Too much second guessing (challenge update)

It’s obvious to me that one big problem for me when it comes to speed is the speed at which I second guess my choices.

Today’s attempt to cross that 6,000 word barrier has been hampered at every turn by my tendency to write something, then write something else, then delete something, then delete something else, then rewrite the first something I wrote, before deleting it and starting the whole process over again.

That’s not the way to gather speed and momentum.

It’s 7:53 pm and I’ve let myself turn on WiFi on my computer so I can write this update. I knew it would be much faster than trying to do it on my phone and even though I have only written 1,225 words today, I’m still hopeful of more.

However, 6,000 words is probably shooting for the moon when I have no rocket.

For today.

For tomorrow, well, tomorrow hasn’t started yet. We’ll have to see about that.

For now, I’m signing off. I have more words to write, even if meeting the 6,000 word challenge is beyond me tonight. I’ll start this thing again in the morning and see how it goes.

First priority? Stop second guessing everything I put on the page.

Challenge morning three

I’m just going to keep trying until I get there. Yesterday I fell far short of 6,000 words, so here I go again. (A phrase that totally just played through my head with music.)

I’ve had breakfast and I have my hot honey lemon water beside me and my WiFi off.

Estimated time to completion is again 10 hours. The last two days I’ve clocked in at just under 7 and enjoyed most of them so I can do this!

Also, it became very clear to me this morning why I’ve been writing so slowly but I’ll have to explain that later. Typing on my phone is much too slow.

Too little momentum (challenge update)

I’m just shy of 2,000 words and it’s taken me just over five hours to get there.

I’m doing better than yesterday, but nowhere near good enough to reach 6,000 words by my bedtime today unless something changes significantly.

I do expect to finish today with a much better word count than yesterday though.

One thing I’m sure has hurt me is that I came up about 2 hours short on sleep last night. I’m already feeling run down. Then I started writing almost an hour later today than yesterday.

Slow going (challenge update)

By 9:51 this morning I had spent 1 hour and 12 minutes writing and reached 424 words after starting with a 145 word deficit from a last minute deletion last night.

I’m not unhappy with that, really, but it wasn’t really what I was hoping for either so, since I was dragging a bit, I went ahead and took an early lunch.

I’m back now and ready to try again. 

Ten hours is a lot and I really need to avoid any extra breaks today to reach it, but I’m definitely hoping ten hours might not be necessary to reach 6,000 words. :)

Challenge morning redux

It’s 8:14 am, I have my hot honey lemon water next to me, and my computer set to power saver mode to maximize the battery.

I did get up early again today but I’ve been dragging a bit. NPR.org is definitely going to have to go onto my no read list for my web reading challenge. It’s turning into a crutch for me when I’m seeking out easy distractions.

Time to write. :)

Oh, and I added the WordPress app to my phone and it’s so much easier than using the phone browser, despite how good the mobile site is. I’m very happy with the change so far.

Giving up on the dream—but only for today (challenge update)

I’ll have to try again tomorrow to break through the 6,000 word ceiling I seem to have. Although admittedly, it felt more like a 1,000 word ceiling today!

I logged about 7 solid hours of writing (sans interruptions, breaks, etc) and still have only managed to reach 1,495 words for the day. I’ll continue writing up until I’m ready to go to sleep, but there’s no way I’m meeting the 6,000 words challenge by then. I want to get up early again tomorrow, and that means getting to bed soon enough. I might write another 30 minutes, all told, before I call it a night.

I have to say, the writing wasn’t difficult despite the challenge I had with speed. I’ve been trying to find my way. Sometimes that’s slow going. I’ve been having difficulties with this scene and the ones that follow (some are written, as I mentioned in another post, and I’m just hoping they’ll join up when the time comes) and because of that I’ve put off working my way through it when I should have just tried to keep going even if it meant slow days.

That’s a problem with chasing speed. On days when things just can’t go fast, it becomes easier to do nothing than to face what feels like failure.

I feel like today was a mix of success and failure. Failure to reach 6,000, obviously, but success in getting back in the groove of all day writing and actually enjoying it.

It was a fun day.

And I’ll see you again tomorrow as I try this thing one more time.

Remaining hopeful despite bleak numbers (challenge update)

I’m remaining hopeful despite the  bleak numbers because I have at least made it to almost 1000 words today. The fact that it has taken me over 4 hours to get there is irrelevant. (4 hours of writing, not just 4 hours ununfortunately.)

I will carry on until the end because sometimes writing is slow and sometimes it isn’t. A couple of good hours could really turn things around.

 

Uh oh! (challenge update)

Here is my first challenge update.

I’m way behind already.

After 1 hour and 49 minutes, I’m only up by 149 words.

Getting through the last of the material I wrote a few weeks ago is taking too long. Perfectionism? Probably. I’m going to try to get through the rest of it faster.

As of right now I still have the computer WIFI off. I’m writing this on my phone. It’s easier to do all new posts on my phone than edit a really long one so I expect all updates to this challenge will be separate posts today.

Be back later. :)

Hopefully with better numbers!

Aiming for a record

I’m taking aim at a record tomorrow (Feb 1). My own record, but it’s still a record. I’m going to be trying to break through the 6000 word ceiling I seem to be stuck under. Since I’ve written lots of blog posts in a day before and still managed some fiction too, I’ve probably broken this record at some point with mixed writing and just don’t know it. But tomorrow, as usual for me, fiction’ll be the only thing that counts. :)

Here’s the plan I’ve come up with.

10 hours x 673 words each hour.

I’m really not planning to use a timer tomorrow so I’m not sure how to monitor my progress, except by sheer accumulation of words. Without a timer, I won’t know if I’m on track, and without a schedule, I won’t even be able to use time markers as an alternative gauge.

How about I just take tomorrow as it comes? I’ll get up, start writing first thing after breakfast and see where I am at my first break.

I’ll definitely be scribbling my times down on a tablet for good measure every time I stop for a break, so that might be enough.

The truth is, for this to happen for me, with my track record, I’m going to have to start writing early and stay writing way past my usual mental fatigue point. I’m usually desperate for a break or distraction after ten minutes, but if I can really get into it, an hour will pass super fast and I’ll realize I’ve been tweaking the same sentence for half that time. That’s not going to cut it tomorrow.

I also can’t avoid becoming distracted during breaks and stretching the breaks out much longer than I need to, so I’ll have to be very watchful for that tomorrow. Ten hours out of about sixteen doesn’t sound like a lot, but if one spends thirty minutes in breaks for every hour writing, that’s fifteen hours right there.

No way I can tie up fifteen hours for ten hours of writing and still have meals and a life. It just won’t happen and I know it, so I have to be very careful to get started early in the morning and stick with it.

Of course, I could also write a lot faster than usual and really cut that time down. You know I’m going to be trying! :) In all honestly, what I’m hoping is that as I get into flow, the writing will start to come easier and I will in fact write a lot faster. So no joke there.

See you bright and early in the morning.

Web reading challenge: day 4

I started this challenge on January 23rd, making today day four.

I haven’t cracked once since I started it, but it sure hasn’t been easy. I seek out distractions when my brain gets tired of focusing on one thing and it’s been interesting to notice just how often that really is.

That said, I think this is a powerful and important challenge for me and I have every intention of sticking it out until the end of February.

Web reading challenge: morning one

Mornings are when I expect to have my most difficulty with this web reading challenge I’m doing. I tend to spend a lot of time in the mornings settling into the day reading this stuff.

I didn’t have any trouble at all this morning. Haven’t even been tempted. Stopping myself from clicking certain things by habit wasn’t even a problem, because last night I deleted all my bookmarks and history from my devices for the particular infotainment sources I want to avoid.

Not clicking the trending tab in my Fire tablet was a little more difficult, but I gave it the side-eye and moved on. I’m pretty happy with myself at the moment.

I haven’t cut out all web reading, by the way. Just stuff that I associate with addictive patterns.

For example, the Dean Wesley Smith blog. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen DWS post more than once a day and the comments on his site are moderated and he seems to only let them through once a day too. No addictive behavior rewards there, so I’m not worried about taking a peek at the site while I eat my breakfast, which I did. In other words, once I’ve visited, there’s no point going back!

Am I worried about slipping into a habit of visiting twenty blogs that are only infrequently updated and basically recreating the thing I’m avoiding?

No, because I’m just not going to do that. I’m not trading one web reading addiction for another. Full stop, not going to happen.

I feel really good about this challenge. I think it’s going to do me a world of good. :)

A challenge to end the endless clicking and refreshing

I’ve made a rash decision I’ll probably hate tomorrow, but I’ve decided to give up infotainment for a while—indefinitely would be better. I’ll accept the rest of this month and February as a compromise.

To say I spend too much time clicking and refreshing is minimizing the amount of clicking and refreshing of web pages that I do. Most of that content falls squarely into the infotainment category of content, stuff that I can pretend is important but that’s really just something to read to pass the time.

I go to forums and refresh to see if new threads have started or new replies have appeared. By the time I finish reading through the new ones, I get to go back and start all over because there’s always somebody that’s replied to the previous replies or started another new thread.

I go to blogs and refresh to see if new posts have been posted or new comments have been made. Oh, those comments. So many comments.

I hit trending on my Fire to see the news items of the day because I’m addicted to the easy click. Then NPR.org. They got rid of comments. I used to read those too, even though I cringed every time I did it.

I have easily spent hours on this. I mean, seriously, hours. I use the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox, so I know. In the last seven days, I’ve spent 5 hours and 56 minutes at one particular forum and one particular blog (Kboards and The Passive Voice). That’s only part of the story, a small part, in fact, because I do the vast majority of my infotainment reading on one of several tablets and my phone and I have no records of that time spent/squandered. :o

In December, I spent over 24 hours on these two particular sites on the computer alone, and January isn’t over and it isn’t any better.

It’s disheartening to see it itemized like this.

For Kboards in particular, clicking refresh is addictive. I can’t claim to learn much there because I mostly do my own thing and it doesn’t fit with the advice most frequently put forth there.

For The Passive Voice, I mostly like it because there are interesting discussions. Sometimes. Sometimes things get a bit ridiculous, but hey, it’s the internet, and that’s probably why the comments are so entertaining.

Anyway, all good reasons why I need a break from the infotainment that has me hooked. I don’t like being addicted to things. (Caffeine, remember? Still quit this time, by the way.)

Finally, I don’t like the fact that I’m not living up to my potential. Even at my slowest pace (when I’m actually writing, and you know, not this read through stuff I’m doing now) I can write a thousand words a day in a mere four hours.

If I’d spent those 24 hours in December writing at that slowest pace, I would have written an extra 6,000 words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering that my December word count was only 10,659 words and that it’s unlikely I’d be stuck at my slowest pace for all those hours, I could have doubled my word count.

I don’t even want to think about how many words it could have been if I were to count the time I’ve spent on all my daily sources of infotainment.

I shudder to think of it.

That’s the part I really don’t like facing. All this clicking and refreshing has been nothing more than a form of self-justified procrastination in the name of learning, keeping up with industry news, and distracting myself with news I don’t even care about, and I’ve let it go on too long.

What’ll I do with all the time I get back? Write more fiction, I hope. Read more fiction, if the writing more doesn’t work out. Either way, I’ll be doing something truly worthwhile.

And maybe clearing out some of the clutter in my brain will help in other ways too. We’ll see.

How I format paperbacks in Word

Despite needing to write today, I’m fighting with myself to get started, so I’ve decided to take advantage and put myself to work doing something else: formatting paperbacks!

So this is my plan for today: I want to try to get as many of the paperbacks I’ve been needing to format as possible done by lunch. In fact, that’s my challenge for today!

I like to use Microsoft Word to format my paperbacks. The thing is, I tried Adobe InDesign and I just don’t like working with it. The learning curve is steep, and although there are tutorials, I know Word, I like Word, and I’m comfortable with it. And I’m pretty happy with how my paperbacks have turned out over the years, so that’s what I’m going to stick with.

First I have to commit to the size I want for my paperbacks. That’s going to be easy for the pen name series because I used 5.5 x 8.5 and I loved it. (If you follow the link, be sure to set zoom to 100%.) For all my other paperbacks, I format for the 5 x 8 paperback size.

I do want to reformat my previous paperbacks to the 5.5 x 8.5 size too, but first I’m going to test it with my shortest novel to see if I can make it look good and still reach a page length that will allow a spine, because there is a limit under which CreateSpace will not allow you to put spine text on a book. First I’ll focus on margins and leading, then I’ll pad with some ads for the follow up books if I have to, using the advertisements in some published books from my bookshelves as a model, or a chapter or two excerpt of the next book. I want that spine text. A book just doesn’t look professional without it.

Reformatting the rest of the books will probably have to wait, but I can go ahead and put the new books in the larger format if I decide the test book looks good. Things will be inconsistent for a while, but if I commit to the new size, I’ll make an effort to get the older books reformatted ASAP.

Here’s the deal:

I do not have templates for this. I’ve discovered that copying and pasting by chapter takes too long. Anything else, and I end up with strange formatting issues I have to fix. For example, when I copy and paste the entire document into the template, my section breaks cause some pages to revert to 8.5 x 11 and then I have to fix that.

If I save an intermediate version, strip the section breaks, then put them back in once I’m in the template, well, that takes time and is as tedious as anything else, so why bother?

Here’s what I do instead.

I save a copy of my master file.

I adjust the page setup, including margins, section starts, and paper size.

I change the document’s style set to my paperback style set. I try to stay consistent across every book with my styles, because this part doesn’t work so well if I don’t. My master document is set to use my ebook style set. The change to the paperback style set applies justification, font sizes, line spacing (leading), and other formats I need specific to what I want for my paperbacks. This means I don’t have to do a lot of settings adjustments for my chapter text. It all happens automatically as soon as I change the style set. It also means I don’t have to remember what all those little tweaks are and that’s good too.

I turn on hyphenation.

I add headers, alternating the page number, my author name, and the book title for odd and even pages. I don’t use footers.

I adjust the settings to eliminate headers on blank pages and the first page of every chapter.

I double check that the headers are correct for every chapter! This is important because I recently discovered I missed a chapter in one of my (published) books and for one chapter, and one chapter only, the header has a different book’s title in it. :o (It’ll make for an interesting first edition if I ever get famous enough to have people looking for them, right?) But that’s something I need to correct, and I’m planning to do that when I reformat.

I add the flourishes to the chapter headings, scene breaks, and first lines.

At this point, I’m almost done.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I worried excessively about widows and orphans because I preferred even page spreads (the same number of lines on facing pages) and I spent days making minor adjustments on every page to force the text to flow in a way that eliminated them. But after a few years of this and a hard look at the cost versus profit of doing these paperbacks, I decided I was going to give that up. Now I have widows and orphans turned on in Word for my chapter paragraphs in my paperback style set. I do end up with some pages having fewer lines than others but it’s a reasonable trade off for the time saved and the money earned from these books. And picky as I am, I honestly don’t find that it’s that noticeable at all.

I double and triple check everything, tweak as necessary, and then I’m done.

I print to a PDF file.

I don’t save to a PDF because Word can’t embed Open Type fonts into PDFs.

Then I look everything over again.

I upload to CreateSpace, confirm the number of pages, and start on my paperback cover. :)

***Well. This challenge didn’t go well. I worked all day on one paperback, and spent the rest of the day wallowing in indecision as I tried to make myself commit to a font size reduction to make my paperbacks more affordable and a trim size change for the same reason.

I finally decided to embrace the font size change, because I’m just going from 12 to 11.5. Despite how agonizing it feels to give up the generous size as a cost saving measure, I realize on a rational level that it’s not that big a deal. The font size is still significantly larger than most of the books on my shelves and is a reasonable size.

As for the trim size? I can’t do it. I’ve decided not to change. The pen name books will stay 5.5 x 8.5 while the other books will stay 5 x 8. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but not today. In all honesty, it’s because I kind of like this size best when I’m holding the books. On the other hand, it’s also a damn lot of work and I’m just not ready to tackle it. Too many books to redo!

Now, I’m moving on.

I’m giving this up for the night and writing tomorrow. I’ll pick up the paperbacks again only after I’ve made some significant progress on my book.

Quitting caffeine update

I drank one cup of tea this morning at about 10 a.m. because of a headache, but that’s been the extent of today’s caffeine consumption.

The weaning is working out well. I’m feeling much better than I would have been feeling (lots of experience with this) if I’d just quit it altogether. :)

Now, if only I could get my writing off the ground today! My story is not cooperating with me. I spent I don’t know how much time on breaks during one 36 minute writing session—and the countdown timer still only made it down to 24 minutes! I did get some chores done, though, so there’s that. :D

Deadline looms; I must make myself write

I’ll be frank. I haven’t been writing. I’m not sure what happened, but I started reading books and I just couldn’t quit. I read a lot of books this last week. As of last night, I’m in the middle of reading 3 books. I’m somewhere around chapter 6 in a contemporary romance I started last night, and 66% done with a historical romance I started yesterday morning, and 4% into another I started at lunch yesterday.

I read about the same way I write—all over the place.

Today I decided I wasn’t going to read anymore of anything until I finish my own book, the one with the looming deadline that just keeps getting closer and closer and driving me to avoid it at all costs.

That’s a pretty hefty cost, too, by the way.

So today I must write. Yes, I must. Excuses won’t get me closer to done and they won’t stop the holidays from coming. I can’t write during the holidays, just can’t do it, so while I do still have time to write, and no headache from the caffeine withdrawal I’m facing, I must write.

My challenge for this unscheduled day

11 sessions of 36 minutes each.

No word count goal, although 500 wph minimum would be nice. I have a lot of other things to fit in today too, so I’m going to have to avoid too many distractions.

Get a paperback book formatted at some point today before I go to bed.

I’ll post later with results. :)

Caffeine helped but it’s time to quit again

I’m facing caffeine withdrawal again, but this time I’m trying to wean myself off caffeine instead of just eliminating it altogether. I can’t face the headaches with the holidays so near and my deadlines looming.

I’m drinking water in a cup, hoping it will satisfy the need to have a cup of something nearby. It seemed to work yesterday and is working okay this morning too.

I waited yesterday until I had a headache before I drank any coffee and I only had 6 ounces then. It took about 45 minutes for the headache to completely go away after that, but it did go away. It’s not that I plan to wait for the headache every day, but I did need to know at about what time to expect it. That would be at about 4 pm. So today, I’ll have a cup of my favorite green tea (considerably less caffeine than equal amounts of coffee) after lunch and see if it can hold off the headache. I will admit, it’s only 10 a.m. and I’m already feeling twinges over my right eye, but I’m going to wait and see if it’s a full blown headache forming earlier today, or if it’s just this sinus thing I’ve got going on.

I want to do this because I’ve been having some side effects from the caffeine that I’m ready to get away from for a while. Dry skin (so dry that it’s like I’ve developed a coating of powered sugar on my arms, LOL), possibly a stomach ulcer (something I’ve never had before, but maybe it’s something else, who knows?), jitters, and a bad habit of staying up really late but not really getting anything extra done to make up for it.

I don’t mind staying up late if I can look back and see that I’ve accomplished something during that time, but that’s not what happening. I’m planning to go to bed early, then puttering around doing much of nothing but reading stuff that’s a waste (like forums and blogs with info I’ve read a hundred or thousand times before).

I feel like I’ve been sick more often lately, too, but that might also be unrelated. Then again, sleep and dehydration probably play a roll in illness, so…

Anyway, that’s the plan. Here’s hoping I make it! The holidays are a tough time to quit anything, IMO, so I know I’m going to have to watch out for stumbles.

Why I’m (mostly) forcing myself to stick to writing one book at a time

I’m writing this down because I’m sure I’m going to forget it, just when I need to remember it most.

Taking too long to finish a book is a sure way to bore me! I have to start finishing my books faster, if I want to save my love of writing.

Because honestly, it’s starting to bore me. I’ve written a lot of books. There aren’t many things in life that hold my attention after I’ve finished—hell, half the time I can’t even finish.

I’m not a finisher by nature. It’s a real chore to finish.

But books aren’t books if they don’t get finished, and I sure can’t sell unfinished books.

If I lose interest in a story, the story loses out, and the quality does not improve, trust me on that. Writing slow causes me to lose the threads of the story, and to lose motivation, while writing fast keeps my brain in the story, excited and creative. This even applies at the micro level, because my sentences flow better when I don’t constantly tinker with them. I know this is true. I still have to fight that desire regularly. :)

I come up with more ideas, faster, when I’m writing a lot. And I enjoy writing so much more when I’m writing often and fast than I do when it’s a slog and I’m agonizing over plot decisions or worrying about word choices.

If it’s not fun, I’m not going to do it. That’s just the truth.

Blame it on ADHD or laziness, or whatever, but it’s true. If it’s not fun for me, I will do everything in my power to avoid doing it, and when you’re your own boss, that gets to be a problem.

Ah…

Well, I feel better having gotten that out. Now, on to the next post and the day’s writing.

I want to write 6,000 words today

I want to write 6,000 words today*, so I’ve made a plan. Actually, I made the plan yesterday. I’m just going to keep trying this until I do it, because I’m ready. I write fast enough: ~550–650 words an hour. I have enough hours in the day, and I have the desire.

What I possibly don’t have is the focus and concentration I need, but that comes and goes and I can’t let that stop me from trying. :)

I’m starting late, but I’m just going to try to write faster and stick to the version of the plan I spelled out yesterday, with 1 hour between sessions. All my record days of > 5,000 words happened in less than 8 hours of writing, one in only 6 hours.

The plan and results:

10:00–11:30 – Made it 12 minutes in, but constant interruptions made it a nonstarter. I reset the timer and started again for the next session (at 12:11). I had made a few edits, but only netted 5 words during those 12 minutes anyway. No joke. Also, I rethought my plan and made some adjustments.
1:00–2:30 – 103 words (1.25 hours) – I spend most of this time making some changes instead of writing.
3:30–5:00 – Skipped.

***Okay, I’m going to have to reevaluate this day’s goal. At this point, I just need to get started.***

5:30–7:00
7:30–9:00
9:30–11:00

*I should specify: on one book!

****Well, I just have no idea why I haven’t wanted to write today, but I’ve totally let myself get away with it, and I’m pretty unhappy with myself right now.****

I think, maybe, possibly, I’m going to have to commit to moving this deadline. It’s starting to mess with my head.

I’ve let myself get behind—by a lot

I have a deadline coming up, very much a “can’t miss this date” deadline. It’s making me anxious.

I mean, technically, I could miss it. The date is still listed as tentative, but in my head, I know it’s not a deadline I need to miss. I don’t want to miss it. The fact is, though, that it’s really getting beyond my current capabilities to reach unless I have some kind of breakthrough in my writing.

So here I go trying to force that breakthrough.

I’ve found a schedule I don’t remember having tried before, and I’m going to try it today.

It pushes my pace a little bit, but nothing out of reach (~667 wph needed to stay on track). Where I’ll have the most trouble is just focusing on start and end times for my sessions and actually doing them when I’m supposed to do them. Five minutes late getting started is no big deal, but my history shows that I tend to get behind early, start every session late, until it’s snowballed and I’ve eliminated massive swaths of writing time just by letting five minutes here and there become twenty.

Here’s the plan.

1.5 hour writing sessions where the goal is 1,000 words each session. (Yes, I’ve tried this part before.)
.5 hour breaks between sessions (This is where it’s different. The writing sessions are all evenly spaced all day long.)

Here’s where I’ll update results.

12:00–1:30 – 1,296 wordsWoo hoo! Things are off to a good start.
2:00–3:30 – 977 wordsOnly 1.23 hours, because I’ve fallen pretty far behind. I’ll have to skip the next session to get back on track. I’m hoping I can get ahead with some better word counts for the next couple of sessions. I had just enough time before 6 to finish it off before I started that one. :)
4:00–5:30 – Skipped to catch up
6:00–7:30 – 840 wordsI’ve fallen behind again. It’s 8:17 and I have half an hour on this one to go. I’m going to keep going with it at this point.
8:00–9:30 – Skipped, because I was still working on the previous session.
10:00–11:30 – Skipped because I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed early so I can start off strong tomorrow.

If I get behind, I’ll cut a session or break short and move on to the next session.

If this goes well, I’m going to try it again tomorrow, starting earlier and taking a full hour between sessions (if I want—it certainly won’t be mandatory). The only reason I’m not doing that today is that I’m starting so much later than I planned when I came up with this idea last night.

Now, gotta go. I’m already 15 minutes behind. Yeah, I know. Not kidding. :o

**This might seem like it hasn’t gone well, but considering how badly I fail at this and how often, I’m actually really pleased with what I accomplished using this schedule. I’m definitely going to try the slightly modified version tomorrow, with the hour between sessions and see how that goes. I don’t yet know if the longer breaks will help or hinder my ability to stay on track.