Last Friday was my first real day off in about three weeks, and I decided to roll it into a week-long stay-cation to see how productive I could be as a writer.  I first conceived the notion a couple of months ago, and after juggling some work responsibilities and checking multiple calendars, I finally found a decent chunk of time.  I had a few things to do on Friday, including lunch with an old friend, and knew that my writing output would be limited that day.  The weekend was devoted to family.  I knew the real writing time wouldn’t begin until Monday, so everything else I accomplished was just gravy.

In an earlier blog entry, I listed some of the things I wanted to try to accomplish during my Week of Pretend.  I knew I would be lucky to achieve half of it, but I always like long to-do lists.  Just identifying work and prioritizing it seems helpful to me, and it’s fun to scratch things off the list or modify it as I go.

Exercise was a big priority for me, and I made sure to get my cardio completed every day, usually in the morning when I would normally pour myself a second cup of coffee.  All too often, I exercise at night after everything else is completed for the day.  Adequate sleep every night was essential to help me feel energized to write and motivated to log miles on the treadmill.  Sadly I couldn’t stick with the strength training I attempted to add.  Day one went fine, with the difficulty I expected after a long lapse, primarily due to a shoulder injury.  I resolved to cowboy up and power through the second day, even though I was sore.  Soreness is usually a sign that I’m out of shape and getting a good workout. It normally disappears entirely after my first week of any new workout.  This did not.  On the third day, I couldn’t contemplate the calisthenics.  I could barely lift my arms without pain.  It only got worse with inactivity, so periodic breaks in writing were necessary to prevent stiffness.  The most basic actions became grueling physical torments.  Putting on my glasses, lifting a fork to my mouth, and scratching my nose were only possible with a tremendous amount of effort.  Like any middle-aged man with something to prove to nobody, I will try this again at some point soon.  I intend to work my way into it gradually this time, but I’m not giving up.  I’m determined to win the swimsuit competition at my 25th high school reunion this summer.  I think that’s one of the events, but this will be the first reunion I’ve attended, so I might be wrong.

The writing was the most important part of the the stay-cation.  I didn’t want to lapse in my blog posts, so I made sure to devote some time to a review of Avengers: Age of Ultron for the Sunday night entry.  If you haven’t read it, please give it a look.  There aren’t any spoilers.  Tonight’s blog entry is my final bit of writing before the official end of the my time off, but there was a lot more going on during the earlier days of the week.

I wrote and edited, from beginning to end, a brand new science fiction short story called Disaster Recovery.  I sent it off to a buddy (thanks, Cliff) to read and get some helpful criticism.  I hope, after some additional editing, to submit it for publication as soon as it’s done.  The first draft clocked in at just over 4400 words.  I was happy to finish it so quickly.  I downloaded a copy of “Writer’s Market for 2015” and will begin searching for publications where it might be welcome.  I felt really lucky to find Nonlocal Science Fiction for my earlier submissions, but I need to create a larger body of work and see what I can sell.  I will have another story appearing in Nonlocal #3, out this fall.

I got some editing done on a longer piece I started writing a few months ago.  I’ve been going back to it occasionally because the concept revolves around survivors of a zombie apocalypse, centuries after the initial infections.  I love the zombie genre, and I wanted to try some stuff I felt was new.  Of course, I don’t have time to read and consume media the way I used to, so I asked some friends if this idea sounded relatively original and was rewarded with affirmatives.  At this point, my main project deserves priority, as do continued efforts at writing short fiction for immediate submission, so this one will go on the back burner.  I’ll continue to jot down plot and character ideas, so I don’t forget anything important, but I’m most excited about the novel I started writing this week.

I’ve been outlining the novel for what seems like a very long time.  Mostly I’ve accomplished this during my lunch breaks at work.  If I reached an obstacle to progress that required more thought, I tried to work on other things at lunch until I had worked out the problem.  That’s how the zombie fiction got started, and sometimes I still work on blog entries during my lunch breaks.  The most general plot points of my novel are already completed, and I’ve been taking care to make the outline very detailed.  This level of detail has already helped me write from the outline without much need for slowing my pace.  The outline has reached what I believe will be the half-way point of the novel, at 23 chapters.  I would have liked to accomplish more, but I wrote 7900 words in the last two days, editing as I went to make easy corrections to grammar and spelling.  From the outline, I am half-way through the second chapter.  I’ve established my protagonist, Nicole, including her struggles at home and school.  I introduced the young man with whom she will fall in love, and she has begun a friendship with members of a race of alien-human hybrids.  No more about that for the time being. Wouldn’t you rather be surprised later?

So, what did my time at home teach me?  The first thing is that I’m 43 years old, and while I don’t plan to let this stop me from getting in shape, I really need to exercise (no pun intended) some basic common sense.  Don’t take working arms for granted.  I did, and I paid the price.

The second thing is that spending my day writing is the way I want to spend all of them.  While this might not be possible right now, I hope it will one day.  The best way I know to make that happen is to keep writing, keep blogging, and submit stories far and wide for publication.  This will undoubtedly involve more stay-cations for writing in the future.  People will notice me at some point. People already have.  I have been asked to guest blog for an accomplished epic fantasy author, so stay tuned for news about that.  Thanks to all of you for reading this blog and supporting my Facebook page.  You’re helping me realize my dream, and you should never underestimate the contributions you’ve made.