, this will take me more than a year to finish and will be, by far, my largest attempted cross-stitch piece.

No, I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. Yes, the corner I’ve started is almost entirely green and gives you very little to go on. I think I’ll include new pics monthly in these updates–that will motivate me to keep working on it–so you’ll just have to live in suspense.

As for exercise, I’m getting over a serious fever now that’s kept me nearly bed-bound for three days, but before that, I set a new record for my yoga practice, 23 days in a row. (My previous record was 17, set last year when I originally bought the app. I don’t think I’ve managed more than nine or ten days without a gap since then.) So I’ve broken it with this illness, which is a shame, but either later today, if I’m feeling more energetic, or tomorrow morning at the latest, I’ll start a new attempt. If I’m diligent I could be reporting a new record, or better yet, a continuing streak, next month!

As for writing…

Well. Fictober19 starts today, and I have mixed feelings about participating in it. I began #spookyromancenovel a year ago today, and it’s been through two draft cycles and a beta read and that’s great, but you all know I’m disappointed it needs so much more work than I’d anticipated before it’s ready for publishing. I could knuckle down and get back to that, and part of me says I should. The rest of me says I clearly need more of a break, and wouldn’t Fictober/NaNo be a great time to try to draft its apparent sequel? I’ve got a good bit of it plotted already, though I set down that planning project as the end of the #srn beta neared and I thought I’d be working on that again. But I already know I work well from daily prompts, and I don’t have another idea lined up for NaNo, so what’s the harm in trying, right?

Or I could pick up one of several unfinished first drafts I have sitting in a (digital) pile and tackle finishing those, or rewriting good old #rockstarnovel, which I still adore, and still think about often, and despair of ever being satisfied with. It’s got so much potential, but it’s so, so different from any of my other works.

After I throw this post up, I’m going to take a shower and make myself some tea, then sit back down at my desk and write something. It may be Fictober-related. It may be me trying to finish a chapter from a long-ignored work. It may just be another blog post, because ideally I want to keep my usual schedule through October, which means I need one for tomorrow.

Whatever it ends up being, I’m determined to come out of this health-and-writing slump and be happily productive again. Wish me luck!

 

End of the Month Wrap-Up: August 2019!

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As the weather got really hot and then decided, yeah, it’s time to be fall, apparently I stayed in and read a lot while I wasn’t writing. I got through a whopping nineteen books–though to be fair, several of those were graphic novels, which read fast for me, and two were DNFs.

Still.

On the writing front, not much is going on. I gave my beta readers more time with #spookyromancenovel, because most of them needed it for one reason or another, and I wasn’t ready to dive back in to rewriting. That’s on my plate for September, but honestly, after this revelation, I’m not eager to get back to work. I’ve got some thinking to do. In the meantime, I’ve kept up my daily writing habit with book reviews, blog posts, and journal entries. Nothing wrong with taking a breather from a big project!

I worked a lot. I mean, a lot a lot. Hence my missing a few blog posts, generally being inactive on Tumblr, and spending more time reading in my off hours than doing anything more active, because I was tired, because I was working. A lot. (In fact, I’m churning this somewhat half-assed post itself in the sliver of the morning I get before I start a ten-hour shift. I love my new job–I wouldn’t go back to my old one for anything. But it does come with longer days sometimes.)

By the same token, I didn’t exercise as consistently as I wanted to in August, but I’m using the start of a new month, as I so often do, to attempt to get back on track. As soon as I’m done with this post, it’s yoga time. I swear!

As always, I hope your August was grand, and if for whatever reason it wasn’t, I hope your September is better.

End of the Month Wrap-Up: July 2019!

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Where did July go? How is it over already? I spent a good chunk of the early part of the month redoing our walk-in closet; there was a quick weekend getaway to an event late in the month; there was a lot of going to work, and working on writing. And reading. Of course, so much reading, so let’s start there.

Reading: Thirteen books this month. I finished the monthly challenge for The Reading Frenzy, though I did substitute two of the original books, one because I had a better choice when I thought about it, and the other because the original book was so long I might not have finished it in time. I’m still ahead of the curve on all three of my year-long challenges. It was a good month for good reads, too, I gave three books five-star ratings: Saga, Vol. 4; Caliban’s War; and Strange the Dreamer.

Writing: I started the month fantastic by finding three beta readers for #spookyromancenovel, via open call on Tumblr, in less than 24 hours. Which was about a week faster than I expected that to happen. I tested out BetaBooks as a service, only to be disappointed that I sent them a help request in that first week, and I still haven’t gotten an answer. (Yes, I’ve checked my spam folder.) I know this is only one negative incident, but it doesn’t inspire confidence; I doubt I’ll be using them for any future beta sessions. Because that happened, I ended up making a Google Doc anyway (just like I’d done for my previous three books during their beta rounds) which meant I wasn’t limited to any certain number of readers, and I picked up two more. The feedback is coming in, and it’s been helpful, though I’m trying not to look at most of it until I’m ready to sit down and do something about it. Because my extra readers got in late, I’m not holding them to the original deadline and I won’t be ready to start the next revision draft at the beginning of August, as I’d hoped. But that’s life for you.

I have been using some of this time not spent project-writing to get ahead on blog posts, to be more active on Tumblr (in spurts, anyway) and to start planning work for the next (possible) novel project, a romance in the same setting as #spookyromancenovel, involving one of its supporting characters getting her own love story. I want it to happen, I want to make this a series, but we’ll see. I’m already not thrilled about the plot I’ve constructed, because planning like this feels so forced to me, the perennial pantser. The more I work with the skeleton, though, the more ideas I get, and everyone knows outlines can change!

Everything else: The insane heat this year has kept me inside more than I’d like, so my running schedule fell apart. I’m forgiving myself, because a) I’m still adjusting to an entirely new life schedule, thanks to my new job–I’ve only been there a few months!–and b) because I’ve spent that time doing yoga instead. Which, since I’m out of practice, has led to its own frustrations, but the only way to get better is to keep doing it, so I am.

I’m journaling again, not every day but certainly more than I was any other time this year. Most of it is of the very-personal-don’t-share kind, so my journal sideblog on Tumblr hasn’t seen any action, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the near future.

Also, strangely enough given the demands on my time, I got frustrated that I’ve started so many video games in recent years and not finished them, so I made a list about a week ago, stuff that needs completion and games I want to start, old or new. Since then I’ve finished Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and permanently abandoned King’s Quest, which I had already given up on once because Chapter 2 was so stupidly confusing, and this time because I’ve started Chapter 5 and I’m simply bored of it. The first chapter was so strong and engaging, and everything since has mostly felt like a chore.

While I have three more unfinished games that are high-priority for returning to soon, but also, we went to see Spiderman: Far From Home last week, and the PS4 Spiderman game is high on my list to start, so I think that’s happening next. I do love me some web-slinging.

Moving on to August 2019 goals:

  1. Collect, read, and digest all the beta feedback. Formulate a plan for the next draft, and time permitting, get started. While waiting to do that, continue planning its sequel.
  2. Continue doing yoga every day (or as close to every day as I can manage without injuring myself.)
  3. Run at least twice a week, preferably three times.
  4. Complete The Reading Frenzy’s challenge for August, the Bookish Treasure Hunt. (Six books)
  5. Maybe try to finish Saga? I used up my remaining Hoopla borrows for July getting volumes 5-7, so then if I use two more in August, that’s the whole series. And I can read a volume in one sitting.

End of the Month Wrap-Up: June 2019!

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Quick, somebody toast me!

June was fantastic. June saw me getting more comfortable at my day job. Exercising more. Eating better. Feeling good.

In no small part, because I finished the rewrite of #spookyromancenovel.

Writing: Yeah, you heard me. This draft is done. It grew from 97K to almost 115K–my first pass always ends up longer because I’m a chronic underwriter for setting and description. My rough drafts always focus on character and dialogue with just enough plot to string everything together, and it turns out #srn had some serious plot holes and a wonky ending. Not anymore!

Reading: I worked hard, but I let myself have time to relax. I read seventeen books. (I did mostly give up playing video games, but I was reading a lot of very excellent books instead.)

Everything else: I’m running. I’m eating more fruits and veg and fewer junky snacks. I’m sleeping well, except for when the heat is NUTS. I won’t bore you with more detail than that.

So, July Goals:

  1. Read up on the beta process. My method for the first three books I published got increasingly difficult as my dedicated betas from book one dried up by book three. I intend to use BetaBooks, but that’s just by word-of-mouth recommendation: I haven’t done any real investigation to see if that’s my best option, I may go another route.
  2. Set up the beta and find readers!
  3. Start a new book. Yeah, good old nose-to-the-grindstone drafting process: I don’t expect to put out a huge wordcount on this while managing the beta as well, but I also know I can’t spend all my time obsessing over the feedback, or waiting for it. I’ve got to have something new to work on.
  4. The Reading Frenzy’s July Circus-a-thon Challenge! I’m reading Anansi Boys right now.

Bonus for productivity: my husband’s going to be away for a week, while I’m at home. I’ll miss him, but I intend to get so. much. done.without our usual daily routine in place.