First Cup of Coffee – June 24, 2022

A firedrill from my agent had me going back through really old writing files, so I’m reflecting on what I observed – how my file organization has changed, how my writing has changed, and how what I once thought was SO CLEVER… isn’t.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

Ah, delicious. Um today is oh you know what today is say it with me friday! June Twenty Fourth one more week left in June then we’re halfway through the year how did this happen to mystery.

Um, so um, yeah, things are going well here today’s an exciting day for me taking my friends Charlie and Megan to Santa Fe airport to go on their trip to Italy lucky them and picking them up at 11 so I’ll have a little bit of a strange morning. Not quite my full writing day. But it’s a special occasion and then I pick up. It’s funny because their plane goes out and. My friends playing come in Alyx Dellamonica and who is also L.X. Beckett and Kelly Robson ah arrive at um, like 11:45 in Santa Se a very small airport. Um, so um, it’s it’s exciting. What’s funny is is they’re going to do the same thing on the return departure. Um, so I’m beginning to wonder if maybe they’re like. Superhero alter egos of each other that they can’t be in the same place at the same time. And um, probably take Alex and Kelly out to lunch because I think they’re not going to have time to eat. They got up very very early toronto time Kelly messaged me a good morning at one thirty my time so three thirty Eastern time but they were at the airport and left at um 7 my time the plane departed they have a pretty tight connection in Denver and then it’s just a real short hop from Denver to Santa Fe so I suspect they will not have eaten except for airplane food which probably doesn’t count remember when they used to like serve you full meals on the airplane like you’d get those kind of like what was even before microwaves so it was like I don’t know how they did it like steam. Heat or something that it was um yeah like those sort of Tv dinners. It was like being microwaved but you’d get the meal on the plane is that dating myself this last time flying it was um.

It was a bit more like normal times it was um, you know you could get alcohol on the plane you could drink and it was um it was american. And both of them were fairly short flights so we just got like cookies, cookies or pencils. Um, I wonder if they will go back to offering things like the you know the box lunches and that sort of thing in July I am flying to um, um, to to Reagan national airport. Via atlanta I think on delta so I’ll be interesting to see um, all it some resuming travel again seeing people right? kind of cool. So um, it’s a pretty morning here. We’re supposed to have a relatively sunny day and then more rain coming in tomorrow. My allergies. You can hear um my allergies are going crazy with the um desert. Pollen kicking into bloom it’s the ah the up and downsides of monsoon love to get that rain? Um, but then the grass pollen really kicks him.

Was trying to get this to pause but it won’t I have weird connectivity this morning I was just going to clear my throat a little bit so you guys didn’t have to hear it. There. That’s better.

Ah, all right? So um I made progress on shadow wizard yesterday I’m nearly at the end of scene one. It’s a lot of banter. But ah, but there’s adventures to adventures plus banter. Can’t go wrong there right? Um, judgment jeron is pretty hunted and tormented I haven’t quite figured out what all his deal is but yeah and I got to do a scene that um. I’ve never gotten to write before and it’s it’s a somewhat cliche scene we’ve seen it in various movies. Um, and I asked to rinda I said this is this too cliche the scene I just wrote and she’s like no I love it and I’m like It’s a classic for a reason right? and she said yes, absolutely.

So um, the other thing that happened yesterday was I got a message from agent Sarah on a quick turnarounding seriously quick. Um, quick like she needs this from me next week and I don’t normally I try not to check my email but everyone’s well I check it on my phone because I only get one kind of email on my phone. It’s one email address and it’s um. Only some people have it and it’s it’s for important stuff like that. So I saw the email from Sarah saying quick turnaround so I went ahead and read it. Um, and it’s kind of a cool opportunity. Course I cannot tell you about it? Um, but it’s um, yeah, it’s a work for hire thing and I needed to pull a pitch together for her and it involved going through like a lot of old material. So that was really interesting. It had been a long time since I have gone back through the dregs of um, it’s not the drugs. The archives doesn’t the archives sound happier the archives of when I was a baby writer I mean we’re talking. Mid late 90 s people people is also a good alternative to you guys? Um, so um so yeah it’s funny because. Back in the day. Um it the way that I organized my files on the computer and this is someone who you know I’ve been using computers most of my life I started learning how to program and dos when I was a sophomore. And high school I think so on ah those little boxy mac computers and we could program the pixels you know pixel by pixel to create graphics. Um, it was really um, it was terrific experience. I learned a lot about. Computer logic and how to assemble a program. Um, in some ways I really miss I mean I know I can still go to dos command but there were ways that we could manipulate the computer then that windows actively prevents us from doing now.

Um, so I am ah oh well, the way that these files were organized because my um I worked for my career type job right? Sorry I’m coughing so much. I did take an at homeme covid test and it came out negative I think this is just allergies I don’t have a um I don’t have a fever or anything like that. It’s just just a little croupy. So for a whole lot of my early writing career I also had my environmental consulting career and I would use the same computer for both um later I got my own computer. But especially because um, well we’re all aware of you know, like the ah the day job subsidy on your ah passion career right? Where you you know you send in reply to emails. During the workday and during slow times at the day job I would do writing stuff but I was very careful to keep those files separate and so I had um you know like ah. It’s funny because I created um a folder that was called like work file only I called it a work file so it would be at the top of the sort because back in the day you couldn’t do like reverse alphabetical sort so it was called a work file. And that was where I kept all of my personal files and then I had jeffie personal and within Jeffie personal was writing and within writing I had subfolders and it’s. Funny to see this now because of course now I have things organized by by like series. So my current file organization is you know, like generally by series. Um. And then I have subfolders for the various books and now I have for editions. Um, so like for covenant of thorns I have the 2022 editions because we’re going to be releasing them I think I’ll put the rogues pawn cover on today’s

Show notes I think I haven’t yet. Um I’ve been having fun making reels though I’m getting closer to to Tik to land. It’s fun to choose the music for Them. So. Then I thought of things differently and it’s interesting to me to see the shift in how I thought about my work So back then I had these folders that were like um. Have to think of what they are now they were drafts.

Published and ping pong were the 3 main folders published is obvious as soon as something got published I would move that subfolder into the published folder. Um drafts had a couple of subfolders that were um. In progress and finished so finished were the ones that I’d actually completed it whereas the inprogres were fragments or things that I felt like I needed significant work on and then ping pong. Which I’ve talked to a lot of mentees about and I’ve probably mentioned on here was I got this advice very early on with sending stuff out was to treat it like a game of ping-pong so you ah send out a query or a submission and when it came back and this was. Days of snail mail very much later and and then it merged there was this sort of transition where there was some via email and then it moved entirely to email but there were like still a few holdouts. There were still some places that would only take place things by snail mail they’re all gone now they dive out with the dinosaurs. Deservedly so um, but. The the way that ping pong worked was it. It took away that um, playing going by. It took away that onus of or the it’s not really an onus. It was. I don’t know that burden that terrifying burden of like having to send stuff out again. You know it’s like oh my god I got rejected instead. You treat it like they fired the ball back you got a volley it back and so I would have things ready to go. So. A lot of things in the ping pong folder are were never published. They were finished and never published so when I went back through all of this old stuff I I belatedly thought to look for ping pong because there was one night that I was thinking I know I have this somewhere and I remembered what it was called and it was ah an essay that was a series called grooming lessons that was actually a series of poems which one of the few poems um that I wrote professionally you’re like.

Since my angsty high school poems but it they won me a poetry fellowship from wyoming arts council which I always found kind of ironic. Um I never won the fellowship for my essays or my fiction. It was for these poems. And I only wrote these as poems because I’d been trying to write them as an essay for so long and I couldn’t get them to work and a friend of mine who was a poet um Paisley rectall who’s kind of famous now. Paisley and I were having coffee and she suggested trying to write them as a poem instead and it it worked. I mean yeah, it worked so but they were never published. So now I would like what I’m going to do is take them and break them apart and turn them into something fiction because it was one of the ideas that Sarah liked so it was funny. You know like I went back to these to that drafts folder and and I’ve got multiple iterations one of these days in my spare time I need to go back through I’ve got everything in Dropbox and I’ve got to go back through Dropbox because I have things. Repeated like I have that writing folder in like Jeffy personalel and I have it in other subfolders because I was so paranoid about losing stuff, especially when I finally left the day job and everything was going to be on my computer and I no longer had access to. You know, like the well I used to do like those tape backups remember those things before the cloud. Um so i. And sorry got all distracted thinking about the ah ah, it’s such a monumental effort I just and ah, who knows maybe I will never do it I just go ahead and pay my twenty bucks a month to Dropbox to keep multiple copies of all of my files forever. But they came in handy at this time. Um, yeah so I’d gone back and I’d found like the in-progress stuff and the fragments and I have multiple different places where I have like story ideas and so I put all of these down into a document for Sarah and she went through and. Picked out some stuff so it’s kind of kind of cool to resurrect some of these things. It was funny to read some of my early stuff from the mid 90 s um, there was one set of.

It was like these 3 pieces of of flash and I don’t remember if we called it flash then maybe we did but the idea they’re just like 350 words each 3 of them and I thought maybe this would work for this project that I could tweak and expand. Because I always liked it. I remember it having a very fond great fondness for this and it was called um 3 fairy tales showing a morbid fascination with feet I have my themes so it it was funny to see that I was thinking about this stuff even then it was the red shoes. The Twelve dancing princesses and Cinderella. And I remember them as being very witty and snarky and they are kind of snarky um, almost unpleasantly so and I was not nearly so witty as I thought my self ah not nearly so clever as I wanted to believe. And kind of read these and I’m like I thought that these were I’m like at last I can resurrect these things that I you know I was ahead of my time and said all these very interesting things about misogyny and fairy tales and how women are punished punished for their feet and um I don’t know. Maybe the kernel of the ideas there but these were not the jewels that I recall them being alas, so um, but there were some some jewels and it was very interesting to read these things from when I was. Trying out my voice when I was experimenting with different prose styles um trying to show different things. Um, yeah. Yeah, so I’m glad I have multiple versions of all these old files. Um I will be no harper lee where they dig out the manuscripts to publish after I am gone in a brazen attempt to cash in on my reputation. Perhaps someone will but you guys these things are not going to to rake in many um I just don’t see it so anyway. Um I got that back from Sarah and so this morning I need to punch them up a bit I can do it over the weekend but it’s gonna be kind of a. Busy, fun-filled weekend. So I may not have a lot of time. So I’m gonna do that this morning and um at least get them started so that I can go back and punch them up some and also work on shadow wizard. But then.

I’m out of here go doing airport runs and fetching friends so it was actually a good place for me to get this emergency thing from Sarah you know like if she had sent this to me two or three weeks ago when I was in the um panicked depths of trying to finish storm princess. There would have been no way. But right now I’m doing well on track for um, for shadow wizard. What am I doing I like made air quotes really what I want to do is knock on wood so I should do that knock on wood. But um, yeah, yeah. So all right I’m going to go get to work I hope you all have a wonderful Friday hope you have a wonderful weekend I hope you get to spend the time with dear friends. Um I have not seen Kelly and Alyx since August of 2019 in Dublin. As it were I don’t know not as it were ironically enough oddly enough when we were at world con in Dublin. So um, coming up on almost three years since I’ve seen them in the flash. So yeah, it’s really good to be able to. See friends and be with them again and I hope that you can have some of that and I will talk to you all on Monday you all take care bye bye.

Refilling the Well

I finished THE FIERY CITADEL, book two in my Forgotten Empires trilogy with St. Martins Press, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE. Yeah, it doesn’t come out until 2020 – maybe summer? we don’t know – but I completed the first draft and sent it in to Editor Jennie. There will be more work to come, but that’s the big milestone to pass.

I promised myself this time that I’d take some time off before heading into the next project. More than the weekend. As a full-time author, I write five days a week, going for 3,000 – 3,500 words per day. It takes me an average of 3 – 4 hours to get that, with an overall elapsed time of about 6 hours, including breaks. I usually have a pretty tightly packed schedule, so finishing one book has meant diving right into the next. But I track my productivity pretty carefully – I can’t control my creative process, but I can learn all there is to know about it and plan accordingly (which is part of owning your process) – and I’ve discovered that the week after I finish writing a book draft tends to be unproductive.

Even when I schedule myself for my usual work week, the writing tends to feel like pulling teeth. My word counts are low, I screw around a lot, and I don’t really refill the well.

So this week I’ve been not writing. Yesterday I tackled the garage. We have this one corner with a built in workbench and set of shelves. When we moved in (lo, these ten years ago – sheesh), we stuffed a lot of stuff back in those shelves, especially the lower ones, and back in the deep corner where they form an L. The original plan was one side of the L (the long one) would be for David’s tools and the short side would be my garden bench. My husband, however, while possessing many sterling qualities, is almost pathologically incapable of organizing his stuff. So his workbench has been a mess since day one. In fact, it’s a more ancient mess than that, as he pretty much threw the existing mess of his workbench and garage stuff into bins when we moved and dumped it out here.

I keep a hammer and a few screwdrivers in my office, just so I can find them when I need one.

Not only is his workbench a nightmare, when he has no place to put anything – which is always – he’d stack it on my garden bench. It got so I couldn’t even get to my gardening stuff. So I ceded the field of battle. I moved the baker’s rack from our front patio around to the secret garden and put everything there that can safely weather outside. I’ve also pulled most everything out of that space – discovering numerous rodent nests in the process – and now I’ll organize it for him. I kept a lower shelf for my garden stuff that needs to be out of the weather, but otherwise my garden bench is now for his fishing supplies. I’m kind of excited to do the thing where you hang up the tools and draw Sharpie marker outlines to designate where they go. We’ll see if it works and how long that lasts…

Anyway, it’s been good to disengage my brain and simply lift and organize. I’ve been rearranging the patio and garden, too, and things are looking pretty. Plus, I found some cool garden ornaments I shoved back in that corner and forgot I had! Watch for pics of those as I get them put out.

Resurrecting the Dead Elephant

I might have to revamp my writing file organization system.

Yes, gasp if you will. After 15 years of using the same system, I’m now discovering it doesn’t quite fit the writer I am today. I’ve kind of outgrown it, which is both thrilling and daunting.

Okay, you all know I’m a fiend for organization. It’s that little bit of Virgo easing up on my Leo cusp. If you’re just reading so you can make fun of me, well… okay. But if you don’t have a bit of Virgo, you might get bored.

I keep email folders and then organize my files on the computer into folders with the same names. For lo these fifteen years, I’ve been using three major categories for my writing work: In-Progress, Ping-Pong and Published. In-Progress is divided into Incomplete and Draft, and all have further sub-folders for individual works. My Ping-Pong folder is for works under active submission. I read an article in Poets & Writers when I was first starting out that suggested viewing the submission process as a game of ping-pong. You hit the ball out there, they reject it and pop it back, you send it right back out again. When the ball doesn’t return? Score!

This system worked great when I started out because I mainly wrote essays and short stories, submitting them to popular and literary magazines. It was a fairly straightforward process that moved at a lightning pace compared to the geologic time of submitting novels.

This might be spreadsheet TMI, but I keep an Excel workbook, called Progress Count, which has a tab for each manuscript I’m actively working on. I also have a Submission workbook. When I finished drafting and polishing something, I transferred that one spreadsheet to the Submission workbook, where I’d then track the submission process. And I’d move the folder for it, in both email and on the hard drive, from In-Progress to Ping-Pong.

And yes, it made me happy. I’ll even confess to a special thrill when I moved the folders to Published.

Well, now it’s not so clear.

See, for my first novel, Obsidian, it moved nicely from the Incomplete folder to the Draft folder to the Ping-Pong folder. After being kicked around the gutters of NYC, it came limping home, a battered and dented ping-pong ball. It needed rehab, in a big way.

I should have moved it back to the Draft folder. But I didn’t. I never had gone backwards. It stayed in the Ping-Pong folder, but – and this is a big BUT as all your organization fiends will recognize – I had to move the working spreadsheet back to Progress Count, so I could track the revising. You all recognize the problem here, right?

Right. Non-synchronicity of the filing system.

You can pause to steady your breathing – I totally understand.

I revised. The word count changed hugely. I gamely sent Obsidian back into the volley again. I think someone in NYC stepped on the ball because it just stopped coming back. No score.

Sad, I just left it all in the Ping-Pong file, when really I should have moved all the files to some kind of Elephant Graveyard folder. I started a New and Better novel. I put the past behind me.

Well, now someone is interested in Obsidian. (I know – tentative yay!!). I have detailed notes for revision. I hauled the files out of all the various folders I’d left them moldering in, but I feel like I have no place to put them. Resurrection folder, perhaps? Frankenstein’s Lab?

It lives!

I know this is likely all a bit much, but the upshot is that I’m finding there are more gradations to being a published writer than draft, submission, published. And there’s a certain maturity in recognizing that.

I’m off to create a few new folders.

Yeah, no one knows how to have fun like I do!