The decline of The Passive Voice website

Well, it was a good run. I used to enjoy reading The Passive Voice blog for the publishing news and stuff, even the random bits that didn’t really have a lot to do with publishing or self-publishing. I have been visiting and reading the site for more than six years.

But The Passive Voice has been in decline for a while now. Of late, the blog has been awash in political wrangling and the comments a chore to read. A few frequent commenters have taken over the comments section in the last several years and their diatribes and viewpoints are just not to my taste.

It’s a chore to talk to people about things that can be divisive and come away from those conversations still friends, or at least friendly. But it’s a hell of a lot more likely to happen in a real world conversation than in an online one. Discussion of divisive topics online has become a no-go for me as I’ve realized how much of a waste of time it is. Even people who are nice, easy to talk to people in real life often act like total assholes online.

I am now saving all these types of conversations for people in the real world whom I respect or who can at least treat another human being with a bit of decency. Anyone else can stuff it.

I’ve successfully cut out the writer forums I used to visit and my enjoyment of writing and self-publishing has improved dramatically. I think it’s time to cut out The Passive Voice too.

I’m kind of thrilled by that decision. Stopping my visits to the forums has been a surprisingly effective mood booster. Even if this is just a blip compared to that, it can only help.

Day 16 of NANO 2018

I woke up this morning with a big chunk of backstory for the nano book in my head. I also had some bits of scenes that I might want to use for the current part of the story, but we’ll see.

As for now, I’m going to spend the afternoon sitting in front of my sunny window and see how far I can get in making up some of the words I need for the nano book. It’s 11:59 and the days are short so this sun isn’t going to last.

Hm. I didn’t make it nearly as far as I wanted, but I also didn’t do as badly as I could have. Tomorrow I won’t have much time to devote to writing at all.

Day 16: I wrote 1,906 words for the NANO book.

Day 15 of NANO 2018

Day 15: I wrote 496 words for the NANO book (1,569 words total for all my fiction).

I really did plan to write more for the NANO book today after I finished my other book (which I did, so YAY!), but in the end I think I was just too tired after all the writing yesterday and the mad dash this morning to finish.

Unfortunately, this means I’m still behind, and falling further.

I am hoping for a better tomorrow.

Currently, my words per day average for November is 1,861. Let’s see if I can get it up to 2,000 and get this newly finished book ready to publish before the end of the month.

ETA: added a few more words after the fact, so I’ve updated the totals. :)

Day 14 of NANO 2018

Day 14: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (6,241 words total for all my fiction).

YES! You got that right. I finally broke through that 6,000 words barrier today. For the first time since I started tracking my daily word counts, I have written more than 6,000 words in a day. :-)

But as you can see in the screenshot below, my NANO word counts have suffered quite dramatically because of this focus on ending my other book. However, I do believe I can catch up. The book is still moving along swiftly when I work on it, and I don’t feel any particular anxiety about how things are going. Fingers crossed.

Day 13 of NANO 2018

Day 13: I wrote 123 words for the NANO book (623 words total for all my fiction).

I revisited the ending of the one book I’m trying to finish, and I revisited the book I’m working on in a series that I want to write, but that in all honesty, I have no need to write at any particular speed. The books in that series hardly sell, so I’ll just keep puttering along with it until I feel compelled to do more. It’ll happen, eventually. I spent too much time reading part of the first book in the series in a hunt for information, and I should regret it, but I really don’t. I love that story. :-)

I’m behind in NANO quite a bit now, but I keep thinking I’m going to get this ending of this other book finished so I allowed myself to focus on that today. I wish my word count proved that to be a good decision, but as you can see, it does not.

Day 12 of NANO 2018

Well, it’s official. I’m behind. Today is rainy and cold and I’m dressed warmly and it feels like a good day to catch up so that’s what I’m going to try to do.

Day 12: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (1,353 words total for all my fiction).

I went back to the book I’ve been trying to finish and spent some time on the ending. I had hoped to finish it, but I didn’t. Definitely still have a chapter or two to write for it.

I’m just going to have to try to catch up with the NANO book once it’s done.

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.

:)

Déjà vu

I have the weirdest feeling that I’ve already read the book I’m reading now (Quicksilver by Amanda Quick). And yet, I’m usually really good at remembering books I’ve read, so I’m a little thrown by this. I will admit, the time frame for when I could have read this book falls at a particularly stressful time in my life, so maybe I just legitimately don’t remember it. When I say particularly stressful, I mean one of the most stressful periods in my life, ever.

So it is possible I have read this book and don’t remember.

It’s maddening. Some parts of it feel so familiar and some do not. :o

Also, I’m looking for a new ebook reader app (primarily for EPUBs) for Android. Aldiko is going downhill fast and I’m not sure what to do about that, because it’s the only ebook reader I actually like. :(

Day 10 of NANO 2018

Very slow start today. I’m actually sitting here at 6:52 pm knowing that I haven’t started yet and that I need to write the full daily goal of 1,667 words just to stay caught up. I can do it, but I’m going to have to get in a hurry. I have a few things to finish first and time just keeps slipping away…

Will update this after I write.

Oh dear.

Day 10: I wrote 97 words for the NANO book.

I didn’t work on other books. Just those few words. Really, I’m not even sure I remember when I did those. It was not a productive night. I guess my brain just needed a day to contemplate the book or something. :)

Day 9 of NANO 2018

Slow start today, but a short nap turned things around. Naps are almost like little miracle cures.

Day 9: I wrote 1,521 words for the NANO book.

That means I am just where I need to be at 15,159 words total for the NANO book.

That also means I need to try to get ahead so I have a cushion in case I don’t write one day for whatever reason. I don’t want to be playing catch up. I want to win. :)

Day 7 of NANO 2018

Day 7: I wrote 1,207 words for the NANO book.

My NANO word count is now 12,619 words.

Here’s a screenshot I took a few minutes ago. It shows numbers as of today (day 8) but it also shows that I was still a little ahead as of last night. Since today’s writing is coming up, I’m very comfortable with my progress. :)

If my blog posts get a little more sloppy, it’s because I’m going to be using them to practice writing more intuitively and to stop self-censoring myself so much.

Maybe I’ll get better at getting it right the first time, or maybe I’ll just get to enjoy my blog a little more.

I don’t like taking a lot of time away from my writing to do the posts, and yet sometimes, I really just want to write a post. So I think making them quicker to write and less of a chore is the way to go.

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?)

October 2018 progress

October was a nice month for my writing. It probably could have been better, but I started feeling bad and even reached a point when I wrote a note to myself in my word count spreadsheet that said simply, “Gave up on daily writing. It sucks.”

I did, in fact, give up on my daily writing streak.

But it was still my best month since September 2017.

Words written in October: 20,602.

Despite the end of the daily writing streak and a nice little streak of zero words days that came about when I started feeling bad (not quite sick but definitely under the weather) I feel like my recovery from whatever was interfering with my writing is almost complete.

Feeling a little less alone today on this journey to improvement

I was going to respond to a blog post I ran across today but found the commenting system was using Disqus which I don’t use and realized I had too much to say for a comment anyway.

Here’s a link: Writing under the influence: productivity and motivation tips to help authors write faster. It’s an interesting post, but the thing that really stood out to me is that I’ve finally (finally!) come across someone with some of the exact same issues in writing and productivity that I have spent six years talking about on this blog.

A “successful” writing day for me right now – when I’m consistent – is 1500 words a day, with two big problems.:

#1. It takes me about 5 sprints to hit 1500 words, but I spread them out throughout the day. So even though technically they only take me about 2 hours, they actually take up my whole day (and I’m too mentally exhausted to do anything else).

I have done the numbers ten ways to Sunday and if I could consistently write for only 4 hours a day, I could put out a book a month.

I can’t do it.

I have tried and tried and tried and tried. I have been trying for approximately 6 years. 75 months. 2,264 days. What it always comes down to is that 4 hours a day of writing takes me all day and I can do that for a few days or even a week sometimes, but I cannot maintain that pace indefinitely. Even my best month of the entire last 6 years of writing (75 months of word counts!) had me averaging 3.83 hours a day. I reached 57,249 words that month, back in April 2016, and I am still trying to beat that number.

#2. I don’t stay consistent. Weeks or months go by without actively working on my books. But when I open, when I start, I can do 1500 words.

This is my bench lifting ability right now. But if I ONLY do this much, I won’t be building my muscles or increasing in stamina. I’ll be coasting, not improving. I WANT to be writing 5,000 words a day, though I’d be happy with 3000 words. That would give me a longish novel a month, plus editing – and I could finish shorter works of 50K in a month (or less!)

Yeah. I want to write about 2000 words a day. I have a 2000 words a day plan, in fact. I know I should be able to do it in a reasonable amount of time every day. And yet… see my comment above. 2000 words a day takes me about 4 hours (timed writing). 4 hours of timed writing takes me all day. I have occasionally done better, finished early, etc. That’s not something I have ever been able to keep up for longer than a few days.

I’ve tried schedules, and timers, and sprinting, and writing for the love of it. I’ve tried time boxing and time blocking and micro-managing my writing time. I’ve tried eliminating sugar and coffee and tea and I’ve tried more coffee and tea and enough sugar to make me sick. I’ve tried exercise and vitamins and candles and music and clear desks and Leechblock. I’ve tried so, so many things, and all I have to show for it is a string of successful days and failed days and no pattern at all to discern anything of note.

Right now I can do about 1200 words/day consistently. Sometimes 1600. The main problem is it takes me ALL DAY to do this; even though I space out the sprints, I procrastinate and avoid. Then I get behind on other work or projects, and get anxious.

This is a big problem: I can only hit my wordcount goals if I literally do NOTHING else.

And this is due to resistance. But why am I resisting the writing? Because I say stuff like “I’m slow, I’m no good at drafting, writing the first draft is HARD for me.” I don’t believe writing HAS to be a struggle, but it obviously is for me… so I’m avoiding it. How can I write and still have time and energy for everything else on my list?

See the similarities to my own issues mentioned above?

I hope the author of the post figures things out eventually. Maybe it’ll be something I can learn from and apply to my own issues.

And it was nice to feel less alone for a few minutes today.

In the meantime, I’m trying to brainstorm alternative paths to becoming the prolific writer I want to be. All the planning in the world hasn’t seemed to have helped me in the slightest.

Daily average for the first two months (July and August 2012) (no timers, no goals other than to finish a book ASAP): 904 words a day.

All time daily average as of today: 552 words a day.

Daily average this month (timed writing almost every day): 908 words a day.

Yeah. Not much else to say, is there? I sure hope I can figure out some way to put my strengths to work for me in writing and actually improve my yearly/monthly word counts. Because trying to fix my weaknesses hasn’t done much for me at all. I’m still sitting right where I started: inconsistent, slow, and full of resistance.

Tuesday writing, Oct. 16, 2019

Trying something new today. I’ll detail it out once the day is done, but I’m hopeful, despite the fact that I got up an hour later than I needed to for my plan! It’s always something, and it will always be something, so why not see if I can still accomplish what I’d like to accomplish even when things go wrong?

I’ll be back when I have progress to report.

Update: 1,743 words and a success with my plan which I’m calling my 5 by 5 plan. See that post for details (which I haven’t written yet but will be writing shortly).

Monday writing, Oct. 15, 2019

I’ve spent the vast majority of the day avoiding my book, because I have a decision to make about the scene I’m in the middle of writing and I don’t want to make it.

Instead, I’ve spent my time messing around with Thunderbird. I added a new account and then couldn’t sort it into the place I wanted it in the account list because the Manually Sort Folders add-on I rely on for that kind of thing isn’t compatible with the version of Thunderbird I’m using now. I’m stumped on how to do the sorting through the prefs.js file, because I’ve followed every set of directions I can find and nothing seems to work. So of course it turned into just the kind of challenge I often let myself sink into instead of focusing on whatever problem I’m having that I need to resolve—like the unsettled plot direction of my book.

Yay.

I’ve just about used all the time I can on other things, though, because I do need to get back to that story problem. I know I can resolve it, but it will require me to actually work on the book. Thinking about these things never seems to give me the breakthroughs I need. Only writing will do that.

Update: Just before I called it a night, I deleted my entire chapter 22. That was 1,246 words. Good riddance. Now I can move into tomorrow with a fresh start on this chapter and hope the direction is better for my muse!

September 2018 progress

September was an interesting month. I needed to write a lot of words and I didn’t, really, but I still did reach my goal of September becoming my best month of writing I’d had all year. November 2017 is the last time I had a better word count.

I feel like I’m still recovering, but I’m definitely making progress. I still haven’t finished my first book of the year, but I’m getting close. So close, in fact, that I’m making a push to finish it today. We’ll see how it goes. :)

Written in September: 13,358 words.

It’s October now, and I’m just under two thousand words shy of beating September’s word count. With a little hard work, I’ll surpass that number today.

Oh, and today is the 38th day in my streak of writing every day which started on September 4th. That’s good too.