Monday, September 28, 2009

A journey, not a race

By Jenna Byrnes

The reams of stories written on wide lined notebook paper, bound with orange yarn, don't count. Those started in fourth grade. My first heroine had twenty-some babies and just as many husky sled dogs-- for two reasons. One, like many ten year old girls I swore I'd grow up to be a veterinarian because I loved dogs, and if I couldn't have a dozen of them, my characters could. And two, I loved choosing names, and never stopped to think that I didn't have to use all my favorite names in the first book I wrote. But, I digress. I said those stories don't count. Back then, I could while away hours lying on my bed writing in a notebook. Man, what I'd give for some of that free time now.

When I picked up writing again as an adult, my children were little and it was a pastime for the evening hours when my husband watched whatever sport was on TV at the moment. Back then I had a used word processor (which at least allowed me to get rid of the liquid paper) and an old fashioned printer with paper that had tear-off strips on either side. I wrote my first novel on that thing, a 120,000 word tome that eventually got published as a nice, tight, 30,000 word novella.

I put writing aside during the child-raising years. In the span of nine years, besides working full time and raising my children, I was a cub scout leader, a boy scout troop treasurer and committee chairman, a religious education teacher (that one for the whole nine years, yes, I said- NINE years!), president of my church's council of Catholic women, Eucharistic Minister, church neighborhood group leader, on the committee for church activities planning, and tired....very tired. Once my boys hit those milestones- Eagle Scout, driver's licenses, Sacrament of Confirmation in 9th grade, I dropped out of my active life and let them fly solo for awhile. I was very glad to have done all those things, thrilled to have watched my kids achieve all they had, but I was ready to take some time back for me. I started writing again.


At first it was late night scribblings. I had an honest to goodness computer, though it would be considered a dinosaur now. I remember staying up late, usually on Saturday nights, and writing like crazy while the rest of the house was asleep. Those were interesting times, but not a schedule I could live with for long.

Once I began to figure out the write/submit/sign contract/edit/publish/promote cycle, I knew I needed more regular writing and promoting time. I've slowly settled into a schedule that works for me, even though it means getting up earlier than normal and missing a few lunches here and there (which nobody can tell, I'm sure.) Somehow I manage to handle the day job, squeeze in some writing each day on my own time, get my housework managed and end up with some family time as well. Okay, some days that means falling asleep in front of the TV which we've all gathered round to watch. (Someone will nudge me.)

The system isn't perfect--with such strict allowances for writing time, when I sit down to do it, if the words don't flow, I get frustrated and feel like a slacker. Then Jude kicks me and reminds me it's okay to take some time off now and again. I write a lot. I know it's not a sin to take the occasional break (though the propensity to worry about sin is ingrained.)

There are so many stories in my head, they fight each other to get out. These days, I'm usually working on one solo project and rotating between my publishers so I send each of them something fairly regularly, and I'm also working on a project with Jude. When she has the manuscript, I work on my stuff, and vice versa. So, like Lisabet, beginning each writing session by reading the last bit I wrote is especially important to me. Wouldn't want to stick the wrong character in the wrong book, LOL. (Actually, I've never done that but it sounds funny and I might try it to see if Jude notices.)

Writing is a habit, and sometimes when I don't do it, it's hard to get back into the routine. I write six days a week when possible, and save that last day for blog posts and catching up on stuff. I usually write about a 1,000 to 1,500 words a day. I've done up to 3,500 words in one day, and wish I could be that prolific all the time. But then I'm afraid I'd be back in that crazy active lifestyle mode, when I was tired all the time. (Even more tired than I am now, which I can't fathom.) So I try to remember that writing, like life, is a journey, not a race. Half the fun is in the trip.

19 comments:

  1. ...and the other half of the fun is reading entertaining and insightful blogs like this one.

    Great post Jenna.


    Best,

    Ash

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  2. Wow, six days a week! I dream of what I could write if I had that kind of time...

    Probably more of the same, actually. Or I might easily run out of ideas - I don't have as many clamoring stories as you do.

    When things are going well, though, I can write 4000 or even 5000 words in a day. So maybe it averages out.

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  3. Thanks Ash. I did some major digressing from the topic, but I guess that's what these blogs are all about. Different strokes for different folks, so to speak. *G*

    Thanks for stopping by,

    ~ Jenna

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  4. Hi Lisabet,

    It sounds like it does average out. If I can write 5K in a week I think I've been a successful. But with all the writing comes these things called edits- and doing them takes away my writing time. So there are weeks when I don't get as many words down as I'd like.

    Hope you're enjoying your trip!

    ~ Jenna

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  5. Hi Jenna,
    Thanks for sharing your writing story with us. I love hearing what other writers are up to, and what works for them.
    Great post!

    Cheers, Chloe

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  6. Thanks Chloe,

    It is interesting to hear how other authors write, isn't it? Thanks for commenting!

    ~ Jenna

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  7. Great post about finding the right balance—which is a different journey for every individual.

    I wonder if any "household-word" famous authors ever stuck the wrong character in the wrong book—and, if so, I wonder if it was caught prior to publication.

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  8. Jenna,

    You're rotten. What do you mean, if I noticed!?

    Sheesh!

    Lady, I'm in awe of the amount of work you put out. Not just work, but damn good work. You're ability to set life aside and dive in is amazing.

    I did love learning a little more about your history. I feel like I should watch my mouth now though. LOL

    Hugs

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  9. Great blog Jenna,

    One thing just jumped out at me: "beginning each writing session by reading the last bit I wrote is especially important to me." I always do that. It helps to get me back into the mindset of the story.

    In the past couple of months short stories have become a particular favorite, because I can read the entire story before adding more.

    Glenn

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  10. Hey, I'm enjoying this blog. I write every day, as well. It's my full time job, which doesn't mean I'm hugely successful, it just means I'm usually broke. But it's the only way for me - day jobs kill me.

    It's a great idea to go back over the previous day's work, not only because it gets you in the zone for writing, but also because when it's time to rewrite, a lot of it has already been done.

    Thanks for your insights.

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  11. This series is going on my to buy list:) If I won the lotto, I would pay off mortgage and bills and take family including mom on a vacation to someplace that has pink sand, blue water and blue skys.

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  12. Hi Jeremy,

    I think you're right about finding a balance. Some days I'd love to sit and write all day, but probably should not until it starts paying better!

    Looking forward to your guest blog post on Saturday!

    ~ Jenna

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  13. Hi Jude,

    The whole Catholic school trip does leave a few things ingrained, but I was one of those rebellious types so don't worry about watching your language!

    Hugs,

    ~ Jenna

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  14. Hi Glenn,

    Sometimes I read the whole story again if I've been away from it for a bit. But if I read it too much, it drives me crazy, like the chicken at the edge of the road. "This seems a tad familiar!" LOL

    Thanks for stopping by,

    ~ Jenna

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  15. Hey Madeline,

    I'm envious of writers who don't need a day job. It makes me wonder what I might be able to accomplish!

    Thanks for stopping by,

    ~ Jenna

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  16. Hi Sharon,

    Good luck on that lotto thing. Unless it's the same one I'm playing, of course, LOL

    I actually just signed a contract with TEB for a m/m story about a guy who wins the lottery, and how it changes his life. I think it's a really fun book. Stroke of Luck, coming in Feb. 2010! *G*

    Thanks for commenting!

    ~ Jenna

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  17. Jenna,

    Except for the fact I work at home, running my own small business, you could be me! I know exactly what you mean about the too crazy, too tired schedule, where you're just killing yourself to make things work. I've been there. At some point, I have a minor mental breakdown. Then I spend the day on the couch, in my favorite Hawaiian shirt, listening to Jimmy Buffet and eating chips and salsa and not doing much else. I feel much better afterward ;)

    Lovely post!

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  18. Looking forward to your guest blog post on Saturday!

    Thanks, Jenna!

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  19. Hey Helen,

    Jimmy Buffet, chips and salsa? I will definitely try that. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right?

    *G*

    ~ Jenna

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