This week, I had so many ups and downs in my writing world, I wouldn’t have been surprised if, next to my computer, a sign had been appeared stating, “You must be this tall to ride.” So, slap on your seat belts and let’s go for a little loop-the-loop (and please keep your hands in the car at all times).

Someone did NOT keep his hands in the car at all times.

As with any thrill ride, I started the week with that tinge of excitement because I managed to outline Books Five & Six of the Osteria Chronicles.


Who knew there was an Osteria-themed roller coaster/water park!?

Sort of like that slow chugging up that first climb of the roller coaster, my outline started out a little clunky. First, I had no idea where my notes (which I had written out way back during the production of Book Two, The Voyage of Heroes) had gone. A little hunting and searching and voila, there they were lurking deep in a desk drawer.

Well, I found them. Now what?

Because I only had an inkling of where this series was headed when I made these cards, the info for Books Five & Six was super thin and much of it no longer applied. After some sifting, I basically had a tiny bit of stuff for Achilles, a fair number of plot points for Odysseus, and a bunch of cards that said, “the gods pick sides,” “the titans fight the gods,” or “the centaurs help.” Seriously, a blank notecard would have been less vague.

So, chug chug chug up the incline of the outline. Hazily recalling the ideas I’d had while drafting The Bonds of Osteria (Book Four), I simply started writing out what I needed to happen to each of the main characters in Five & Six. Brain cells were quickly jogged back into shape and things started clicking. Within a day I had fleshed out both stories, worked in some nice twists, and brought in a gob of characters we haven’t seen in a while.

I was at the top of the first incline and feeling great.

Then came the plunge.

Somehow this is supposed to turn into a couple of books.

Here’s the problem, I really want to get both these books and the Domna series published next year. This means making very efficient use of my writing time, but I had it stuck in my head that I couldn’t work on two series in the same day. So, for August and September, I figured I’d devote three days toward editing Domna and one day for the first draft Books 5 & 6 (my other work day is dedicated to “business” matters).

Then the plunge kept plunging.

This was a very VERY bad idea. To complete the draft of Five & Six using this strategy would require writing at least 25,000 to 30,000 words in a single day. That’s a painful amount of writing (especially since I write all first drafts long hand).

Ladies and gentlemen, the ride has shut down.

I did. I completely shut down. The first day, I barely got through a quarter of what I needed to do and hit a wall. Rather than pick up something else to do, I kept telling myself, “This is what you are supposed to do today. If you don’t do it, you’ve failed.” But if I looked at another notecard, I felt like I was going to scream.

I beat myself up quite harshly over the frustration that I’m not a fast writer, over not meeting my day’s goal, and over the fear that I will never crawl out of this hole of writing obscurity. The worst, part, there wasn’t even any booze in the house to drown my sorrows in. I mean c’mon life, throw me a bone!!

I went to bed that night stuck at the bottom of the roller coaster.

Actually, by now the roller coaster had encountered a sinkhole and I was deep down in a pit of despair. Worse still? Cary Elwes was nowhere in sight.

Okay, you know how they say cliches are the stupidest things ever? They’re not. Sometimes, they’re actually true.

I woke up sometime in the pre-dawn hours (my default setting in summer) and thought, “Why not just try doing both series in the same day?” I ran through some calculations in my head and if I could devote a couple hours in the morning to Books 5 & 6, took a break for lunch (aka “do housework/yard work”) and then did my edits for Domna in the afternoon, I might just be able to pull it off.

Things really did look brighter in the morning.

Pretty much the view of me climbing out of my pit of despair.

So, that day, I sat down at my not-so fancy, not-so new writing desk and worked on Books Five & Six for two straight hours (okay, there may have been a tea refill in there at some point). The result: writing goal for the day met!!

Site of world construction.

In the afternoon, like a line of cars whizzing smoothly around the loop-the-loop, I got through my edits on Domna without a hitch and even (gasp!) had half an hour left at the end of the workday.

I felt amazing (alas, still no booze in the house)!!!

And you know what? I stuck to this plan the remaining days of my work week and am now on quite a productive roll!

So, long story short, this week I’ve learned…

  • that sometimes I need to re-evaluate my assumptions of how I work best
  • that negative thoughts about my work can be really really debilitating
  • that trying something new can make me more productive
  • that we have a striking lack of booze in this house, and
  • that I really need to watch The Princess Bride again.

How’s your week been? How do you climb out of pits of despair (and would you want to if Cary Elwes was in there?)? Have you discovered any work tricks that make you more productive?

Next week, it’s up to you to help me decide on a cover for Domna! And on Saturday, Finn McSpool and I will be back with our first day of exploring the ancient wonders of the Aran Islands. See you then!!!


22 thoughts on “My Roller Coaster Writing Week

  1. Good luck with your work plan! I hope you stay on a roll. And don’t get too down on yourself if things don’t quite as lanned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, this story has a happy ending at least! 😀 I always start a project feeling completely out of my depth with it, but I do something quite similar to your technique here… Break the day down into more manageable chunks, and get the tricky stuff out of the way in the morning. Oh, and factor in lots of tea breaks, of course! Good luck 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always done the hourly-chunk time management thing, but in his case I was overestimating what I could complete in those hourly chunks and my stamina for writing.


    2. “This” case, not “his” case. I’m not sure who “he” is and why he has a case, but I bet he’s up to no good. And yes, tea breaks are vital to creative success!


  3. Story of my life! I relate to this so much. Your charted out work schedule is like a physical manifestation of my ideal dream self – to be able to craft something that meticulous and work within the lines in an organised and highly productive manner. But (although I’m sorry to hear about your struggles) I’m glad to read that you are human, and sometimes don’t manage to meet your envy-inducing levels of productivity! I can 100% say that I too would completely beat myself up about this and fall into the pit of despair (hell, I do before I’ve even tried!). But huge props to you for hauling yourself back up so quickly. While the structure you’ve given yourself is amazing and useful, I also think that it is necessary to allow yourself to do what feels right in the moment (as you have done in this instance)–particularly because the work you are engaging in is a creative endeavour! As much as my type-a personality wants to be able to organise and quantify my creativity, I have to accept sometimes that I cannot (and that I am merely a puppet to creation’s whim). Oddly enough, I think your lack of wine in the house might have also helped your speedy recovery. I also fell back into the pit of despair this week, and I think that my (very tough) decision not to let go and drink a bottle of wine whilst resting at the bottom of the pit really helped me to be able to climb back up the next morning – so, not being a borderline alcoholic is my new productivity ‘trick’ 🙂 Well done, good luck, and here’s to keeping our heads above water! Asssssss yoooooooou wiiiiiiiiiish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh good, I thought I was the only one out there who falls into creative pits of despair (prince Humperdinck pushed me, I swear!). And yes, sigh, I suppose the lack of wine did help in the pick-myself-up-by-the-bootstraps thing, but none during the celebratory side of things!? That’s akin to cruelty!

      I suppose I hear about all these writers who can crank out like six books in a few months and then wallow in their mound of royalties and wonder, WTF is wrong with me as someone who spends six hours a day writing and is going nowhere. Never mind, Humperdinck, I’ll just dig my own pit of despair. But now I’m being whiny. Unfortunately, I am human…a very slow human apparently. Sigh. It’s just very difficult not to compare.

      Still, you will be glad to know that after a really tough editing session yesterday with Domna (seriously, what was I thinking in those chapters?), I did put books five and six aside and allowed myself the rest of the afternoon to dig up and replant an area of the garden. Of course, now I’m plotting how to make up that writing time…sigh.

      Ah well, here’s to dreams (she says as she raises a very imaginary glass of wine). 🍷

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      1. I knowwwww it’s pretty close to impossible not to do, but as much as you can, try not to measure your progress and success against those other writers! Firstly, I’m sure there are a lot of other factors contributing to their swiftness and things aren’t really what they seem. And secondly, everyone works differently and there are many different roads to success! So try not to beat yourself up too much. I AM very glad to hear you took some time for yourself in the garden!! Ugh why are dreams so much work?? Enjoy that imaginary wine!!!!

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      2. The worst of it is that one of the podcasts I used to really enjoy has now started an “author success stories” bit. Let’s just say there’s no one giving the story of “I wrote books and devoted a lot of time to crafting them and then released them not knowing a damn thing and then worked hard to learn about marketing and finally nailed it.” Nope . It’s all “I wrote six books in two months and published them and was on every social media outlet in the world and had gobs of money to throw into book covers and ads and I made $10,000 my first month.” Arghhhhhhh! Give me my imaginary wine, stat!

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      3. Well, those do not sound like interesting success stories to me. I prefer the ones about the people who keep being knocked back and then suddenly rise from the ashes once they are well out of their 20s and everyone has given up on them and they become super successful in their own way and never have to worry about another thing!!!!


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