Mowing the Lawn and I Can’t Blame COVID

It’s Not COVID…

In mid March, 2020, I learned that the leadership team at my place of primary employment was smart: They instructed those of us who could work remotely do so. Since then, I’ve worked from home five days a week. I credit their decision with keeping my family health. There’s no down side to that!

You’d think that I’d be able to get more novel writing done. In fact, I was hopeful at first. But unfortunately, no. I’m actually working more hours than I was when I drove into the office. When you factor in what used to be commute time, I’m actually working 20-25% more hours. So, I actually have less time to write.

I can’t blame COVID for that. I think I feel obliged to give some extra effort since the company made decisions that help keep its staff healthy. I know I’m not ready to pack myself back into a fully populated office building. There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 yet. It’s not something I want to tempt.

I have to be honest, though. I’m worried. As documented in an earlier post, I’ve been working on A Ghast in the Machine’s beats since May 17, 2019. My initial offering is going to be the permafree Divinity Ascending, probably used as a lead magnet, and the initial trilogy, anchored by A Ghast in the Machine. It’s been 13 months, and I only have 25 chapters or so outlined. My beats may or may not map directly to chapters, and I have 27 beats created (only 2 new ones since my previous post in February). Do I really have a realistic path to finishing that anytime soon? Or am I going to have to wait until I retire?

I may only have created two new beats, but I’ve been able to deepen the ones I’d already written. One of the characters from the United Nations in particular has benefited from this.

It’s not that I don’t have time to write at all. I’m writing an anime review 6 days a week on Crow’s World of Anime. In fact, during the Spring 2020 season so far, I’ve spent about 154 hours writing posts. So the time’s available. But when the series air, and my publication dates, are dictating when I need to write. I thought I’d adjusted the Spring season to make enough room. It’s close. Sometimes, I have time Tuesdays and Thursdays to work on the novel. But, it’s not consistent. After analyzing my writing time distributions, I think if I free my weekends, I might make more progress.

Tracking time helps me see what time I’m really investing, so it gave me the assurance that if I arrange the week right, I should be able to make more progress. I’d like to note that Lynn Sheridan has done similar work on his site, The Otaku Author. He talked through a recent set of decisions he made about his career in his post “Course Correction! (Sunday Sevens).” It’s not like I can’t make this decision on my own; it’s just reassuring to know that my thought process is not completely out in left field.

So, we’ll see if fine-tuning my schedule can reinvigorate the novels.

Mowing the Yard Builds Good Characters

Even in this environment, I’m still thinking about the book and its characters. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I realized that Melchizedek “Dek” Conrad, the main character, was just kinda there. While mowing the yard the other day, a rough sketch of his journey came to me. It still needs some fine-tuning, but I’m feeling better about what he’s trying to do.

The path also puts him on an apparent collision course with the TransStell board of directors, which is also good, because I was thinking of ways to get them more involved.

In what seems like a recurring theme for this series, the Ghast is also playing an unexpected role. I had several intense scenes occur to me. They were isolated fragments. I’m not sure they’ll make it into the final drafts. But they give me an idea of where the characters want to go, which is just a conceited way of saying I think I’m figuring things out.

I mean, characters aren’t sentient. We all know that. Right?

Writing these posts keep me accountable to myself and to you, my potential future readers. I’m still trying to push forward. Spurred on by my world view that says facts matter, I’m trying to base my decisions on actual data. So, let’s see where this goes! The new anime season starts in a couple of weeks, so in another month or so, I hope to have another update for you.

Do you have struggles like this as you try to write? What helped you move forward? I’d love to hear in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Mowing the Lawn and I Can’t Blame COVID

  1. I’ve certainly struggled to write since the pandemic. I was able to do Camp NaNoWriMo which was fun, but I’ve had bouts of anxiety and depression where I felt paralyzed from a creative standpoint. Sure, I also have other obligations like work and school, but I want to regain that spark to keep working on my Hollanduscosm series.

    1. “I was able to do Camp NaNoWriMo which was fun, but I’ve had bouts of anxiety and depression where I felt paralyzed from a creative standpoint.”

      You bring up a good point. I went out of my way in this post to say COVID had nothing to do with it. But I’ve also been feeling — I think “paralyzed” might be the right word.

      I’ll see if following my plan helps.

      Good luck with your Hollanduscosm series! I hope you can reignite your spark!

  2. I’m working on a novel myself (my own take on a harem/ecchi in the vein of Shinmai), actually finished it and writing the sequel before I go back and give it a second look (gives me proper distance), and frankly, I’ve never really run into problems with time. With work, the blog or the book. I’ve set aside time each day to write for at least an hour, mostly between 7:30-9 each evening. Sometimes it’s shorter, or sometimes it’s longer, but that is where I’ve conditioned myself to be like “ok, writing time.”

    It’s worked really well for me. Now granted, I don’t blog nearly as much as you or others do, but with an actual career job, and the blog, I’ve somehow made it work. I think it is just about setting aside a little time each day to just knuckle down and do it, even if it is only 100-200 words, it’s something.

    1. “With work, the blog or the book. I’ve set aside time each day to write for at least an hour, mostly between 7:30-9 each evening.”

      That sounds like a great idea! I do something similar with my blogging time.

      The challenge for me isn’t making time. It’s how much uninterrupted thought time I can direct at the problem. I have a family situation where I can be interrupted at any time, with no notice, and I have to respond immediately. it’s nothing Earth-shattering. I can blog just fine. If I get interrupted 10 times while writing a Best of Show post, no big deal. It’s a single thought! There’s not much that get scrambled.

      But a novel?

      I’ll keep fussing with my schedule to see what happens. Hope springs eternal and all that!

      Now I’m dying to read your take on the harem/ecchi genre! Are you going to self-publish? Do you have any editors lined up? I hear it’s tough to find the right editor.

      Have you ever read anything by Brandon Varnell (@BrandonBVarnell on Twitter)? I came across his American Kitsune series. It’s a comedic take on harem/ecchi series, but with a dash of realism. I’ve heard tell that he got sick of the clueless male protagonists, so he brought his own vision to the table! Really worth reading, especially to get to know what else is getting published in your genre.

      A rising tide floats all boats!

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