A Slight Miscalculation

Since at least September, I’ve looked forward to settling into my new normal. Living alone was supposed to mean more time to devote to my writing career. Those extra hours haven’t materialized. Apparently, I miscalculated.

Knowing the transition to the bachelor lifestyle and moving would take time, I took a break from my writers group. From mid-2010 to a few months ago, all I did was write and work the day job. Just ask my ex. I never missed my biweekly Saturday night writers group meetings, critiquing thousands of words ahead of time for every meeting. A break was in order.

The time went toward getting everything at the new abode the way I wanted. Other than selected yard projects, my do-it-yourself days are over. Contractors took care of all the inside stuff before the move and anything outside involving the use of power tools. Calling someone for jobs requiring more than a screwdriver or a hammer frees up tons of space in the garage. My entire tool collection fits in a kitchen drawer next to foils, wraps, and plastic bags.

Picking up after myself, cleaning the smaller house, and tending to a much smaller yard does take less time. But being single is time consuming. In addition to cooking, walking the dog, and other chores my ex handled, my social life has picked up. And the shopping — always with the shopping. Geez.

The month-long break from my writers group has stretched into months. With household projects mostly completed, I planned to use the time once spent critiquing submissions to read other writers in my genre, study gay history for the holiday series, and finish my next novel. I did read maybe half a dozen romance novels, but that was weeks ago, and I haven’t touched the reference books I ordered or my work in progress.

Social networking takes a lot more time than I figured. Before Until Thanksgiving came out, I had my blog, a Twitter account, Facebook, and time to read blogs, tweets, and status updates from folks I followed or added as friends. Now I have a web page to maintain, author message boards with two different publishers to monitor, and an untold number of sites where other writers tell me I need to have a presence to promote my books.

The blog takes more time now too. Having my first book come out last December raised the bar. Going live only on Mondays and Thursdays helps, allowing me to work several weeks ahead. I’d like to get a month or two ahead, and would, if I’d quit going back to polish each piece a hundred times before it posts.

I haven’t touched my third novel since February. The original idea was a highly fictionalized first person narrative based on parts of my never-to-be-published-in-its-current-form memoir. Since the basic plot matched up more or less with my life, I didn’t bother with an outline. By 30,000 words in, the “highly fictionalized” part had taken me far enough away from my reality to require some major rethinking.

Signing the contract for  After Christmas Eve is another factor. Reading over the editor’s comments and returning forms for development of a blurb and cover put me back in the story. Other writers may work on multiple projects, but with my one track mind and time constraints, I try not to bounce back and forth between stories any more than necessary.

Getting into a story deep enough to move forward or make changes is a lot of work. For me, picking up where I left off last time I had a few hours to work on a manuscript is hard enough. So knowing first-round edits for After Christmas Eve were coming, I’ve avoided immersing myself in the next novel because, once I start, I don’t want to be pulled out of the story until I’m done.

Angst about the fact I’m not writing has plagued me. Finding time when my ex waited on me hand and foot was easy. How would I do it now? Where would I find the time?

After dinner plans fell through Friday night, I went to the gym and got in a good workout. Saturday morning, instead of waiting for a message about plans for later, I went for a run. Sitting around waiting for plans to be confirmed, I got pissed. Not at them, but at me, for waiting. Eff ’em. I got stuff to do.

At one o’clock Saturday afternoon, I emailed the woman who carpools with me to writers group meetings. She sent me all the submissions and said she’d pick me up at half past four. I didn’t do in-depth critiques, but read enough of all five submissions to be able to offer some suggestions.

Going back to the group was exactly the right thing to do. I’ve missed my friends, and had forgotten how much I enjoy our discussions. Our dialogue also got me thinking about my work in progress again — not the story so much as the process. Before I go back to the 30,000 word beginning, I need to write a synopsis, some character bios, an outline, and paragraph summaries for every chapter.

The break from the group was good for me. Whipping through five submissions in the two hours before the meeting was a learning experience. Given demands on my time and, unlike two years ago, the knowledge I bring to the table, spending hours and hours doing line edits on one submission really isn’t a good use of my time. Better for me to point out patterns than to fix all the problems in someone’s early draft.

I had one of my little epiphanies at the meeting. Living with the ex made finding time to write easier because he allowed me to make writing my top priority. On my own, priorities shifted. A quick assessment of the way I’ve been allocating my time showed writing wasn’t even in the top ten. Waiting around for a message from Mr. Right, apparently, had become my top priority.

Halfway through the meeting, the much-anticipated first round edits for After Christmas Eve arrived in my inbox. Coincidence? I think not. Everything happens for a reason. With the breakthrough happening the day before Father’s Day, I believe Aunt Judy got together with Dad to send me a message from the other side. Toodles and Granny probably made ’em do it. Thanks y’all. Message received.