Rules to Work By

I am writing this on my laptop.

Not an unheard of thing, you might think. I do like my new-to-me MacBook Pro, which I purchased from a friend about a year back to replace my battery-swollen original MacBook. The Pro is my little go-to buddy, the one that gets to go outside, because the inside computer is my lovely iMac in all it’s 27-inch glory.

The iMac is currently convalescing in the Apple Store after its third failure within a month. Hard drive replacement. Getting it there was uncannily like bundling up a recalcitrant pet for a visit to the vet. I’ve known this was coming for a while — increasingly frequent failures that required me to rebuild from backups — and I’m happy that the worst is over. It’s fixable, it’s affordable, and soon I’ll have my desperate, grubby hands all over it. Better, once it’s fixed, I can trust it again. Its absence, even with the laptop playing pinch hitter, has been felt deeply, which is a reminder to me to not get so knotted into my routines that I can’t be flexible.

In the meantime, new mini challenges for myself for the year ahead!

  1.  250 words of writing every day — no excuses.
  2. Rejected stories go back out within 24 hours (i.e. next day).
  3. Critiqued stories must be edited before the next event (generally two weeks).
  4. The to-be-read pile will be obliterated this year; no new books purchased until then.

The writing must be fictional, preferably on a WIP (novel or short story), though I will allow writing exercises as substitute if I really cannot brain that day. (And sometimes, such non-brain, non-WIP exercises end up being rather fruitful.) The 24-hour turnaround is a modification of an Uncle Jim rule, which is never to let a story stay overnight. It’s not always practical for me to get it out the same day as a rejection, but I was good before the move about getting out the next day. Back to that habit again. (Still have two out, very long time, but with the markets in question I have no idea if it means anything, and a third sent out earlier this month.)

The critiqued stories, particularly short stories, are my shame. I have a half dozen things I’ve gotten feedback on but then I let the stories sit un-edited. No longer. Under the new rule, it gets two weeks to be polished/revised and then it starts getting submitted. Or I get second set of eyes, and then it gets another two week reprieve. We’ll see how this works.

And my books. Oh lord, all my books. I want to be able to say, “Why, this book by so-and-so, newly released, sounds delightful. I would like to read it this instant.” But the guilt. Oooh, the guilt. I can manage the TBR pile, I think, over the course of this year. (I will be ruthless, though; if I don’t like it, I won’t slog through it. But there’s a lot in that pile to be excited about, too, so I’m hopeful I won’t have to do that often.)

These are all the little rules, put in place so I don’t have to think about what has to happen next. Small steps forward I can work on every day because I have big projects that need all the mental muscle. No more hiding behind the move out here, or computer failures, or waiting to finally “settle in.” Recommitting to the writing, 100%, is the act of settling in. Nothing else will serve.

What does that mean? I will start querying STAR DOOR in the next couple of months, so the final edits must be completed, query and synopsis written, and agents researched. And if I’m serious about Taos Toolbox, I need to get that application together pronto. All other writing and editing will all work around those primary goals.

One more thing — every time I get an email notification telling me that someone has favorited or commented on the stories I’ve posted to Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own, I beam. Huge grin, leaves me floating. It’s a long fic, it’s multi-fandom, and it’s not to everyone’s taste, so when people do read it and like it, especially so long after it was posted, it totally brightens my day and adds a drop to the confidence bucket. Thanks. Smooshy hugs to all of you.

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