The Best Laid Plans

Saturday, November 19, 2016
Sometimes, no matter how much resolve one summons, it’s impossible to follow through on a plan.

Last December, when I was setting my goals for 2016, I blithely assumed I’d write another 50,000 word draft of a mystery novel during NaNoWriMo. After all, I’d done it three years in a row, so why wouldn’t I be able to do it for a fourth year?

Life, that’s why.

After I published Royal Purple Murder, I sat up and looked around me. I’d been so wrapped up in launching the African Violet Club Mysteries, I’d pretty much neglected the house and yard. As it is with indie publishing, with a house you can either spend time or money. I didn’t have the money to hire a landscape service to maintain the yard or a cleaning service to maintain the house. Furthermore, I didn’t have the money to have the house painted inside and out, replace the worn carpeting, or think about new furniture.

My only option was to spend the time to do it myself—as much as possible. Painting the outside of the house wasn’t something I was ever going to tackle. But I’m not young any more, and a couple of hours weeding in the yard would often result in a couple of days with aching muscles and an arthritis flare-up, leaving me with no energy to keep on going.

I also realized I had enjoyed my months as a full-time author, where my first priority each day was to work on my novels, schedule promotions, study writing craft, and figure out how to design book covers and advertisements. It was what I really wanted to do with my life, not shampoo carpets or paint ceilings.

There was one solution: sell my house if I could and downsize into an apartment. I wasn’t even sure this was possible, but I had to try. So I spent a month of preparation, hiring those cleaning people and getting the yard weeded and decluttering to some degree. And then I called a real estate agent and asked what I could sell the house for. By this time, I would have been happy to leave the house debt-free. When she told me I could get more than I expected (although not as much as I’d paid for the house), I put it on the market.

There followed two months of showing the house, negotiating the offer, packing, looking for an apartment, and moving. I have been in my new location for a month now, and I still have boxes in my office and the living room. I haven’t hung pictures or done any decorating. And I’ve had multiple issues with the apartment and many visits from maintenance to resolve them.

But I thought I could still do NaNoWriMo this month. It turns out, I can’t. The outline has been a struggle. I have eight new characters (four of them suspects) who need to be fleshed out. I have at least two new locations that I’ve had to envision so I can describe them for my readers. I could easily spend two more months on preparation.

But I won’t. At least, not right away. I seem to reach a point in starting each novel where preparation isn’t enough. I have to start writing the story to know where it’s headed. I reached that point this week and wrote the second scene in the novel. It took me two days because I’m rusty. But I’ve got 1100 new words this week, and I’m comfortable with what I wrote.

That’s hardly NaNo speed, which is why I haven’t been posting my progress. With any luck, I’ll have the first draft done by the end of the year. Well, not luck, but work. And maybe next year I’ll be ready to write a NaNo novel again.

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A Clash of Kings
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