LizAnn Carson

Releasing the stories into the world


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Burnout

A little piece of advice, based on recent experience: if you have obsessive/compulsive tendencies, NaNoWriMo can be tricky.

Now, I did it. I ‘won’ NaNo, producing 50,000+ words in fifteen days. As a result, about three-quarters of the next Calter Creek romance (Julie) is written. That’s the plus side.

On the downside, the third week of NaNo I barely crept along, and by the fourth week I’d abandoned the project altogether. Maybe not forever, but I couldn’t face my (lovable) characters another minute. Couldn’t find the words to put in their mouths. I realized I was imagining scene after scene where they were just sort of drooping around and being really acquiescent and nice and … well, utterly lacking in drama, or conflict, or even chemistry. I foresaw the hero saying (with no discernable emotion), “Hey, wanna (fill in the blank)?” and the heroine replying, “Yeah, whatever.”

Plus, a lot of my output was drivel. Serious editing/rewriting on the horizon. But that’s okay. For me, the biggest challenge is getting something, anything, down. After that, I can edit forever.

So I backed off from Julie and Chris and their pals and situations, and that was the best decision I made during NaNo month. I rediscovered life away from my computer. Gosh, there are friends out there, family, activities, autumn, Black Friday (well, no, I skipped that one). I cleaned the house, I played with the cat (who had been letting me know, in her inimitable feline way, that she’s neglected). I went for walks with Hubby and with any luck started to restore muscle tone to my legs.

In my daydreams, I began to sketch the plotlines for a fantasy that’s been tickling the back of my mind. Not sure yet if it will be one book or a trilogy, there’s still lots to figure out, but I have a good picture of my five main characters. Next step is to create outlines, storyboards, mind maps, whatever works, to illustrate how the story arcs interweave.

I guess that for me, while I’m a fast writer, I need plenty of breaks, both in the small scale (fifteen-minute bursts, followed by coffee time or cat time or balancing the chequebook) and in the larger picture. I’ve been writing or editing full time for a year. While part of me doesn’t want to stop, the other part of me (and all advice you’ll ever find on the subject) tells me it’s necessary. After two weeks of not writing, I feel mostly human again. Even my typing has improved.

The more stubborn of us have to experience it to believe it.

With the ‘big push’ almost over, and balance restored, this morning I’ll play in a coloring book (I’ve written about the joy of adult coloring books before), and I’ve already watered the jungle of house plants. The sun’s breaking through. Life is good.

So hooray for NaNo. It drives you forward. And lessons learned, thanks very much. I admit, though, I’m not sorry to see the end.

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Long, Hard Slog: Book(s) Launch

Amanda Pat Mel SmallDone.

Oh, my goodness, is that ever a beautiful word. So beautiful that I came close to writing five thousand words for NaNoWriMo* yesterday, out of sheer relief. As if the weight of a whole bookstore resting on my shoulders for the last few months had suddenly lifted. I could float away.

The first three books of the Calter Creek series are out there.

As part of this mass release, I’ve also put out a box set with all three books, at a bargain price. So that’s four books. All at once. Agghh.

And if you want to know what a writer’s life is like, here’s a reality. It’s been months of obsession and plodding, a slog through editing and proofing, to launch four books at once.

Problem is, I’ve been working on the critiquing and editing for so long, I no longer can tell if they’re any good. Do other authors get to that point, I wonder? I used to love these three books, each in its own way. Now, I’m numb. And honestly don’t care if I ever see them again. Yeah, probably not the best way to sell them! Burnout is real, folks. And in fact, I rarely hear about authors going back and re-reading their books. If you’re an author, do you? I’d like to know.

So let’s assume that if I didn’t have faith in their quality, I wouldn’t have released them, okay?

What happens next? Well, if it were only NaNoWriMo, I could kick back, not worry too much about whether I actually produce the 50,000 words, and take some time off. But it’s not only the next Calter Creek novel swirling around in my weary head. Hard on its heels is a fantasy-romance trilogy, tentatively called Come by the Hills. It’s still in planning, but my world and main characters are fairly well drawn, and I’m itching to get to it.

The other good thing about finally having these books launched is that there’s time to do other things. Housework, for instance. (My family would agree that this is a very good thing.) Actually cooking a meal occasionally. Getting in touch with friends who probably doubt that I’m still on the planet.

Have a look at the Calter Creek page to see the covers, synopses, and brief extracts of the three new books: Amanda, Pat, and Mel.

And if you’re wondering why I chose these simple book titles, instead of something more, well, romantic, I suppose I should admit that I’m not all that great at coming up with titles, so to some extent this is a cop-out. As well, though, there are several series I follow, and it drives me a little nuts to try to remember which heroine went with which book, especially if I want to re-read.

More soon!

LizAnn

* NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s a self-challenge to produce a 50,000 word book in the month of November. Julie will be considerably longer than that, but the 50,000 is a good, if challenging, target.


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Burnout

I dread burnout, and guard against it. By that I mean that I work like a fiend to make sure I get whatever I’m working on finished before burnout hits.

Logical, eh?

But there’s a history here, a pattern. I am what I choose to call a serial enthusiast. I live in terror of the day that I wake up and simply don’t want to do whatever it is that I’m doing anymore.

Some people have said that I get what I need from whichever activity engrosses me, then move on. This may account for the cardboard box in my basement full of partially finished cross-stitch projects. I love cross-stitch, honest. But then that morning comes, and the latest project goes into the box—for another time, of course.

I think the issue of burnout at the moment has a lot to do with my stated intention of getting three books released this summer. They’re all written, thank heaven. Two of them ought to be considered finished; I mean, there’s a limit to how many times you should even think about going through the manuscript one last time, tweaking this, finding the last missing quotation mark … yes, there ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff.

And that brings me to another fatal flaw: perfectionism. Do you know why perfectionists can read all the advice about not being perfectionist, and not even see themselves in it? I can tell you why. Because that’s not how you see it. You’re not going for perfect. You’re going for good enough. What you’re doing will be judged, after all. People will see and comment. It’s not perfectionism if you’re just trying to make it as good as it reasonably can be. If you just want people to love it as much as you do.

Are you sensing a perfect storm here?

Well, what I didn’t expect was that it wouldn’t be my brain that would do me in. I’d been aware of tension amounting to pain in my neck and shoulders for a few days now (well, okay, maybe a few weeks), and for the last couple of days I’ve fought off a headache. No fighting this morning, though. Tension headache, steel band around head, the whole works. Acetaminophen, caffeine, and a couple of chocolate digestive biscuits later I felt better. So I tried to work on the current revision of Mel, the third book in the Calder Creek Series. Want to guess what happened?

Two ibuprofen and another cup of coffee later, I was pointedly avoiding my computer and relaxing with a new book on Zentangle, when my whole body caved in. It felt like a low blood pressure episode. I went limp.

Limp, I took myself off to the sofa for a nap.

Now, a cup of tea and a cinnamon raisin scone later, I feel better, although still weak. I think I may not work on Mel for a few days. I think that might be wise.

So, naturally, what do I do? Sit down at my computer to document this mini-collapse. Oh, I’m a wise one, you betcha.

Never mind. The sun’s trying to come out, the cat’s asleep in front of the fire (not that that’s unusual), and really, everything’s going pretty well. I will learn to pace myself, honest. I’m good at learning from my mistakes.

Maybe on the next book …