Archive for About me

IWSG: Am I Putting Too Much of Myself into My WIP?

The ISWG is a blog hop where writers can share their fears and insecurities about the writing life. To learn more, check out their website here.

When I was 19, I went out to dinner with my very best friend in the world, the boy, now a man, I had pictured myself marrying since I was five years old. At the table we were sitting at was an ad: “Tell us your epic love story and win a cruise!” We laughed about it, because we weren’t dating, but we had kissed.

“We would have one heck of a story,” my friend told me.

And, well, I think he was right. So I’m writing it. Sort of.

My WIP, which I’m now nearly 60k words into, is a conglomerate of both experiences that happened to me and complete and utter fiction. My MC is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Mexico. She has issues with her family and friends that I’ve never faced. But in so many ways… she’s me. And writing this rough draft has forced me to confront so many things about the person I was in high school, things that make me uncomfortable.

I have a feeling Blanca will get categorized as an “unlikeable protagonist,” and that hurts, when so much of her is me. I’m struggling to answer questions like, “what would lead someone to be ‘the other woman’ in a relationship?” and how ideals can be shattered. Part of my main research for this book is reading through my old journals. (For full disclosure and a bit of my dignity back: I wasn’t ever “the other woman,” but I was willing to flirt with taken boys I liked, hoping they would “realize their mistake” and date me instead. I also once kissed someone I didn’t know had a girlfriend. Blanca does the same.)

The justifications I wrote down for my flirtation, the way I would manipulate people into getting what I wanted, my absolute reliance on romantic/sensual touch (my love language)… it’s all going in this book. I was reading my 11th grade journal last night, and I had to stop and do yoga because it unsettled me so much to remember the kind of person I was. The kinds of things I was proud of. The kinds of things I would pray for.

I’m scared to death to publish this book one day, even if it is the best I’ve written. Too many people will see themselves in my characters. I wonder if the three exes that make up the antagonistic love interest will read it and know they inspired him–and not necessarily in a good way. I wonder if my old friends will read it and see me in Blanca.

More than anything, I worry about the things people will say about Blanca. Easily, her actions could be called unjustifiable, and she could be considered unlikeable. I’m okay with this, on an intellectual level. But I know from experience how badly it hurts when I get reviews and someone shames a character I wrote based on my own experiences.

I guess I could lie and say she’s nothing like me, but too many people would know better. More importantly, would know better. Anything people say about her, they’ll say about me. And that scares me.

But I’m writing it anyway, and I guess that’s really all I can do.

Welcome to the World

Nathaniel Everett was born on Friday, December 4th. 7 lbs 2 oz. Healthy and perfect. 🙂

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Mid-Year Goal Update

I can’t believe the year is more than half-over already. So far, 2015 has been excellent, but I’m not entirely on track with my goals. That said, with how much has changed in my life since January, I’m surprised I’m on track at all.

As I set out to write my 2015 resolutions in late December and early January, I had a six-month-old daughter I was still getting to know, a full-time job, and a steady influx of academic freelance work. I was loving posting on my blog and would often take time away from my full-time job to write out a post or two.

Now I have a one-year-old daughter (who loves walking and making mischief and is all-around adorable). I quit my full-time job more than three months ago and have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of freelancing work I’ve gotten done.

Oh, and I’m also pregnant with our second child, due in December. While intentional, having another kid before the year was out definitely wasn’t on my mind when I was writing my resolutions, and my yearly and second quarter resolutions don’t reflect how tired pregnancy makes me, that’s for sure.

This year, I set to work on three different areas of my life: spiritual, professional, and quality of life.

Spiritual Goals

At the beginning of the year, I had two spiritual goals: complete the 2015 devotional I got for Christmas, and read through the Bible chronologically.

Reading through the Bible. In March, my chronological Bible was stolen while we were in Disneyland (an ironic thing to steal, I’m aware), and since I’ve read it through before, I decided not to replace it.

2015 Devotional. This one has been easy to stay on track with, since it’s only a page a day. It’s also extremely simplistic theology, that breaks down the complex nuances in the Bible into nuggets that are supposed to apply well to “modern women” (which, naturally, stereotypes women a lot). I don’t love the reading, but every now and then a good one comes along that makes it worth continuing. Plus, it was a gift, and I feel that reading it honors my mother.

Bonus. Since minimalism and intentionality have been goals this year, we went through the garage and I asked my husband to go through boxes that have moved with us since we got married. He found a bunch of college textbooks, including a NRSV Bible with a ton of commentary written for scholars rather than spiritual reasons. I love this and plan to take a deeper look at it soon.

Professional Goals

Since this was the main area I wanted to grow, I had a lot of things I wanted to do. Quitting my full-time job was definitely on my mind, but I wasn’t brave enough to write it down as a goal, and it took reaching my breaking point in January to get me to commit. However, you can still see my desire to become a full-time freelancer in my goals, as well as my work on getting a novel published.

Join two freelance editors’ guilds/associations. I had this complete by mid-January, since I’d been scoping them out for half of 2014 anyway. So far they’ve proved useful enough, even though I haven’t made a ton of money from them. At this point in my career, since I can only claim five years’ experience, I get giddy when I make it into the top few someone is choosing between, and that feels like a win enough.

Create a blog calendar and PLAN. Yeah, so I downloaded the plugin that would give me a blog calendar, but planning just… isn’t my forte. At all. I still have to finish my Taylor Swift series, I intended to update the blog with my goal progress monthly rather than semi-annually, and I’ve been too tired (see: pregnancy) to write blog posts in advance.

Publish 50+ blog entries. I just went back and counted, and I’ve posted 19 on this blog and five on the Query Tracker blog, meaning this is my 25th blog post! I thought I was doing way worse than that, so yay! Hooray for how much I wrote in January making up for how little I’ve written recently. Also, I meant to make my goal 104 posts (two a week), I just mis-mathed. Now I’m really glad I did.

Query at least 50 agents for Expiration Date, or until signed. Obviously, there are a lot of steps that needed to happen before I could get to this point. And the number is arbitrary: I know all the true-isms in the writing field, like, “It only takes one ‘yes’,” reminiscent as they are of Christian true-isms like “God never gives you anything you can’t handle” and “God’s timing is best.” I’m well on track, though. I’m fairly satisfied with the current draft of Expiration Date. All the writing true-isms leave me hesitant to post where I am on querying (or even if I’ve started), so I won’t. 😉

Plan and outline next book. I’m not one of those authors whose ideas are constantly flowing and whose decision on what to write next is choosing which of many ideas is worth pursuing. Instead, I have to take the mustard seed of an idea (always only one at a time, usually planted about halfway through the first or second draft of what I’m writing) and massage it into something for a book. Right now, I have three separate strings and I can’t tell if they’re one, two, or three books. I’m working on it, but slowly, since Expiration Date is still my focus.

Quality of Life Goals

Complete 2015 Book Challenge. I’m almost on track with this, although the fact that I did next to nothing in May, including read, wasn’t useful. See updated book challenge page here.

Stick to minimalist wardrobe plan. This has been surprisingly easy, even with my growing bump (which is growing very high, so I can still wear normal pants, even at almost 18 weeks pregnant!!). I guess once you get out of the habit of shopping as a form of entertainment, it’s relatively easy to avoid. The only shopping I’ve done was for a dress to wear to a wedding (my form-fitting ones didn’t work with my growing bump… boo) and a black t-shirt to replace one that insisted on turning my armpits purple every time I wore it. (TMI? Sorry…)

Replace husband’s car with a small loan. Not particularly interested in giving direct numbers, since this is neither a finance nor a minimalist blog, but we did it! Our loan is under the amount I wanted to pay, and we ended up with a used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI in a beautiful dark gray with only 3,000 miles on it–pretty much exactly what we were hoping for (and more than, regarding the mileage).

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Now that I see my goals written out like this, I’m so happy with how well it’s going. Apparently, even in the middle of a ton of life changes, if you set goals that are true to who you are and who you want to become, they are achievable.

On Anticlimactic Endings

Last Tuesday was my last day at my day job. There were many reasons I chose that day: end of the quarter, a few days after I got back from vacation (so I could check in with the New Me to make sure everything went well), etc., but the biggest reason was that there was something final about leaving work on a Tuesday and not coming back in on a Wednesday.

Here’s what happened on my very last day at work:

I showed up at about 8:15 and checked in with the New Me. I watched her work until 9 a.m., when I had an exit interview with HR. That conversation lasted 20 minutes, and during our talk, I mentioned the style guide I’d created in 2010 before the company that hired me merged with the company I was quitting. She asked to see it.

It still needed updated from Old Company format (but I’d marked up a hard copy with my changes already), so I left New Me at her desk and went to my old desk to work on updating the style guide. This took much of the day.

To celebrate and/or mourn my departure, we had Thai food brought in. One person asked me what my plans were for the next day. Most people just had conversations like it was Just a Regular Company Lunch. After I finished eating, I went back to the style guide.

Near the end of the day, I was asked if I could check the data entered on some figures. Since New Me hadn’t done much of that, I went to her desk to show her how. It took a little longer than I expected and soon it was 4:45.

I went back to my desk, wrote a goodbye email, said goodbye to a few people, and left, the finality of it all weighing on me. I wondered if I’d spoken my last words to some of them, and lamented that I was already forgetting what those words were.

About a mile from work, I realized I had left my cell phone at my old desk.

I turned around, knocked on the locked door, and had to be let in again by someone I had already said goodbye to. I grabbed my phone and left for real.

And that, my friends, is what we call an anticlimactic ending.

Whenever something in my life ends, I look for it to be some kind of Meaningful Transition; I practically beg myself to feel older or different or whatnot now that I’m (1) in my 20s; or (2) graduated from college; or (3) out of a relationship with that guy I once thought I’d marry.

I want closure, like the end of a book, or at least the end of a chapter. Some kind of finite ending so I know that I’m allowed to move on. But it’s taken me 26 years, give or take, to realize that finite endings rarely happen. There are loose ends and mishaps and sometimes everything just ends, no transition, no parade to note that things are changing. And that’s okay.

The problem is that I suck at endings in both real life and my writing. I guess because so many things have simply ended in my life, I think I can just type a bunch of words and then stop typing a bunch of words and pretend like it’s a satisfying ending. I give my characters the easy way out. I make the bad guys less bad than they were earlier in the book.

So as I work my way through April, I’m trying to switch that–to let endings in real life end without all the drama I expect, and to pile on as much drama as I can in the ending of my story. The 42,000 words I wrote in November became about 35,000 (not a bad deletion rate, if I may say so myself), but I realized I was missing the entire third quarter of the book, and the ending I had vaguely planned wouldn’t work and was too soon.

I thought the story was smaller than it was, that it could be contained in a little box I’d prepared for it and the quick ending would happen and the book would shut and everyone would think it was a masterpiece. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

A week into freelancing full time, I’m pretty much over the way I lingered on my last day at work, only to have to return again fifteen minutes later. I’m more committed than ever to my story and giving it the hard ending, the one that ends much more satisfactorily than the endings I find in real life.

What about you? Have you ever made a big deal over a real life transition, only to realize it wasn’t a big transition after all?

The Cost of Doing it All (plus an announcement!)

When I first started my day job in 2010, my manager at the time pulled me aside and told me that when a project manager asked me to do something that was technically impossible to complete in a certain amount of time, to say yes anyway and figure out how to complete it after they’d left.

It didn’t matter if I was swamped beyond reason, I was to say yes. So for a long time, that’s what I did. I felt like Joe, who works at the button factory, but I got it done. When I was twenty-one, newly graduated, and living on my own, it was easy. Work was cyclical and my busy seasons were predictable. When I was busy, I would come in early, or I would stay late, and almost certainly by the end of the week I would be caught up and get to leave early. I never worked for more than 44 hours in one week.

In 2011, I started pre-marital counseling with my soon-to-be husband. The man who performed our first session started by asking us about ourselves. Flash forward ten months, and he remembered that I was an editor and liked my job. He asked me if I wanted to try my hand at editing a dissertation for the university he worked at. It sounded fun. I said yes.

By the middle of 2012, I was a recommended editor for the university and one of the admin staff asked me if I would be interested in being in charge of all dissertation formatting. I would spend an hour on each dissertation, making sure they followed the guidelines. It would be no more than 30 or so hours of work spread out over a month twice a year. My husband and I were saving for a house. It sounded fun. I said yes.

In 2013, I started taking my writing seriously again. I wrote and completed a novel. I found a forum for people looking to agent their work and after a few months I got an email from a member saying I sounded like a good fit for a critique partner, and would I be interested in exchanging manuscripts. It sounded fun. I said yes.

In January of 2014, I worked my usual 40-ish hours a week at my day job, which was getting busier month by month. My less busy seasons were becoming shorter. I was still in charge of editing dissertations, and completed five of them. I would have several more to QA in March and April. Also, I was 20 weeks pregnant.

In January of 2015, I worked my usual 40-ish hours a week at my day job. There hadn’t been a slow period since I returned to work from maternity leave in September. I was incapable of working much overtime because of daycare arrangements, so I got further and further behind. It was all I could do to keep my head above water. Then I would go home and work on the nine dissertations I was in charge of editing, because I said yes to every single person who asked me.

From November 2014 through January 17, 2015, I worked on something outside my day job every single day except Christmas. I was either writing my own work, editing novels, or editing dissertations. Every single day for almost a quarter of a year. On January 16, 2015, I had a breakdown. I sat bawling in front of my computer, yelling in the general direction of my husband because he was there, staring at the very first piece I’d been given to edit that I would not be able to complete.

This was me:

I couldn’t even.

I took a good long look at my life that weekend. I thought about my goals for the year. I thought about how I saw my daughter for less than ninety minutes a day on weekdays, and spent all of January praying she took long naps on the weekend so I could keep working. I spent two hours of every day commuting to work, then to daycare and home again. I considered myself a slacker if I worked for less than 11 hours on weekdays and 6 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Which basically means I was expecting 67-hour workweeks out of myself for five or six weeks straight. In addition to raising a child and running a household. Not to mention 10 hours of commuting every Monday through Friday.

Work stayed busy even after it should have slowed down. I started doing a mediocre job at everything I was supposed to be doing: day job, freelance work, cleaning, being a wife and mother. Something had to give.

So on January 19th, I did the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. I gave notice at my day job.

I was becoming the kind of person I didn’t even like much. I was always stressed, running with all cylinders firing at once. I didn’t know how to relax anymore, and I was constantly guilty. I felt guilty at work because my mother sees my daughter more than I do. I felt guilty playing with my daughter, because I was behind at work. I felt guilty when I worked from home, because I shouldn’t spend my precious free time with my baby girl playing with toys beside my computer so I could keep working. I felt guilty when I took nights off to spend time with my husband.

I’m tired of feeling guilty.

When I started telling people that I was quitting my job so I could freelance full time, I braced myself for criticism. It was not, and is not, financially responsible for me to quit my job. I’m technically not sure how we’ll make ends meet this summer. I didn’t get a single note of criticism. Not from my husband, whom it affects the most. Not from my pragmatic mother. Not from my boss. So even though it’s scary, I have faith that I’m doing the right thing. I will continue to send Alexis to daycare two or three days a week, and I will do my best to find work on those days.

BUT, on the days she’s with me, and on the weekends, I will be present with her. I’ll do my best to not feel guilty about work I could be finding, and I will be a parent. I’m scared to death. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing for food this summer, but I know it’s the right decision. After all, when you say yes to everything, nothing gets your full attention. That needs to change.

Monthly Goal Check-in

As much as I hate to admit it, 2015 has not been off to a rockin’ start. This is up to and including the fact that my first “monthly goal check-in” is five days late… but at least I didn’t tell you it was coming, so you didn’t know it was five days late until now.

On January 1st (an appropriate time!), I listed my goals for the year. I’ve also broken them down into quarterly and monthly goals. For a variety of reasons, I only do these as they approach, so I have my first quarter goals and my January and February goals, but not my third quarter or September goals.

Here’s how I did in January:

1. Read devotional through 31 January. Complete and on time. I’m not a huge fan of devotionals, but it was a Christmas present from my Mom and I want to honor her at least. Since it’s all of a page a day, it’s an easy goal to accomplish. My biggest gripe is that it’s compiled from multiple authors and they don’t even bother to use the same translation for each new passage. I think in the first 31 days I’ve seen almost every English-language translation there is.

2. Read chronological Bible through 31 January. Complete, but a few days late. Most days I was on track, but the weekend the month ended I fell slightly behind. If you’re Christian and/or curious, I highly recommend picking up a chronological Bible. You see the stories through such a different perspective, and the prophets feel more relevant inside their historical context. The one I use is in the New Living Translation, which is a less old-timey translation as well, so it feels more story-like from the get-go.

3. Join two freelance editors’ guilds/associations. Complete! I am now a member of the Northwest Independent Editors Guild and The Editorial Freelancers Association. (Yes, the lack of apostrophes bothers me.) Both come with ample job opportunities, although (and probably for the best) I’ve yet to get a job I applied for.

4. Contact three seminaries about editing. Two out of three ain’t bad. Some of you know that my main freelance work in the past has come from doctoral dissertations for a local seminary. I’m hoping to expand beyond this one seminary in the future. I sent one cold email (in retrospect probably a bad idea) and contacted one of my editing clients who works at a separate seminary.

5. Create a blog post calendar and use it. Technically complete. However, having the calendar isn’t necessarily aiding me as of yet. It mostly just makes me anxious when posts I planned aren’t ready yet (I’m looking at you, unfinished Taylor Swift series). I’m working on being more efficient with my writing time so this will be less of an issue.

6. Publish 5+ blog entries. Blew this one out of the water and published 10 posts, 8 of them actual blogs.

7. Type and edit WIP through about 3/4 through. Big miss here. I only have about 40 pages complete, and I needed just about 100. I’ll get there, though… eventually.

8. Finish dissertation editing on time. Complete. Sort of. We’ll go with yes, because the “sort of” is a long story.

9. Read three books that qualify for my book-reading challenge. Two out of three is still not bad. Especially considering dissertation editing ended up going on longer than I’d budgeted for. I read “Blood of a Stone” by Jeanne Gassman (full review coming soon!) and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Coolest thing about LfA? The characters are my age! That is, they were juniors 10 years ago when the book came out, and so was I. So that was pretty nifty. I also got to share the reading experience with a girl I mentor, who’d already read it.

Playing Snake

A few weeks ago, I went out with the 14-year-old girls I mentor for coffee. While we were there, we got to talking about games on our phone and I mentioned how when I first got a cell phone, the only game we had was Snake.

They looked at me, confused. “What’s Snake?”

So I did what any older Millennial would do: I went onto my phone and downloaded an app for it.

Snake

Screenshot of Snake ’97 on my smartphone.

Since I try to keep my cell phone relatively free from distractions (even my cell phone is minimalist), it is the only game I currently have on there. Even after I explained the game to them, I kept it and play from time to time.

Unlike the Snake I played as a teenager, I have various boards and cell phone layouts to choose from. My favorite board has soft edges: the snake can travel from the right side of the screen through to the same spot on the left. From the top to the same spot on the bottom.

Literally the only way to die is to run into yourself.

And I got to thinking this week, as I faced the busiest work week of my regular job, and the busiest freelance dissertation season I’ve ever had, all while being my first January as a mother.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, pellets appear on the screen. You “eat” them, and for every one you eat, the snake becomes longer. It moves in the same path you’ve already designated, and your goal is not to run into yourself as you seek more pellets.

Beating Snake

This week especially, it felt like an apt metaphor for the way we live. We take on thing after thing after thing, trying to remember all our commitments, trying not to let them run into each other. Every day becomes this balancing act, trying to press the buttons fast enough to keep you from dropping everything and losing it all. Except in our real-life versions, the pellets don’t show up one at a time. They show up all at once, begging us from all angles to add thing after thing to our already monstrous to-do lists.

I mentioned in my goals for 2015 post that my “word” for the year is intentionality. I want to be intentional about what items get added to my to-do list. As the year continues, I want to make sure I’m living out this word: looking at the things I agree to do and making sure that I can do them. Not in 70-hour work weeks, either, but in reasonable chunks that leave me time to relax, to read, and to spend time with the people who matter most to me.

Less than three weeks into January, I have already started this process and I can’t wait to share all the exciting changes I have coming up this year.

In what ways do you feel like that snake, chasing its tail and spending your time just trying not to get in your own way? How do you overcome it?

Alexis’s First Christmas

Since Michael asked (that is, informed me that our friendship was over until this happened), here is evidence of Alexis’s first Christmas.





 

My Goals for 2015

As 2015 begins, it’s a scary time for me. I really don’t know what life will be like in fifty-two weeks. I don’t know everything that this year holds for me. A trip to Disneyland in March. My daughter’s first birthday. My twenty-seventh birthday. Besides that? No idea. But that’s what my goals are for: to guide me toward the year I want to have.

Without further ado, here are my 2015 Goals:

Spiritual

  • Complete 2015 Devotional (Christmas present from my mom)
  • Read through Bible chronologically

Professional

  • Join two freelance editors’ guilds/associations
  • Create a blog post calendar and PLAN
  • Publish 50+ blog entries
  • Query 50 agents for Expiration Date, or until signed
  • Plan and outline next book

Quality of Life

These are pretty high-level goals, meant to be accomplished over an entire year. If I don’t sit down and start reading through my chronological Bible soon, I won’t be able to finish by December 31st. The book I want to query by the end of the year is only on its first draft. These are goals for the year after all, things that very well could take all of the three hundred and sixty-five days I have to accomplish them. Others are smaller (joining guilds and creating my blog post schedule), but they’re included because they’re important to my vision for the year.

Because they’re big-picture goals, though, I break them down into quarterly and monthly goals as well. Some of them are fairly obvious breakdowns–reading through 31 March entries, for instance. Some of them have different breakdown points: I want to join the editors’ guilds and finalize my blogging calendar by the end of January. I want to have my WIP to my CPs by the end of March. So my goals are adjusted accordingly.

I’m really excited for this year. My “theme” for the year, if you will, is intentionality. (Totally a word, spell-checker. Totally a word.) I want to intentionally expand my freelancing business. I want to be intentional about what I wear and how much (read: little) I shop. I want to be intentional about my health. Even my book challenge for the year has intentionality inherent in it. I have to seek out books based on whether they meet qualifications on my list.

If I can keep it up (last year, I met all but one, so my track record is good), this year should be fantastic. I’m also working on changing small things, like continuing my habit of 3+ glasses of water per day, and a small amount of exercise before bed each night.

What are your goals for 2015? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Changes in 2015

I’ve moved! Welcome to my new site, http://www.rochelledeans.com

I’m still messing around with the theme a little bit, and would love any suggestions for improvement you have, especially regarding colors.

I have some exciting plans in store for the new year, which I’ll dive into more in my 2015 Goals post.

welcome to 2015

stux / Pixabay