Shifting Priorities

I ended up taking a couple extra weeks in my blog break. Sorry for the delay in my return, but it’s been very productive for my writing. I’ve been hard at work on my first draft of Book 3 of The Unbelievables. I’ve laid down 56k words (218 pages) of the first draft between December 11 and Jan 26.

It’s been a while since I worked on a first draft. I’d forgotten how much fun and how much frustration there is. The blank page means I can do almost anything, but that means lots of decisions. With revisions, I’m working on tightening the story and polishing it up. With the first draft, I’m laying out the story bones and building the story as I go. It’s exciting but it’s also a bit overwhelming at times.

I started out with a 3-page synopsis. And I thought this is all I need. Structure without confinement. But then I realized how many scenes I had to just create from scratch as I went along. (Mind you, I’ve discovered when I do a scene-by-scene outline, it makes a far worse first draft.)

I originally aimed for 2k a day of writing 5 days a week, but that didn’t work out due to my reoccurring vertigo. So I scaled down to 1700 a day. But I was still struggling to hit that. Between doctor appointments and teaching and family obligations over the holidays, I was feeling super stressed. So I finally ended up at 1500 words a day. I was bummed out by the decline in my writing prowess. Normally, I get faster and better with each book. This was a slide back to how I wrote 2 books ago.

But I showed up each day and it paid off. I also started a new medication to treat my recurring vertigo and it sharpened my mind tremendously. I’m consistently writing 1700 words a day now. Woohoo!

I made time for my hobbies again. I have been teaching myself to make my favorite Chinese dishes (I so miss living 20 minutes from Chinatown).


(Egg Drop Soup, Mongolian Beef, & Pork Dumplings)

I’ve started re-reading my favorite manga (Land of the Blindfolded) and watching anime (Magic Knights Rayearth, Inuyasha, Soul Eater) again. I forgot how much I loved these stories. And I’m reading more books too!

I’ve spent more time with friends.

I’ve also started reading poetry again. I used to love poetry when I was a tween and teen. Yeats, Poe, Rilke. I actually like to read it aloud to myself and see how the words roll around on my tongue and hit my ear.

So until I finish this first draft, I’m going to be here once month and on Facebook and Twitter once a week.


Have you found yourself returning to old hobbies or starting new ones? How are you managing your social media time?



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15 Responses to Shifting Priorities

  1. I’m glad to hear that you’re hard at work on book 3 Kourtney, even if it’s not going quite as quickly as you’d hoped. I hope the medication continues to help, I can only try to imagine how frustrating it must be. But it’s good that you’ve rediscovered some old loves and found time to relax as well as working. I’ve been re-reading all the books of my favourite author – Phil Rickman – since Christmas and really enjoying it.

    • Kourtney says:

      Thanks, Andrea. It’s hard when you can’t perform and meet reasonable expectations of yourself. But after some freak outs, I realized I just had to change expectations and timelines. Me too–I can finally think clearly after many months in a mental fog. It’s amazing what the right medication can do! I used to be all about the books 24-7. It left no time for myself, and it made me unhappy. So I’m getting back into those things I enjoy. Ooh, that sound so fun!

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’m glad you’re taking some time to rediscover past hobbies and that you’ve found a medication that helps your vertigo. Life goes by so quickly, and we can easily get stressed and overwhelmed by all there is to do, and there is always a lot to do as a writer! Gone are the days where the only requirement was typing out words. The promotional aspect can really drain a person. So good for you for taking a step back a bit. And congrats on the writing. Even at a slower pace, it’s still an admirable amount.

    • Kourtney says:

      Thanks. You’re so right. I used to work 7 days a week, but now I’m scaling back to 5 days a week. I need down time. Even traditionally published authors have to take on a lot of marketing. The marketing is so critical, but I can’t be online all the time when I’m creating. I did such a big push with the release in October. I was online so much from Sept-November. But I allocated that time to be in marketing mode. I don’t know how you stay on top of Twitter like you do! You’re amazing! Thanks. It’s funny I realized I’ve only written five (this is my sixth) first drafts and done like 100 revisions, so first drafts still feel like a process I’m getting down, whereas revisions feel very familiar.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        First drafts make me feel a bit frenzied too. I feel like I have to get everything down at once, as if my fingers can’t keep up with my brain.

        I put most of my social media presence on Twitter. I’ve found focusing more on one relieves the pressure of keeping up with the others. I still visit the others, and I still read a lot of other people’s blog posts, but I don’t feel the need to constantly create new content there. That’s a relief in and of itself.

        • Kourtney says:

          I’ve got to lay out the story but I can’t help looking at what I write and going too much telling. Not enough sensory info. More emotional beats. LOL. I do edit as I go so I can fix the things that really irk me. But I keep reminding myself this is just figuring out the story time. But then the voice in my head says, But why not fix things too?

          That’s smart. I used to focus on Facebook, but so many YA readers are on Twitter. Yes, the creating new and interesting content is tough. And you do a great job–that’s why I retweet you so much. 😉

          • Carrie Rubin says:

            Thank you. I always appreciate your retweets.

            And I hear you about wanting to fix things as we go along in our first draft. Sometimes I do, but mostly I just try to get it down. I also get all my research facts right at this point so that I don’t have to mess with that in the second draft, which often means I get pulled away from the writing and end up going down the internet hole of links!

          • Kourtney says:

            Sometimes I get a moment of writer’s pause and if I don’t fix stuff, I can’t write onward. But I limit it to 1-2 days of fixing. 🙂 I use track comments in Word to log all that I need to research. I do it as I can, but make sure to get it all done during the first draft. I usually end up pulling a dozen books from the library and scouring them for info I need.

  3. I’m happy your blog break has been productive, Kourtney. It’s tough juggling everything…I need a vacation…LOL! As for Facebook, I’d be okay if that went into the wilderness like Spacetime or whatever that was called. 🙂

    • Kourtney says:

      Thanks, Jill. It really is. I find that I have to schedule breaks. This past year of vestibular migraines taught me nothing is worth working myself to the bone.

      LOL. Remember Friendster and MySpace? 🙂

  4. Mayumi-H says:

    So glad to hear that you are doing better, taking more time for yourself, Kourtney! And, that that has slowly translated into a productive writing time for you! Good for you, to decide to limit your marketing/social media time. It’s easy to get swept up in the drama (usually, other people’s drama) of social media and forget what is really important. But when we take the time to reconnect with our more meditative, personal selves, it does make a difference!

    Thank you so much for iterating this point:
    “I’ve discovered when I do a scene-by-scene outline, it makes a far worse first draft.”
    It is so refreshing to hear from an author that we can have our own ways of writing…and it doesn’t make us wrong! I can’t accurately count how many times I’ve gotten frustrated with the process because I’ve tried to follow somebody else’s guidelines. Knowing I’m not alone in that I do things a bit differently from what is usually prescribed is a great help!

    Congrats on the cooking! Do you have a favorite source for recipes, or are you trying out a bunch from different sources, and seeing which ones you like best? Cooking has always been a great stress reliever, for me. Plus, it offers me time to think about story, while I’m chopping, stirring, or waiting for something to heat up!

    • Kourtney says:

      Thanks, Mayumi! I’m trying to focus on my author newsletter and marketing techniques that generate sales. Social media hasn’t been a big seller for me. I love private time. I’m seriously liking not telling anyone what I’m doing. I am such a happy hermit.

      Definitely. I love to hear how people write and try out their methods. But so many didn’t work for me. It’s really important to realize your method has to consistently get words on page. If it doesn’t, try something else until it does. I tried long, detailed outlines and those were my worst first drafts. Like most of the manuscript had to be trashed. But I have other author buddies who swear by it. I even heard a writer talk about how she plays with objects and writes scenes inspired by them that are completely out of order. It works for her, but it doesn’t for me. It’s too non-linear for me.

      Yes, I am old school so I use two cookbooks: Bee Yinn Low’s East Chinese Recipes and Naomi Imatome-Yun’s The Essential Wok Cookbook. Sometimes I’ll pull a recipe off the web, but I really like these books because the meals turn out consistently good. As long as I do as they say, I get a yummie meal. I love cutting and combining. I couldn’t follow instructions much the past year so it’s so nice to be able to do things in order and correctly again.

  5. It sounds like you were able to spend time doing things you love. That’s great! I’m happy to hear that you’re working on book three, too. I can’t wait to read it.

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?