A few weeks ago, I laid out my writing plans. I wanted to spend the rest of October working on my Organic Chemistry Primer (a step-by-step method for teaching the basics of electron-pushing), and then I promised myself I would set that project aside to return back to my novel for NaNoWriMo. I figured that I could in theory finish my book in the month of November if I hit close to that 50,000 word goal. Mostly, I wrote those plans down for myself. If the gantlet had been thrown, so to speak, would I answer the challenge?
Well, I'm all about accountability, so here's how October went:
I wrote four chapters of my Organic Primer, out of the planned nine . I'm really happy with that! One of the things I forgot when I wrote that writing plan was that my husband would be traveling for a week during October, which meant all the home and animal care would fall to me. Whenever that happens, my writing progress slows down. So given all the extra responsibilities I had last week, I'm still very pleased that I got through my Primer as far as I did. Now it's a solid project and not just this vague idea in my head that I've been kicking around for the last few years.
Much more work remains on it of course. There's still at least five more chapters to write (although they're short, this is a very small book). Then I have to go back and re-format the figures I drew, which are still very rough. And then I'll have to decide what problems to include in the book, since it will be a kind of workbook. So yes, a lot remains. But I'll get there.
Still a few days left in October to work on the Organic Chemistry Primer, and then come Sunday it will be NaNoWriMo and I'll transition back to the novel. We're throwing a Halloween party on Saturday evening, so I'll do my best not to drink too much like I did last year... Nothing worse than trying to accomplish anything while hungover and that would be such a bummer way to start NaNoWriMo.
What are your writing plans? Will you be doing NaNoWriMo?
Ever have one of those days where the prospect of doing anything made you feel almost physically nauseous? That’s the day I’ve been having (as I’m writing this, on Monday). Sometimes, it’s inertia that’s the enemy, less so the real problems.
Or maybe I can partially blame the weather? We had our first frost on Saturday night, which more or less means the end of the gardening season. So depressing. My garden has been a huge source of fun for me all spring and summer, but now it’s fall. It’s freezing cold. It’s dark in the mornings. Soon it will be winter, which is even worse. Can you tell I am a summer person?
What I’d really like to do is use the privilege of my own blog space to whinge some more, but I suspect that’s just going to sink me deeper into the trough of despair. Plus, it’s boring to hear other people complain about their problems.
So about face, kid. Let’s shake this off. It’s chilly out, but the sun is shining. What am I really happy and excited about?
1) My Chemistry book. The Lewis Dot chapter is taking me ages longer than I had hoped it would, but I’m having a ball writing it anyway. The fact that it is winding up to be a fairly long chapter I think is a good sign. College students can’t draw Lewis structures worth a ding-dong, hence, they cannot do Organic Chemistry. An almost painful step-by-step chapter on drawing correct Lewis structures seems in order.
2) Working on my Chemistry book has also been a welcome reminder that I do still love Chemistry. My issues of late have had more to do with the project I’m working on. So yay! There was a reason I got that Ph.D. I wasn’t insane!
3) NaNoWriMo! As much as I’m enjoying working on the Chem book, I’m also looking forward to jumping headlong into the novel again. What fun it will be not to have to mess with ChemDraw to make my point!
4) Oh my god. Aubrey/Maturin. Desolation Island. Insanely good. I didn’t enjoy the previous book in the series, The Mauritius Command. There was just so much sailing back and forth between La Reunion, the Cape, and Mauritius, I thought I would never get through that tedium. But Desolation Island, wow. Icebergs, and lady spies, and a broached Dutchman. Just a crazy good story.
5) Slush reading! Look, if you’re in the business of submitting short stories to magazines, I’m sure you know the crush of rejection. I’m familiar with it myself. But know this. When I slush read, I read the story all the way through. Even if it has problems. Even if the writing isn’t very strong. And even if the subject is a little goofy. It doesn’t matter. I still enjoy reading your stories and I’ll think about them a lot. As far as I can tell, the other slush readers do the same. It always kind of amazes me the number of people who are motivated enough to write an original story from start to finish. That’s a pretty amazing skill. Even if the story isn’t right for the magazine (or, as is often the case, could just use a little work-shopping to spruce it into shape), I still like to read all the new material.
6) Christmas! It’s not that far away, if you can believe it. I’m less about the gifts and more about the anticipation. Being cozy. Admiring the tree. Eating too much cheese and smoked salmon. Once, my family sent me out to Trader Joe’s to pick up some more smoked salmon and I got two packs that were longer than my arm. The cashier asked if we were having a party, and I was like, “Ummm, nooo. No, just us…” She looked a little horrified, but we polished those fishies off so the joke’s on her!
7) My father-in-law was super awesome to buy us plane tickets to the Bahamas for Christmas. If there’s one major benefit of working in academia, it’s the lengthy holiday vacation. School’s closed! Must look ahead to that. Hard to even believe it’s going to happen. I mean, the Bahamas!
Will stop there. Seven good reasons to feel happy and motivated today. Not one good reason to mope that won’t be a past problem in just a few months time.
Hope you’ve got seven reasons too and feel free to share them. Have to admit, that was very helpful to do. Clearly, I’m an incredibly privileged person, and I know that, even if I’m a selfish brat at the same time.
I wish I could write more about the fun things we’ve been doing lately, but it’s been kind of a grind. Need to take steps to address that.
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!
I feel like I vague-blog a lot about my "projects." I've always felt conflicted about "leaning in" to a high-powered job because I've never wanted my career to interfere with all the side-work I do for myself. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm spreading myself too thin. I have too many ideas; too many things I want to work on, and never enough time. Here's a list of what I've been up to lately:
That's a hefty load and I'm wondering how sustainable it is to attempt all of these projects even if I enjoy them. Writing the blog itself is a major time commitment, but I like the discipline of daily writing (well, four times a week plus a Friday link-roundup). The slush reading is also fun and helpful for my writing, so that's also something I'm not willing to give up. I've reigned back the science editing to just my long-term clients, because my time is really worth more to me than the money right now, but I don't want to give that up completely in case I do eventually start a full-time business.
You might notice that I've marked a few items on that list with asterisks. That's to indicate which projects I think have any chance to make money (with more asterisks indicating greater earning potential). The science editing already does make me a little money. I also used to sell paintings when I was younger. I started painting again recently and I think I've still have the knack for it, so I may try selling those on Etsy or at a local bar or something to see if there's any interest.
But one thing I haven't talked about at all on this blog is my Organic Chemistry Primer (**). For a while, I've thought there's a need for a very simple, "electron-pushing" guide to prepare pre-med students for organic chemistry. Just a slim book you'd read the week or day before you take your first orgo class. College courses do a terrible job of explaining the most basic concepts behind organic chemistry, because there's such a large volume of mechanisms to learn. Professors tend to rush ahead and leave students totally confused and struggling to understand what's going on.
So I've started writing a very simple, "how-to" kind of book on organic chemistry based on all the things professors should be teaching their students in the first week of class, but don't because of time constraints. My idea is to sell this book as a kindle-single, fairly inexpensively, and then market it on pre-med forums. Originally, I was going to go through all the trouble of preparing a book proposal and attempt the traditional publishing route, but then I thought, why bother? Why not just get it out there now?
Ideally, I'm looking for a source of income that will help support me so I can spend more time writing and improving my fiction (which I know, will probably never be a full-time job). Maybe my organic primer book could help me do that? Or at least be an additional source of income that shouldn't require too much time once I've finished it. Again, that's the ideal case. I have no idea how much time it would realistically take to market and promote it.
Even though I prefer working on my novel every morning during my daily writing session, I think I'm going to have to switch that time over to finishing my Organic Chemistry Primer. That's the logical order, right? Start on the items that have a chance to make money first, then move on to less commercial projects.
So here's my goal: I want to finish my Organic Chemistry book during the remaining days of October instead of working on my novel. The Primer isn't meant to be long, so I think I can do it. Then I'll be free to work on my novel during NaNoWriMo, when I intend to finish the first draft. Then in December, I'll edit and hopefully publish the Organic Chemistry Primer on Amazon, followed by editing my novel in the subsequent months.
There. It's out there. That's my promise to myself. That's what I'll aim for.
Am I crazy?
Writer, editor, scientist.