I’ve been working away on my latest work in progress, and just crossed the 30,000 word mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it up before the end of this week.

At first I thought I was writing my first draft. And I suppose in a way I am, aside from my outline, this is the first time these characters have seen the light of the page and the first time I’ve told this story to anyone. But, about halfway through, the story veered in a direction I hadn’t seen. I realized I needed to change a major character and rework my main character and the plot in a big way.

For about a day I just stared at this mess of a draft and considered just starting it over again and making all the changes.

I’ve been down that road plenty of times before where I write the first 20,000 words over and over and over in a perpetual groundhog’s day loop of writing.

Instead of sending myself into that kind of hell, I decided to just make a note to myself (set aside with XXX) and keep going as if those changes had already been made.

What this means is that a minor character named Virgil became a main character at word 21,008, and that a main character named Darcy completely disappeared at 24,000 and I never backtracked to fix the words behind them. I’ve even gone back and rechanged the changes I made. So maybe for about 3000 words, Darcy existed again and then was erased for good.

This draft is going to be a mess when I finish, like a Frankenstein monster sewn together with hands on his head instead of ears, and eyes for a belly button. It’s ugly, and gross and going to have to be ripped to pieces to be put back together again. That’s why I’ve decided to call it a zero draft, and not a first draft.

But now that I’m nearing the end of this story, I feel more confident in the characters, in the voice and the story I’m telling. It’s changed drastically, and that’s okay. I’m sure it will change a dozen more times before it’s ready to be unleashed onto the world as a (mostly) right-side together Frankenstein.

The advice I most frequently people at any of the writing panels I’ve been on is to finish what you start, but I’m terrible at following my own advice. I want my first draft to be a perfect story and that just can’t happen (at least not with the way I write) so I make do with what I can make. I paint in the lines as best as I can, and then I go back and clean up.

So, draft zero I hope you’re ready to be finished off…and don’t worry, I’ll get your foot out of your eye socket soon.

Promise.

 

Source: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

Recently I saw an incredible quote that finally summed up what I felt about luck. It's from a Business Insider article, and is something that Betty Liu heard from her television coach.

"Opportunity + Preparation = Luck" (hence the blog post title, I'm so clever)

You can be in the exact right place and meet the exact right person but if you're not prepared then it's for nothing. Imagine meeting a Hollywood executive looking for his/her next big movie option, and runs into you. You don't have a screenplay written, you've just got a kind of half-formed idea. Even though you're in the right place, things probably aren't going to work out for you because you're not prepared.

Luck comes to people who work hard and put themselves into positions to luck out. You're never going to just get lucky and land a new job in a different field by sitting at home and never learning those skills you need. You're never going to just happen to sell the next Harry Potter sitting at home never writing.

You have to put in the time and effort for all the pieces to fall into place.

Source: Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash

One of the downfalls of the writing life (and a lot of office jobs) is the amount of time spent sitting on a computer typing. Back and hip pain is common, and carpel tunnel is a concern for many writers.

I've compiled a few of my favorite stretching videos so you can keep flexible.  So, in the words of Jeremy Renner...

Hands, and wrists:

 

Shoulders:

 

Hips:

 

Lower Back:

 

Those are just a few of my favorite stretching videos. Do you have any videos that help with stretching?

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

Something that people frequently ask about is what do I in a day? I think a lot of creative people get asked about their processes and how they manage to 'find the time to do all that', at least a lot of the people I know get asked that question a whole lot. So I thought I'd give a peak behind the curtain of what a typical (if there really is such a thing) day looks like for me. Now note here, I have several advantages as far as time goes: I have no romantic partner; I have no kids; I live with two roommates to split chores with.  So with all that aside, let's get started! 

5am
On the best of days I'm up at 5am to get some writing and/or staring into space contemplating life time. I tend to be a morning person so I try to make the most of it. Realistically, I roll out of bed about 5:20 and have some time to read. 

5:45 am
This is when I stop staring into space/working and actually start getting ready for the day. I brush my teeth and my hair (with different brushes of course), wash my face and go through a whole skincare routine, put on makeup or don't, get dressed, and throw my lunch into a bag. Most of the time I've packed pretty much everything I need the night before so it's just a matter of grabbing a bag and going. 

6:00 - 6:55 am
I commute in to work on the train so I spend my time reading or listening to podcasts. If I'm on a really tight deadline, I'll write on the train but I prefer writing at home. Not having to drive makes my life so much better, public transit is amazing y'all. 

7:00 - 11:00 am
Day job! 

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
I usually take lunch around this time. Generally, I go for a walk or workout during this time and eat at my desk (bad, I know!)

12:00 - 3:45 pm
Day job! 

4:00-5:00 pm
Commuting back home on the train. Usually I listen to podcasts more often in the afternoon. 

5:00 - 6:00 pm
Dinner! I walk in the door hungry most days so I pretty much walk in the door, change into my pjs, and start dinner. I tend to batch cook on Sunday so cooking consists of heating up leftovers which is awesome. I also watch some Netflix or Youtube while I'm eating (bad again, I know!) Sometimes I'll go play PokemonGo with my roommates when I get home too. We're awesome at the raid battles. (Go Team Instinct!)

6:00 - 8:00 pm
This is when I try to get the bulk of my writing or editing done. If I'm working on two projects, I'll split them to work on one in the morning and one in the evening. 

8:00 - 9:00 pm
Hang out time! Most of the time this is time I'll spend with my roommates watching Netflix or playing video games. It's really helpful for my mental health to do something fun like games. I try to do this most nights but some nights it doesn't happen. This is also when I pack my lunches and get together whatever I need for work the next day. I frequently lay out my clothes and things too.  

9:00-9:30 pm
Bed time! Seriously, I really, really struggle with sleep so I go to bed early. I have a whole bedtime routine that I've talked about before and that's all because I have a hard time getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night. I go to bed early to help me get the maximum number of hours possible. Sleep is important y'all.

Of course, this isn't every day and sometimes I get more done than other days, but I try to keep a consistent bedtime and get-up time even on the weekends and holidays. Sleep is my main struggle and this schedule has helped me get a handle on it. So there you have it, a day in the life. On a good day, I can clock in between 4000-5000 words on a project. On a bad day, it's a big 'ol goose egg word count. I am still tweaking what works and doesn't work for me, like writing on the train, it works in the morning but if I try in the afternoon I have a tendency to get motion sick and be out the rest of the day. Big lesson: Experiment with what works for you and learn about your process. 
 

Source: Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

Making the time to write isn't always a matter of just sitting down and writing. It often means saying no to a lot of other things, things you may really want to do. It isn't a choice between 'scrub the grout in my shower' or write. More often than not, it's 'play this new game I'm excited about' or write. It's a eries of scarficies made. But how do you get to the point where that feels doable? Here are some things that have helped me find my way to putting writing first. As always, your mileage may vary, so take what works for you and leave the rest. 

1. Write out a list of all the things vying for your time. 
See what all is on there. You can make this as exhaustive as you want. Include all the nitty-gritty like grocery shopping, bathroom cleaning, etc., if you want to, but it works just as well with only the big things on your list. Your family, friends, favorite TV shows, favorite games or other hobbies, everything that calls to you. 

2. Prioritize the list. 
Be ruthless if you have to. For me, that's meant that I keep up on very, very, very few shows anymore. I made the commitment that writing was more important than having seen the latest Games of Thrones episode. For you, maybe that means that you only go to game night with your friends every other week. Figure out what you're willing to sacrifice now so you don't have to figure that out in the moment. 

3. Commit to it. 
If you decide that once every other week for games is all you can manage, tell your friends and stick to it. It's going to be hard for a while, but it will slowly become a habit and take less willpower to do. Write out what you'll say to yourself about putting your writing first, give yourself support. Future you will thank you. 

4. Forgive yourself when you screw up. 
A bad day at the day job can send you into a Netflix marathon without much of a thought. That's okay. Beating yourself about it, isn't going to make it any better. In fact, beating yourself up is only going to make it harder to get back to the writing. 

5. Do not sacrifice things required for a healthy life. 
I know there's a #goals around not sleeping and hustling harder, but that is not a great way to live. Sacrifcing your health is not the answer. 


Taking time now to commit 100% to your writing is the way forward and the way to help keep your writing going. I'm not going to say it won't require sacrifice, because it will. Right now I've not watched American Gods, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, The Handmaid's Tale, Blackish, and on and on and on because that is what I've decided to sacrifice to make the time to write. 
But you can do it! 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@alexrds

Something I've been really struggling with has been getting a decent number of hours of sleep. It really sucks to get only 2-3 hours of deep sleep a night. It's really shown me how interconnected everything is and that bodies are dumb. After a few days of lack of sleep, everything starts to fall apart. I can't focus on anything, work, writing, making healthy food choices, remembering much of anything. I felt like I moved through a fog that kept everything fuzzy and out of focus like a bad camera that couldn't find anything to focus on. Major suckage. (Does anyone say suckage anymore? Don't care. Gonna say it anyways.) So I've started putting together a bad time routine and I thought I'd share that with you all. As always, this is what works for me and not a cure-all for all people. Alright, so here's the routine. 

1. I listen to binaurral beats for at least 10 minutes in my headphones. 
The binaurral beats rock and I have to give a huge shoutout to Delilah Dawson for introducing them to me (also her writing rocks and you should check it out). The headphones really help get wrapped up in the yummy sounds. 

2. While the sounds are playing, I do my night time hygiene stuffs. 
Brushing my teeth, going through a whole skincare routine. I also take my medicine around this time as well. Some nights I set out a diffuser with lavender oil but not every night. Only when I feel like being fancy. 

3. Journal. 
Physically writing out how my day went, what's on my mind and how I'm feeling helps me keep from ruminating about the day too much once I get into bed. 

4. Background noise.
I live in a condo with two other people so there are always noises going on. For background noise I usually set my binuarral beats to play for a full 8 hours, this helps block out the sounds of apartment-style living. 


5. Meditation. 

I love Buddifhy and I listen to the Fade meditation every night when I get into bed. It's the last thing I do. Now I don't magically doze off as soon as the meditation ends but it helps turn my thoughts down and calm things down in my brain. 

So that's my night time routine. it's helped me get closer to 5 or 6 hours of solid sleep a night. I'm slowly creeping back towards 8 hours a night, hooray! 

Source: Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Research can be a vital part of writing. Whether you're writing a historical novel or a science fiction dystopia, you'll need to do research to help make your writing the best it can be. But a big problem can be getting so sucked into doing research that you never actually get any writing done. So where's the line between researching enough and researching too much?
Well, as always, there's no perfect answer for everyone, but here's what helps me. 


1. Start broadly. 
If you only know vaguely what you'll need, start broadly. Writing about space? Start with a general book, a textbook for instance, and poke around. Take notes, see what sticks in your mind. You may find something that suddenly adds a whole new interesting elements to add in. Things you never even knew about! Take lots of notes, read the references and see if any of those sound great. 

2. Utilize your library. 
If you have access to a library, use it! Ask for help with your research. Librarians are made of magic and awesome and most would love to help you find the perfect book to answer all your weird little writerly questions.

3. Don't buy all the books. 
This is my biggest problem. I decide to research something and the next thing I know, I've got 15 new books sitting on the floor and no idea where to even start. Begin with books you can borrow, check them out and see what you need. 

4. Outline. 
An outline will help you see if you're going to have specific questions. Train fight? You're going to need to read about some trains, better know that now and get the research a-rolling. Prepare in advance and you'll save yourself a lot of effort in the future. Take care of your future self by preparing now. 

5. Set a research time limit. 
Give yourself a set amount of time to do your research: a week, a month, a day, whatever amounts feels right for you. Then stick to it. I know it'll be super tempting to research 'just one more thing' but stick to your goal or you might get stuck in the research forever zone and never write. 

6. Make notes as you write. 
Start writing and then keep notes about questions that pop up while you're writing. This can be in the document itself (I like to leave notes to myself with xxx to make them easy to find later), in a seperate notebook or word document, or on a whiteboard somewhere nearby. Just don't let the questions totally derail you. They will pop up and that's okay. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect or have all the history exactly right. 

And that's what helps me stay on track to actually write and not get stuck in a research loop. 

Source: https://unsplash.com/@thkelley

Hustle has become the buzzword all over the place. It's become a badge of honor to say 'look how hard I'm working' and it's become hella dangerous to try to live up to. People wear sleeplessness like a Girl Scout patch and always strive to be the hardest working person in the room. 


Now don't get me wrong, hard work is awesome and necessary in a lot of ways. But the problem happens when you don't learn how to take breaks too. If you are constantly sleeping 2 hours a night, you're not doing yourself, your work or your life any favors. You're a candle burning at both ends and when they meet in the middle, there won't be anything of you left. 


Sacrificing yourself for your work isn't noble. It isn't you just grinding at the side job, it's you putting yourself last in a lot of ways. If you want to be doing your best work, take care f yourself, work hard and remember to relax. 
Part of a creative life is all about balance. Finding the balance between grinding it out and relaxing and no one's balance is exactly the same. Listen to yourself and know that it's okay to take a break now and then. 


Keeping your well of creative energy stocked matters and that well usually is refilling when we are resting or exploring or adventuring. We get our energy to create by taking a break from creating. Remember that. 


I want to be able to see your work for a long time to come and for you to be here for a long time to come so take care of yourself okay? 


Work hard and remember its okay to go to bed early. 
 

Sometimes in life, you hit a patch where the words just won't happen. I don't just mean a writer's block or the dreaded soggy middle. I mean the times when your whole mind turns into an arctic tundra where nothing thrives. You can't think of a new idea, you can't think of writing at all. The idea of writing fills you with sickly dread. It sucks. So what can you do? Well put on your snow boots and let's figure this out. 

 

1. Take a break.


Sometimes you just need a break from writing. Take a day or a week and just rest. Give yourself some slack and time to recharge. This is especially true if you have been really pushing yourself hard for a while. 

2. Read out of your usual genre. 


If you write romance, pick up a western. If you write horror, pick up a space opera. Read something totally different than your usual fare. Sample something different and give yourself some fresh ideas and new genres to look into. You never know when you might find your next beloved book. 

3. Enjoy a nap. 


Seriously, sleep is rad. Take a nap and see how you feel after some well deserved shut eye. 

4. Skip that scene you hate. 
 

If you're avoiding writing, unable to write or just hating everything about the certain scene or chapter you're working on... just skip it. Put in a placeholder in and move on. If you hate that scene than does it have to be like that? Figure out a way to make it fun for you and the reader.

5. Get help. 


Sometimes this kind of a block is a big red flag that something is wrong. I know for me, when I found myself unable to write for months I knew something was wrong and went to find help. For me, this tundra of no words is a big ol' sign post that I am entering the depression bad lands and it's a good time to talk to someone and get help. There's no shame in needing help. 

So that's what helps me when I enter the tundra of no words. Is a sucky place that I don't even like to visit but sometimes you just have to cross it and get to the other side. Writing is hard mental work and it can be taxing to do. So keep on plucking on and we'll get to the other side together. 

If 2016 was any guide, then 2017 has probably one helluva ride already. Hopefully it's gone better than the dumpster that was 2016 but... who knows, right? Maybe this year has been amazing and magical and all that good stuff. 

I hope you've finished Death is a School Girl and are actually querying it by now. If not, what's up with that? We've been working on it for like 2 years, it's time to send it out into the world and stop fiddling with it. Seriously. Stop it. 

Is Mass Effect Andromeda as neat as it looks? I hope you've gotten to play it and find a space husband and/or wife to romance. There are so many exciting movies and tv shows coming out that you better be getting on that future self! American Gods is going to be real and I can't wait to watch it! 

Anyways, enough about pop culture things. I hope that you are continuing to write, dream and adventure. Every inch out of your comfort zone teaches you so much so please keep being brave, keep writing things that scare you and going to places on your own. I know it's intimidating but you can have adventures on your own.

I hope 2017 is awesome and that you're wildly succusful beyond our wildest dreams, but more than anything I hope you're feeling happier and more like yourself. Depression is a sucky thing and I'm super proud of you for being strong even when things got dark. 

So, 2017 me, here's to a year of adventure, wonder and bubble tea.

I'll see you in a year.

<3

Me 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal