The difference between writing and rewriting

Yesterday I didn’t write as much as I really thought I would. It was my first day with the kid back at school and the house was quiet and I have no one to blame but myself. The problem is that I’m really not sure how I managed not to write more.

Still, dwelling on the past doesn’t help the present, so I’m going to put that aside and think about today.

My anti-perfectionism posting isn’t going well. I wrote about three paragraphs here that I’ve already deleted in whole. But I’m just going to have to deal with it. I also came across something in a quick reread of some posts I’ve always found helpful and it made me realize that I continue to rewrite the rules I follow in my head to be more restrictive than they should be. Of course.

This is a little bit of a rant, mostly aimed at myself, because I have always found the line between writing and rewriting hard to pinpoint. It’s a “know it when I see it” thing.

Rewriting and writing are very closely related.

If you’re actively writing a story, the first time through, still working out the story as you type, most of the stuff you do isn’t going to be rewriting, even if it fits the definition of rewriting in the most basic sense that you’re changing something you’ve already put down on the page. It just isn’t, it can’t be, it’s just a basic part of the writing process.

Even one of the biggest proponents of not rewriting says he puts stuff in and takes stuff out as he loops through a story he’s writing. You can read this in his Writing into the Dark book in the chapter about being unstuck in time if you don’t believe me.

The words you put down are not golden. They are words. You’re finding your way and writing the best words you can find to get the story out of your head and onto the page.

We make what feels like a bazillion decisions as we write, mostly instantly, and sometimes the wrong thing gets down, and when you come back after writing through a few pages and start adding a few things to deepen the story, it’s inevitable that you’ll realize your character is feeling a certain way, or someone left the room earlier than you thought, and you totally missed it the first time through so you have to delete a line and put in a new one. That’s not rewriting. That’s an integral part of the process of writing a story.

Very few people can take a story fully formed and write it fully formed and never change a word. That’s just not a normal thing. And if you have those kinds of expectations, you’ll drown under them. You’ll start to hate writing and maybe even yourself.

I should know. Because I often have these expectations for myself. It’s the curse of perfectionism. It works really hard to kill every ounce of love I have for writing—and everything else in my life, to be honest.

But those are my issues, not yours. I have coping mechanisms in place and I use them to the best of my ability.

Don’t let other people put those kinds of expectations of perfection on you, either. It’s just as destructive.

On the other hand, there’s a line there you do not want to cross. If you’re changing a lot of things, every time you take a pass through a story, you’re probably not just writing anymore. You’re doing what most people think of when they talk about rewriting. You’re being a critic and you’re thinking about other people and what they’ll think of you and your story when you change things.

If you’re thinking about deleting something because it feels superfluous (especially because you’ve been told that if it’s not relevant to the story it doesn’t belong), and the something you’re thinking about deleting isn’t hurting anything by being left alone, then leave it alone. Seriously. Ignore those assholes. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do you write a book that no one else has written? You leave in the stuff that you wanted in there. That’s your voice as a writer. It’s you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put something in a story that seemed totally useless but I liked it so I left it and it became crucial to the story as it unfolded, or to the series even further down the road. Don’t change things for the sake of changing them. Let the story be what it will be.

All these little threads give you more opportunities to look like a genius when you do call backs three books later. ;D

If you’re worrying about getting what you want to get across in the best way possible to support the story and make the story come alive for your reader, you’re writing, not rewriting.

If you’re worrying about how stupid your sentence sounds and trying to make it sound better, then ouch, that is definitely rewriting. You are your own worst enemy when you’re writing and you need to work on getting that under control ASAP. Nobody cares how your sentences sound unless you’re looking to earn a literary award.

Even then, I’ve read some literary fiction with atrocious sentences in them. Writing good fiction is not about writing good sentences. It’s about writing a good story and pulling the reader along with you as the story unfolds.

Unthinking my writing plans and making adjustments

So. I’m in a tough spot right now. I keep going over things in my head, trying to come up with some process that will help me get past my boredom to do the writing I need and want (but don’t want) to do. I want to do it, but I don’t want to sit down and do the work of it.

A conundrum, I know. It isn’t the sitting down, or the typing, that keeps me from getting started. It’s the expectation and the thinking I have to do.

My brain is just so tired of all this thinking.

So tonight, after another day of agonizing about not writing but never getting to the point where I could make myself sit down and write (I even canceled a doctors’ appointment today for this), I have finally come to the conclusion that I’m making this so much harder than it has to be.

I’m going to take a step back from all the various plans I’ve come up with in the last few weeks to try to get me moving on my books again, and just… go easy on myself.

The new plan is so simple I feel ridiculous even calling it a plan.

I’m going to write some fiction every day.

I’m going to try to write enough to keep me happy when I look at my daily and weekly and monthly word counts.

I’m going to focus on getting a streak of daily writing going.

That’s it, really. Just write, and stop thinking so much.

Too much thinking gets in the way of a lot of things. It can also set us on a path we don’t need to be on.

Let’s discuss numbers today

Word count numbers, that is.

My daily average for a seven and a half year period is 561 words per day. I’ve mentioned time and again that I’d like to get that number to 2,000 words a day. Not the historical average, because that would be a massive undertaking, but I’d like to reach a 2,000 words a day average for a week or a month and then maintain it going forward.

I just have too many stories to write and they’re not going to get written if I don’t.

These last two months, I’m finally getting close. My overall daily average for April–May as of today is 1,708 words a day.

Month Words Per Day (Average)
April 1,671
May 1,759

This is something I’m really excited about. I have the opportunity to set several new records for myself this month, and that also excites me.

  • I’m working on making this the first time I’ve had two consecutive 50,000 word months.
  • I still have the chance to beat my best daily average in a month (that number is 1,908 for April 2016).
  • I can still reach a 2,000 words a day average this month.

There’s just so much opportunity left in this month, and I’m trying not to let myself forget that it’s easier to maintain my momentum than it is to start over and try again.

:-)

And those are my numbers.

I might not be able to catch up to the 2,000 words daily average for May, but I haven’t given up on that possibility, so I’m going to head off and work on that now.

Fighting to keep up my momentum

April was a great month for writing. I wrote more than 50,000 words. May has been fantastic. But I’ve recently finished a book and now I’m fighting to keep up my momentum.

Finishing a big project leaves me feeling adrift. I have to stop letting myself feel like I’ve finished something when I finish a book. The big project is my career, not this one book, so I have to keep writing if I want to avoid a long break between books.

Implementing the plan should be easy but we all know it won’t be. But here’s what I’m doing.

1. No writing break between books.

2. No moving on to a book I “should” finish while I’m interested in writing a different book.

I’m writing the book I’m most interested in writing right now, not the book I feel like I should write right now. That particular series has waited this long for another book, and it can keep waiting.

Enthusiasm = intrinsic motivation = finishing the next book before I lose interest in it and have to work hard to regain it.

I hope it works, but I really won’t know until I’ve tried it a few times and seen the results. :)

I’m also still following my rule about sweets and 1,000 words. This little rule helped me write more than 50,000 words in April. And that momentum put me in a position to break my 6,241 words in a day record.

My new record? 6,606 words on May 7, 2019.

I don’t have a post for that day, because I’ve really been focused on writing fiction and saving the blog posts for progress updates, but I am thrilled I did it. It was awesome. It was also exhausting. I’m really not meant to write that many words in one day! :-) Next record to break? 7,000 words in a day. It’ll happen.

Now, off to write. Today is the first day of the new book. (Which I started in January, and wrote a few thousand on between then and now, so I’m not actually starting the book at zero words. I really want to write this book! It’s going to be so much fun.)

And I really want one of the brownies my daughter made so I’m definitely about to start writing. :D

LibreOffice has an undo limitation that isn’t working for me

I have spent a lot of time preparing myself to switch permanently to LibreOffice before I move to a new computer and no longer have access to my old Microsoft Office 2007 install.

Well, today, I came across the first limitation that actually might be a problem for me.

I edit as I write. In fact, I sometimes change a sentence, paragraph, or word multiple times before I settle on what I like, and sometimes I end up right back where I started. I very often use ctrl+z to do that. Very often. And I can end up hitting ctrl+z a great many times in a row to get back to the version I want.

A great many times.

It so happens that a few times I’ve run into this limitation with LibreOffice Writer and managed to just ignore it, but not today.

Oh, no. Today I had to reload my book from the last saved version of the file, which I was lucky enough to have not saved in the last five minutes (never thought I’d say that!) so that I could recover what I’d written the first time through. I also had to remember a few lines that I had changed but wanted to keep while I scrolled to my place in the document so I could change them back.

LibreOffice Writer seems to have a low limit for this kind of behavior. (100 is the limit, in case you’re wondering. I know, I know. 100 is a lot. I did say “a great many times” and I admit that this probably isn’t smart behavior on my part. :D Still, I do it, and I’ll have to actively remember not to do it if I keep using Writer.)

There is an advanced configuration setting in LibreOffice that will let me increase the number of undos, but I hate having to change the default configuration. I always worry that there was a reason it was set as it was, and that changing it might introduce bugs or other issues that will degrade the performance of whatever program I’m using. The article I got the info from about the configuration option basically says I’m right to be worried.

Grr.

Now I have to decide if I want to try to change my behavior, or accept that me and LibreOffice might not be meant for each other. If not, then I’ll be going back to Word 2007 until my computer dies on me, and then resubscribing to Office 365 so I can use the new versions of Word and Excel once I’m on a new computer and can’t access Word and Excel 2007 anymore.

This is really not how I thought I’d end up back in the arms of Microsoft Office. I honestly thought it would come down to the style sets.

I’d already discovered that you can’t undo style edits in LibreOffice and that didn’t make me happy. Word doesn’t have that limitation, and I know it because I tend to tweak styles and then change my mind and undo them. I learned that lesson in Writer the hard way. I had to manually reset some styles I changed after playing around while not being aware of this limitation. Oops.

Using a catch-all journal and journaling the way I think

First, this is a little all over the place, because I tried three different times to write it, and between the start of it and the finish, I searched for and found a way to get what I wanted from my journaling. I also learned a little self-acceptance along the way.

At the start of the year, I decided to change the way I used my journals. I wanted to find a way to organize them, to group stuff together, and to make all my little notes much easier to find in the long run.

So I spent a few weeks jotting down ideas but I couldn’t come up with anything that might actually work for me.

My original idea was to use separate journals for the different parts of my life. That really didn’t work. Although the parts of my life can be organized into categories (writing, publishing, reading, hobbies, family, etc), the way I think about those things is pretty messy. I never seemed to be able to settle on which journal to use for which thing and all my messy thoughts kept bleeding over from one journal / notebook to another.

I wanted to fill separate books with separate things, but every time I tried, my mind started reminding me how I really think.

I have seven eight journals / notebooks on my desk right now that are in various stages of being filled. What’s inside is a mishmash of thoughts, lists, and ideas. There is no rhyme or reason for what goes in one or the other even though I intended for there to be when I started filling each one of them.

One such journal was meant for my goals. It now has notes on edits inside it, along with a Do Not Watch list for TV shows that keep drawing me back even though I’m disappointed every time I return to give them another try. It contains a few quotes from a book I was reading at one point (never finished reading that one), a list of things to remember, some longish journal entries, and a list of things I want to learn. And about fourteen different ink colors and even a few things written in pencil. (About a third of one of those pages is a color test for the ink that looks best on the pages that are a darker cream paper than I’m used to.)

In other words, it’s a mess. And that’s just twenty pages of a two-hundred page journal. The rest of the pages are still blank.

But when a thought needs capturing, I need to write it down—and in a hurry, too. I can be remarkably forgetful about some things while other things stay stubbornly in place inside my brain (like the fact that Shawn Spencer in Psych is played by James Roday whose actual last name is/was Rodriguez and he played Chad in the episode “Lights, Camera… Homicidio” in which Detective Lassiter doesn’t know how to say anything in Spanish except “I like cheese”). On the other hand, I don’t remember my grandmother’s birthday. It’s a day in August. That’s all I remember. Every time I check, I remember it for a few minutes, a day, and then poof!, it’s gone again.

I do not journal in well-separated chunks of ideas and topics, that’s for sure. It’s not even in somewhat independent topics. Writing about one thing inevitably leads me into something else and before I know it, I’m scratching out a to-do list beside my earnest attempt to work out why I hate my current book and what I ate for breakfast (and possibly why I never want to eat it again).

On the day I started this post, I had just run across a few articles about journaling (I searched for them, okay) and was skim reading one of them when the word catch-all jumped out at me and snagged my attention.

“After all, there’s a long tradition of writers and artists treating the journal as a glorious catch-all.”

Catch-all. Now there’s a glorious word for someone like me. ;-)

The link in that article led me to an article about Janice Lowry’s illustrated diaries. It is there that I discovered something that ultimately changed my entire view of how to approach getting what I want out of my journals.

Screenshot from Smithsonian Magazine of Janice Lowry's journals
Screenshot from Smithsonian Magazine of a page spread from Janice Lowry’s illustrated diaries.

I’m not a visual artist—most of my journaling is very long-form, with some lists and a very few drawings—but I didn’t see Lowry’s journals as something to try to copy. What I saw was a way to treasure the disorganization of my thoughts—a way to create something beautiful despite them.

All I really want from my journals is a way to keep up with the thoughts I’m afraid I’ll lose, a place where I can work through things that are bothering me, a place of discovery.

I’ve always been one to write down my thoughts to help me comb through them and find what matters. My journals have also given me a place for a lot of random things (that maybe only matter in the moment, but they matter then): to-do lists, work logs, random realizations, personal reflections, daily records, goals, or even a picture or two that I don’t know what to do with because I stopped keeping photo albums years and years ago and yet I keep finding myself with photographs that need putting away.

And yes, I really wanted to keep all those things in some central place because that’s just the way my mind works. I don’t have structured days and I most definitely do not have structured thoughts. I backed off the idea of organizing my journals and decided a catch-all journal was the way to go.

But again, unfortunately, when I tried it, I had problems. Finding things later isn’t easy when you use a catch-all system like this. I couldn’t remember what stuff was in what journal. And hoo-boy, I am really one with that out of sight, out of mind disorder. :D

Then I read “Why You Should Keep a Journal (But NOT Every Day)” and realized I had a big hang-up that was holding me back and I hadn’t even realized it! For years I’ve been trying to make journaling a habit, but really, it’s already more than a habit for me—it’s a way of life. After reading that article, I became suddenly very aware of just how much of a box I was trying to put myself into.

Daily journaling isn’t sitting down and writing an essay in a pristine little book full of nothing but other daily entries. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing for almost my entire life, for at least as long as I’ve been able to string a few words together on paper and make them make sense.

I journal plenty! I’m writing things down—my thoughts, my dreams, my lists, my ideas—all the time! I’m recording things, tracking things, thinking things through on paper and in digital form day after day, and whether that makes it into a long-form essay-like journal entry matters not one little bit.

After that realization, the only thing I really wanted to do differently than I was already doing was to put more of those thoughts and lists and ideas onto paper. Because again, out of sight, out of mind, and the one important thing I’ve discovered from flipping through some of my older journals, is that I need to flip through my journals on occasion to revisit some of those thoughts and ideas and I want to do that away from my computer or phone or tablet (practically speaking, I also want notes that will exist outside my computer for other reasons too).

So I started carrying around a tiny little journal that’s mostly a hardback notebook the size of my hand (one of these little ones, in fact). I’ve been writing everything in it; it is without a doubt my catch-all journal of choice, and then—here’s where it all comes together for me—then I move what needs to be moved into another journal when I have the time. Touching things twice, sometimes three times, really helps me remember it.

Seeing my notes, flipping through them all, and then expanding some when I transfer them into other journals, makes a world of difference.

Having this catch-all journal as a layover between my thoughts and my permanent journals is just the thing I needed to bring it all together.

I now have a journal that contains ONLY my list of fiction readings for 2019. (I’ll probably use it for 2020 forward too.

I have a journal for annotations and quotes: basically just somewhere I write down quotes from nonfiction books and articles I’m reading and thoughts I might be having about them.

Then I have a journal for simple, long-form entries where I talk about things that I want to write about, and I’m no longer worried that sometimes I go weeks or months without writing one of those, and then maybe write three in a row. That’s where the photos will end up, because some things don’t change.

I have a journal for my story notes—any story I happen to be working on.

And then I have two more general notebooks and journals that I write all those notes to self into and expand on them, or make plans that I’ve touched on in the small notebook.

Finally, there are some things that won’t ever get transferred from the small notebook to a more permanent home, because those thoughts or lists were ephemeral and they served their purpose.

It’s been about two weeks since I started doing things this way, but this has the feeling of something that’s going to stick.

End of that experiment: I don’t like excerpts on the home page

I edited my theme for this site and tried out showing only excerpts on the home page, tag and category pages, and other archive pages. (Actually, I think I got rid of the date archive pages with a plug-in.*)

I did all of this to prepare for an eventual shift from WordPress to some other platform, preferably one that is based on generating static HTML files that I can upload to my host. I’d like to be able to go 100% static if I so choose once the conversion is done, because I like making pages by hand and updating links.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t have time for this now.

It was a surprise to realize that I don’t like the excerpts instead of the full posts—especially because I’m happy with the excerpts-only view on a few other sites I have. I think it has to do with the way this theme is set up and the way the excerpts use up so much space on a page. (See the screenshot.)

On my other sites, the excerpts occupy a reasonable portion of screen real estate. Here, one short excerpt pretty much takes up the entire screen on my desktop.

What I really want is custom pages with links or text that I link out to my archived content (in place of the tag and category pages), and an archive list of posts by date the way I have now.

Since I can’t have that without too much work or changing themes, I’m just going to go back to full posts.

Easy! :)

*I put the date archive pages back when I realized the links on my calendar widget don’t work without them. I don’t know what that’ll mean for my shift to a static site someday, or if I’m even still planning one. I’ll leave that decision for later.

I was all set to be a rebel and then I realized I don’t have time

I wrote a long post about how I was abandoning WordPress a few days ago, and then I started the process by creating some HTML5 templates for one of my websites (the easiest to convert), but after two days of fiddling, it hit me hard that I don’t really have time for this. I am as much a perfectionist with the websites as I am with the writing and what should take one hour takes ten. Not my favorite confession. But—

1. I plan to finish a book this month. And by gosh I’m doing it.
2. The classic editor plugin isn’t going anywhere for a while, so for me nothing’s changed. If it changes suddenly, well, then, I can start moving on this project again (make no mistake, it’s a project for the future, because I am going to do it eventually)
3. The time will come, but maybe jumping right into it right now when I’m actively looking for things to tear me away from writing (but shouldn’t be!) isn’t what I need to do.
4. It feels like an obsession in the making. It took all day yesterday of doing other things and distracting myself to not think obsessively about it. I feel like I’m borderline this morning. A stray thought here or there could pull me right back in. So I’m going to have to do something this morning that is distracting in itself. Writing fits that bill. And since I need to write to finish that book this month, yep, that’s the one I’m going to aim for, right after I do a little morning reading (there’s a fan fiction story for Psych calling my name).

Replacing blank space at the beginning and end of paragraphs in LibreOffice Writer

So I figured out how to replace blank spaces at the beginning and end of paragraphs in LibreOffice Writer. In Word, it’s as simple as searching for ^P with spaces before or after the ^P and replacing them with whatever you want to replace them with. Not so with LibreOffice Writer, but also not as impossible as I thought it was either. :-)

You might not remember that a while back I wrote: “Writer can’t find and replace ^P paragraph marks. That matters to me because I sometimes mistakenly put a space as the first letter of a paragraph and a quick search and replace before I do my final spell check takes care of that in Word. (Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer?)

This common little task was one of the reasons I was having trouble getting used to using LibreOffice Writer after using Word 2007 for many years.

I found a solution a while back, and I thought I’d point it out in case anyone else needs to know.

The parenthetical comments are there to make it easier to see what actually needs to go into the search box because spaces don’t really show themselves as characters. :-)

Search Replace What it does
^ 
(^space)
blank Removes blank space at start of paragraph (LibreOffice) (search using regular expression)
 *$
(space*$)OR
\s+$
blank Removes blank space at end of paragraph (LibreOffice) (search using regular expression)

OR second option removes all whitespace characters including non-breaking spaces

Be sure to select the option to search using regular expression for these searches.

Is it better to use LibreOffice’s built-in styles or custom styles for body text?

I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to use (and modify) the basic styles LibreOffice Writer includes by default or use my own custom styles.

LibreOffice’s default template comes with a style called Text Body that seems to be meant as a default style for all text body (not hard to guess that). The sub-styles are a little trickier to figure out until you look at what they do. First Line Indent is an indented paragraph by default, while Text Body is a block paragraph by default. Text Body Indent (not shown in the screenshot) is an entire paragraph of indented text.

To be honest, this all seems a little backwards to me, because I write fiction and a fiction manuscript is rarely formatted into block paragraphs. So Text Body would have to be an indented paragraph for me, while First Line Indent would make a lot more sense as a paragraph with the first line indent set to zero (0″).

Basically, I would need to create a LibreOffice Writer template that does the opposite with body text as what the default template does. That could get confusing if I were to create new documents with these same style names based on the default template instead of my template.

So, instead, I’m using custom styles for the text body paragraphs in my manuscript, not as a sub-style of Text Body but as a sub-style of the default style.

Indent has a sub-style called First to allow for a flush first line at the start of chapters and scenes instead of an indented one, and a few other useful styles I want based on Indent.

My reasoning is that if I change the body style (Indent), I want the style for First, End, and Scene Break to change too.

Also, the custom style names make sense to me, and probably to any other self-publishing writer out there who knows anything about formatting fiction books.

However, the moment you manually apply “Autocorrect” in LibreOffice Writer with the default settings in place, it strips out all your custom styles. I have no idea what purpose this serves since it will destroy the formatting of a finished document—unless it’s really only meant to be applied to a document you’re trying to reformat and you want it stripped down to basics first.

I’ve been tempted to make Indent a sub-style of Text Body, but Indent would still be a custom style, so I don’t think that’s the way to go. And in the end, I want the cleanest style set possible when I export stuff as HTML, which will create CSS styles, or import the ODT file to Jutoh (how I’ll create my EPUBs). I want short, meaningful style names, and I don’t want dependencies or inheritances I’m not aware of to mess things up in some obscure ebook reader I can’t test with my formatted ebooks.

Now that I’ve written it all out, it seems apparent that I want to stick with my custom styles the way they are. They make sense to me, and the reasons for keeping them independent of the built-in text body styles of Writer’s default style make sense too.

Is there anything I’m overlooking for this decision?

I’m really just getting to know LibreOffice Writer 6 and it’s entirely possible I don’t know something that could affect how this works out. If that’s the case, let me know.

Look, unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams

Here’s the thing. When I set out to make writing my source of income, I knew what I was getting into. I’d been married to someone who did contract work for a while cutting lumber and I have a dad who did that for a while, too, and who worked as a mason for some-odd years. I also had an uncle who had spent years working in construction, with all its seasonal variations and ups and downs.

Writing is like that.

Cash flow is a thing.

Income variability is a thing. A big thing. I mean, it’s real and it’s ugly sometimes. It means that the good years have to be averaged with the bad years and you have to live on the average income or less, not the income of the good years.

If you don’t, when the bad years come, you’ll go broke and you’ll have to go get a job doing something that will put money in the bank. When that happens, whether or not you can continue to produce good fiction at a pace that will get you writing full-time again becomes a thing. Maybe you won’t be able to juggle the new job and the writing. It was hard the first time, remember?

That’s what it’s like to be a writer. The income is all over the place. The few (and they are few!) who can turn writing into a regular, reliable source of income are miracle workers. You can’t let yourself be fooled by them into thinking that cash flow is going to be steady and that you’re trading the paycheck of a regular employee-type job for a regular paycheck from self-publishing fiction.

Unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams.

I know there are some productive people out there saying that you can make steady money with writing, but I’m just going to say this: they’re not the norm and they’re probably talking about a shorter time frame than most other writers are imagining. And they’re probably in a position that is going to change, but just hasn’t, yet. How long have they been at it? A one or two or even three year history isn’t enough time to know these things.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2012. I have seven years of history behind me as a self-published author earning a living with fiction, and I can tell you that the things I talk about above are true. I’ve had some bad years, all related to my own production issues, but someday I’m sure I’ll have bad years related to market changes too. All of those kinds of bad years come around eventually. I’ve also seen a lot of authors over the last couple of years, who seemed bulletproof, start to recognize that even they are going to have these bad years too. That’s how I know these things are true for writers other than me.

Sometimes it’s not the book. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. So many authors want to say that luck has nothing to do with success or failure, but it’s just not true. I’m not even sorry to say it. There is so much out of a person’s control in the world that it is absolutely foolish not to prepare for the effects of luck, good and bad. If you’re doing everything you can to make it, it’s okay to hope for luck to come along and help you out. It’s also okay to blame luck for the fact that you can’t seem to get anywhere, as long as you’re being honest with yourself about your skills and effort. (If you can’t be honest with yourself, then blaming luck is a crutch and it’s only going to hurt you, so try not to do that, okay?)

Then there’s the topic of what you write. You can write what you want and hope it works or you can write what other people tell you to write or you can study what readers seem to want and write that. If you choose anything other than writing what you want, you really have to decide if you’re actually fulfilling your dream or just making work for yourself on your way to fulfilling your dream.

I chose to write for myself. I don’t want to be a writer if I can’t write what I want. If you can’t make it full-time writing what you want, then you need a job. But you get to choose what the job is a lot of the time. I choose not to have it be writing. If I can’t make it full-time writing what I want at some point in the future, writing what I don’t want to write sure isn’t going to be the job I turn to to pay my bills.

At the end of that road is the death of a dream and I’m not taking it.

If you like writing so much that you want to write and you don’t care what you write, then you’re one of the lucky ones. :)

If it turns out not to be true, that’s when you’re going to be in trouble. Because you’re probably going to be stuck writing those things you don’t want to be writing, over and over and over again.

It’s a pretty simple choice, and a lot of authors really fuck it up: Do you want to write because you have stories to tell or do you want to write because you want to be self-employed and you happen to really like writing?

I’m the former, no doubt about it. I have stories to tell and which ones I tell matters to me. I have a little of the latter in me, in that I am happy to be self-employed, but honestly, if I’m not writing the stories I want to be writing, I do not like writing. Not even a little.

:)

Days 1–6 of NANO 2018

I forgot to post that I’m participating in NANO this year (NaNoWriMo, actually, meaning National Novel Writing Month, forever hereafter to be called NANO by me).

I’m actually doing pretty well. I got off to a strong start on a new(ish) book (nope, I haven’t finished the ending of the last book, still working on it).

Days 1–4: I wrote 11,412 words for the NANO book (12,299 words total for all my fiction).

Yeah, I know. It is crazy how I went from a few words a day to a 3,075 a day average without even trying.

(ETA 11/8/18: I think it’s because I might be a burst writer, even if I’m not a hugely productive burst writer.)

October 21-31 I wrote 616 words net of those I deleted, or 56 words a day average. Mostly because I had 7 days of zero writing, after making a note to myself that said: “Gave up on daily writing. It sucks.” (I wasn’t feeling well. I even went to my GP doctor—for the first time since 2010 apparently so I had to go in as a new patient. And yeah, even I was shocked by the length of time I’d managed to avoid my GP.)

Back to NANO.

I had my first bad day on Monday, day 5, but only because I spent the entire day working on that ending of the book I can’t seem to finish. I wrote 515 words that day while deleting stuff and moving some things around.

Once I realized on Monday night that I just wasn’t feeling up to writing anything for the new book, I decided to make it up on Tuesday, but, ack, tornadoes blew through the area at 2:05 am (ish) and my power went out. It stayed out until 8:20 (ish) Tuesday evening. So there went day 6.

I freely admit I could have written something on day 6 (yesterday) because I had at least an hour of charge in my laptop battery left, but I chose to sit huddled up on the couch for most of the day reading instead. :)

Days 5–6: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (515 words total for all my fiction).

Par for NANO for days 1–6 is 1,667 x 6 = 10,002 words.

Today is day 7 and I’m just about to sit down to write. I’m still on track for a NANO win. All I have to do is keep writing. :)

I don’t have a plan. I just know I won’t be timing myself. I’ll write until I’m done for the day and that’s that. That’s what I’ve been doing since November 1st and I’m very happy with my progress.

I have adopted a new philosophy over the last week.

I’ve been writing fiction, wanting to write fiction, for most of my life. If I’m having trouble getting myself to write, there’s something wrong. I’ve decided enthusiasm is the problem. I’ve just not been focused on writing what I really want to write. It is essential that I always focus on writing what calls to me. Even if it doesn’t fit my own ideas about what I should want to write. :)

And, in all honestly, it seems to be working.

(Just to clarify, I’m still working on the same books, I’m just making sure I write what I want to write and not what I imagine someone else wants me to write or what I think I should write. Make sense?)

Who knows what day of book 19

I wrote 723 words yesterday.

I haven’t given up on my 2,000 words a day plan, but progress doesn’t always happen in leaps and bounds, obviously. :)

I don’t know that I even care how many days I’ve been working on my current book. I know I wrote previously that it could be nice information to have and might help me stay on track, but now I’m not so sure at all. Seeing 104 or 110 doesn’t feel like much of anything: I have trouble seeing at a glance just what it means. 104 and 110 and even 200 feel like small numbers to me, so things feel like they’re going well. Yet tell me it’s been more than three months and wow, that feels like a very long time.

What I’ve concluded is that this measure is just not going to be useful to me and I’ve decided to abandon the effort.

So that didn’t last long, but hey, we have to try new things sometimes and then recognize when they’re not going to work. This one sounded book on paper but didn’t translate well to real life.

Right now, I want to keep my eye on the prize and push for that 2,000 words a day goal without all these other distractions.

Writing as work

For years I’ve avoided thinking of writing as work. I’ve even written a blog post about how writing is not a job, and after re-reading that, I stand behind what I said about it not being a job. However, I’ve also started to have a realization that for me, maybe doing everything I can to avoid thinking of my writing as work isn’t the right path for me.

I was raised to believe that my work had value. That no matter what job I had, the work I did was valuable. I hate jobs, no two ways around that, but I don’t hate work. I’ve never hated work, really. I can name only a few very specific instances where I might have hated it, if it’d gone on too long, and they all involved boring-as-hell work. Even then, I considered what I did valuable. Just boring.

But my hobbies, reading and writing? Not valuable at all. Time wasters. Time passers. Whatever you want to call it.

It occurred to me that by doing everything I can not to think of my writing as work, I’ve essentially told myself that it has little or no value, despite the fact that I’m living off the money it brings in.

Last night I decided it was time for an attitude adjustment. I can continue to hate jobs and I can continue to avoid having a job—even a self-imposed one—for the rest of my life. But what I can’t do is continue to not think of my writing as my work.

Work can be fun and awesome. I know this. Just because other people sometimes have issues when they think of writing as work doesn’t mean I do or have to. In fact, I’d say I don’t, because for me, work is about doing the best you can. You’re invested. It’s a commitment. It’s not “punch the clock, do as crap a job as you can get away with before punching the clock again” kind of thing. That isn’t my world view, and it never has been.

It’s perfectly okay to call my writing work.

If I want to change my ways when it comes to getting the writing done every day, every week, every year, then I have to think of my writing as valuable, as important, as something I need to do above all other things. Work has pretty much always fallen inside those lines for me. Work is valuable. Work needs to get done.

It’s time to start ascribing some real value to the writing I do.

Writing is my work. My work is my writing.

There. That wasn’t so hard an adjustment to make.

Oh, hell. I’ve already lost track of the days

So that book 19, day whatever lasted a few days. I don’t even know what to say about this. The day after my last post, I pretty much decided I was spending too much time detailing out my struggle to write and that I should focus more on actually writing, you know? So I made a pact with myself to stop writing about the struggle. There is no struggle. My issues with work are not related to writing, except that writing is my work. But I don’t have a problem writing once I start. It’s really just this other thing—these other issues—and I’m tired of putting all that on my writing.

That means my posts about writing either need to be about the story, the process, or my actual word counts. Instead of wasting so much valuable time and energy day after day just writing about how hard it is to make myself write.

So that’s it. This post is a way station and I haven’t figured out exactly where I’m going from here. Most likely I’ll just start posting about exactly those things I mentioned above: process, story, and word count updates.

Since I haven’t written much over the last several days, I haven’t had anything to post about.

I can still use my book xx, day xxx title format for word count updates, but not if I have to start counting days every time I want to post. Yikes. I didn’t think it would be so tedious to keep up with it.

Currently, I’m annoyed with my story because I feel kind of stuck at the moment, and my word counts have suffered greatly because of some personal stuff I’ve had to deal with over the last several days. I don’t begrudge those days, but man, I’m really behind where I want to be on this story.

On that note, I’m going away to write for a while. Maybe I’ll actually have something to post later that isn’t a post saying what I won’t be posting about anymore. ;)

About the writing of my current book

I was looking at my word count spreadsheet today and realized that my “Worked On” column in my “Daily Log” sheet gives me the perfect opportunity to know things about my writing that I might not know otherwise.

Here are some things I found interesting about the writing of my current book (book 19).

3/9/17

I wrote a few words.

12/26/17

I wrote a few more words.

2/16/18
and
2/17/18

I tried to get started on this book in earnest. Didn’t work.

5/9/18

I wrote 100 words but I’m not certain they were all on this book.

5/25/18
to
Present

I started the real work on this book. I’ve had 23 zero word days since 5/25, but since I’m actively working on the book, I’m counting them in the total number of days I’ve been working on this book. :-)

What does that all add up to?

I’ve spent exactly 100 days working on this book (so far).

It’s been 537 days since I first started this book. And that means I’ve had this book in my head for 537 days.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I get bored when writing a book takes too long. I need to stop stalling when it’s time to start the next book—or just not allow myself to start writing until I’m ready to commit.  Even starting the book sets things in motion in my head that make me feel like I’m losing interest when I don’t continue to make progress.

Finally, ouch. It’s been at least 537 days since I put out the last book in this series (make that 685 to be exact). Sigh. This book is going to flop so hard.

And to tie this all up, I’ve finally found a title format I like for my accountability posts: Book 19, day 100. It ties in with both this post and the last. I can also imagine this being a nice way to keep up with just how long I’ve spent on any one book (or story) and how many books I’ve written. I like it. :-)

Book: Book 19, day 100.

Short story: Short story 13, day 2.

I only foresee one difficulty with this, if I don’t want to be doing multiple accountability posts when I work on more than one story on any particular day. I’ll just line them all up in the title or I’ll summarize at the top of the post for any I don’t want to do that with. :D

Book 19, day 100; Short story 13, day 2; Book 20, day—Oh no. That’s not going to work. I really don’t always know where some of these books are going to fall in line when I’m writing on them like this. Now I’m sad, because I really liked this idea.

Then again, I am trying not to overdo the multiple story trick. Until I can start regularly writing 2,000 plus words a day, working on more than one story at a time is just another way to take too long finishing any of them.

I’ll have to think about this some more.

Or maybe I won’t have to. I could just stick to only counting the current book as the one with a number, and list any extra work I’m doing on other books in the post sans number. Because truly, it’s only been once or twice out of all 30 titles I’ve written that I haven’t known which book I’m actively trying to finish first so I can publish it.

Whew. Crisis averted.

Now, on to finishing today’s minimum word count. I’ve really not been focused where I need to be today. Today has been a study in procrastination.

August changes

A few things have changed since my last writing post.

I’ve decided:

To ditch timers and timed writing for good.

It feels weird to sit down and write without the timer. I still look for it in the corner of my screen as I type. I still look for the column on my spreadsheet and feel a little startled when I realize it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I wrote those 187 words.

To erase my record of my timed writing and words per hour calculations.

I did make a backup of the original file with those numbers because I couldn’t not do that.

To stick to word count quotas.

To STICK to word count quotas, for real. I do need some type of structure to keep me working.

Structure is useful for me.

But going back and forth between time / word counts / WPH anxiety isn’t useful to me at all.

I can’t control my daily word counts as easily I can control my time spent writing but I never (seriously, never) seem to reach the time quotas I set for myself either.

Since word count quotas are so much more meaningful to my income, they win. :-)

The day after I made this decision, I wrote more words with less effort than I’ve written in a long time. I reached 671 words for the day and hardly felt like I’d done any writing at all. It felt great.

Then stuff happened, delays and distractions, and I didn’t write very much for the next two days. Now we’ve come to today, and the writing is again going easily and I hardly feel like I’ve done anything at all. I’m already up to 187 words for the day.

Those timers really did make writing feel too much like hard work. Getting that out of my system might take a while, but I’m sure it’s the right path forward for me. I need to like writing or I won’t do it, but lately, I just hadn’t liked it very much at all. That changed so quickly after making the decision to ditch the time keeping and WPH calculations that I really feel it was hindering my enjoyment of writing and interfering with my ability to keep going with this for the long-term.

The hours and WPH are just demoralizing anyway most of the time. Average words per day is the only number that really matters in the long run.

It’s just a renewed focus on actually getting the word counts and not wasting time worrying over anything else to do with productivity.

To stop trying to make my book perfect.

I know better than this. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits this year and my inner perfectionist is making life difficult again.

To keep using OneNote.

I have decided I’m just not leaving OneNote for certain types of notes until or unless I have to. I need software for note-taking or I never would have started using Evernote, way back when, even before I migrated to OneNote several years ago.

I did move the rest of my notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote the way I like once my Office 365 subscription expires in September. And, it’s a little hard to admit, but my notebooks are actually a lot more useful since I moved them.

The local notebook issue was more a principle thing than a practical issue for me. I decided to bend on this one.

It’s time for me to get back to writing fiction now. I have a quota today and I’d like to see how close I end up to it. That 2,000 words a day plan is still something I’ve got in my sights.

Office 365 issues, OneNote, and my local notebooks

So… I mentioned canceling Office 365 and uninstalling? Turns out it wasn’t as easy as that. I still use OneNote, so I reinstalled it after uninstalling Office 365.

OneNote is supposed to be a freebie these days, although who knows for how long, but right off it started giving me little error-like messages about my local notebooks and how I needed an Office 365 subscription to keep using them. Most of my notebooks are local notebooks, meaning they’re stored on my computer’s hard drive instead of on OneDrive.

These local notebooks and the free version of OneNote are pretty much incompatible. It was allowing me to use them, but only when I twisted its arm. In trying to diagnose what might be going on, because at that point I didn’t know, I chose to “switch” my license. I didn’t realize that meant that the entire Office 365 suite would reinstall itself on my computer in the background, but that’s exactly what happened.

The next day, I clicked on one of my spreadsheet files and Excel 2016 opened. At which point I said: “What the hell?”

I did a little research but didn’t turn up anything to explain why it had reinstalled itself so I uninstalled Office 365 again.

Then I closed one of my OneNote notebooks—a local one. Then I changed my mind and tried to reopen it. The freebie version of OneNote absolutely would not let me reopen the notebook. The error-like message was back, telling me I needed to sign up to Office 365 to use that notebook. It was the same message as before, only before, I could close it and still access my local notebooks. But I absolutely could not reopen a local notebook, at which point I realized it wasn’t a glitch at all but an actual limitation of the freebie version of OneNote. Local notebooks aren’t supported.

At that point, I thought about the licensing issue and what it might have meant and how I might be stuck with Office 365 if I wanted OneNote to work the way it had worked before.

So I “switched” my license for OneNote again, assuming I would wake up to the entire Office 365 suite on my computer again, but at least I’d have the ability to open my local OneNote notebook.

That happened, and I successfully reopened my closed (local) notebook.

So yay for that?

I’m still going to allow my subscription to expire, and I’ve left the recurring billing turned off. What I’m hoping will happen is that my OneNote install will continue to work normally even after the other programs deactivate themselves. I’m not at all confident that this is what will happen, but that is my hope.

There are three reasons why I don’t want to stop using OneNote for my notes.

  1. I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into a note and have it retain formatting as a table with no extra work at all. Everything just works. I don’t want to embed the spreadsheet because I delete the bits that I’m pasting. That’d be useless. I just want it for reference. That’s all.
  2. All my notes are consolidated in one location and accessible from one file (essentially).
  3. I can search through all my notes easily at one time.

I debated the issue with myself but ultimately I decided to move my local notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote for most of them, with the exception of my journal. I exported that to a Word .docx, imported it to Writer and saved a copy as an .odt file.

I’ve already started using it for my journal. There are some definite benefits to it being an .odt file and I’m happy that I did it.

There’s also one drawback: I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into LibreOffice Writer, but I have to paste it in as HTML formatted text and then manually apply table styling to it so that it looks like a table. I tested it a few times and I can imagine getting really good at it, but it’s not instantaneous like it is in OneNote.

So that my notes continue to look the same, I added a few styles that are easy to apply.

  • Note Title
  • Note Meta
  • Note Paragraph
  • Note Indent
  • Note List

That seems to be all I need for most of my entries. But I like how neat it all looks. And now I have text statistics. My journal for 2015–2018-to-date is just over 93,000 words. That makes me sad. I just barely managed 126,000 words of fiction last year!

I have to say, it definitely makes me feel like I’m falling down on the job.

But the beauty of this is that if I get tired of one font (it happens!) or a particular layout style, I can easily change it for my whole journal with a simple style edit. :-) Doing that in OneNote is pretty much impossible without some kind of weird hack, because changing the note font even in options doesn’t apply to old notes.

No more forums for me

I decided a couple of days ago that I really need to stop visiting forums.

Forums—

  • Interfere with my ability to concentrate (an active thread is an open loop, and since I’m curious by nature, I react to busy threads a little like an addict)
  • Frustrate me (ignoring unpleasant and dogmatic people is always easier said than done, no matter how many times I’ve tried to make myself do just that)
  • Waste time I could spend writing (or even just trying to write!)

I keep coming back to the fact that I very rarely leave any forum feeling good. For me, the positives that come from reading and participating do not outweigh the negatives.

I think a permanent instead of a temporary ban on visiting forums is definitely in my best interests. Some types of community just aren’t for everyone.

 

I’ve been binge reading and I’ve discovered something in Calibre that might help my writing

I can’t even number the number of stories I’ve read in the last two months since I published my last book. Most of those have been fan fiction stories, I’ll say, and I tried to stick with longer stories, although I did read a lot of short stories too. :) I like all lengths, but I do love reading yummy long stories in my favorite fandoms!

So, the equivalent of a lot of books there.

In fact, since I download fan fiction exclusively from Ao3 in EPUB format, these stories are books. The keepers stay in Calibre, and the disposable stories get deleted after reading. That’s something I just started recently, mostly because I only want to keep rereadable stories. So even if I truly loved a story but if it’s something that I don’t see myself rereading for pleasure (and that happened–I don’t tend to reread stories with ambiguous or unhappy endings even if they really touched me) I delete them.

Same for original novels.

I do not reread stories that don’t leave me feeling good. I enjoy them, sometimes, and don’t often I regret having read them, but I don’t seek them out to reread, mostly because rereading is meant purely for pleasure and to uplift my mood. I mean, rereading is generally something I do when I need to feel joy but not the anxiety of not knowing what’s coming. :)

During this time, I installed a plug-in in Calibre to tell me the word count of all these stories and novels so I could tag stuff that’s especially short (<10,000 words) or especially long (>100,000 words). Fiction from Ao3 already includes a word count in the meta included at the beginning of the story and I happen know the word counts for all my own books and stories (which are also in my Calibre library for easy transfer to my devices), and this led me to note that the plug-in has reliable numbers (just a tiny bit high, tiny bit, but close enough).

And wow did it open my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed. So many books that I thought were longer were not that long after all. In fact, it has led me to rethink the length I go for in a novel. Lately I’ve been far exceeding my 50,000 word target for my own novels, but I was okay with that because I thought most people wrote longer books and that I was actually writing shorter than average books.

I’m going to work on not doing that any more, because so many of the books in my library that I would have assumed were longer came in between 30,000 and 60,000 words. I just do not need to be writing longer books.

And although sometimes I can’t help myself, I know that I really prefer writing shorter books.

Time to get back to what I love. I’m a little sold on the fact that maybe one reason I’ve been unhappy writing lately is because so many of my books have gone long—much longer than I wanted when I started them.

Long equals a longer time spent writing one book and more chance of boredom interfering with my desire to keep going.

When writing becomes a chore, I’m just not able to overcome my resistance to continuing. Breaks mean I have to spend too much time getting back into the story when I finally do manage, and there’s just a whole lot of baggage associated with all this.

So, shorter books. :D