My writing process in five sentences (and some words about those sentences)

I write a book. I start at the beginning. I write through to the end, taking a few detours along the way usually but always ending up at the end. (3)

I read the book and mark errors and continuity issues to check or fix and make sure nothing sounds wrong (that’s a totally subjective thing for me but it’s just something that sometimes happens because I often write my sentences out of order, leave them half completed, come back to them, finish them, and then realize I just repeated myself—can’t seem to help that this is the way my brain often puts a sentence/paragraph/page together—on the other hand, it’s definitely not how I put a chapter together because I can’t get from one unfinished scene to another!—but sometimes the remnants of this process gets left behind to be found during later read throughs). (4)

I fix all that stuff I mentioned in the previous sentence (which, yes, was just one sentence!) and call my book done. (5)

That was it. Five sentences.

If you think there are steps missing, you haven’t been reading this blog very long. :-)

I indie publish because I like to be in control of my works. I do what I want to do with them. I choose to do what I do, not because of necessity, but because it pleases me. That’s the beauty of indie published works. I can be an artisan.

I’ll be blunt here: I am an artist.

There are people out there who’ll say that back to me with a sneer. But I’ve made my choices and they’ve made theirs and my choices should mean nothing to them. And if they do, maybe those people should rethink whatever it is that makes them feel like they have the right to expect me to live by their rules.

I don’t use first readers, second readers, beta readers, alpha readers, or, in fact, any readers at all other than me during the writing and publishing of my books. I am my own editor. And yes, that includes copy editor, and yes again, I know some people will scream at me about this and claim I’m disrespecting my readers by doing that.

I disagree. I’m an indie publisher with a system that happens to run counter to the majority. That doesn’t make my system wrong. Only different.

If someone picks up one of my books and thinks it isn’t edited properly they can (1) get a refund, (2) never buy another book from me, (3) complain and/or review the book and tell everyone the editing is nonexistent and the book sucks, and/or (4) write me a nasty letter and tell me what they really think.

About trusting yourself and letting go

My most recent book was a lesson in trusting myself and letting go of notions of what I thought the book should be.

The comments I’ve received on the book are better than usual, and that is gratifying. I don’t think I would regret anything even if they weren’t, because by the time I’d written the last word, I was happy with the book and the direction it had taken. It’s a book I was sure no one but me would like, because it does things that books in the genre I’m in don’t usually do. It was really a mix of several genres, as a lot of my books are, but with enough of an overriding element of one that I’m able to claim it as belonging to the genre I always mean to write when I start a new book for my main pen name.

It was also hard to write at times, because I kept having to beat back the critical part of myself and just write what felt right instead of what my brain was telling me was the right thing to write.

The book had several twists that I fought up to the bitter end, but now that it’s done, I’m so glad I let go and let the story become what it needed to be versus what I kept wanting it to be.

The real lesson I learned from this is that sometimes our brains tell us we’re going in the wrong direction, and what we’re really doing is laying a foundation that will be the bedrock of the story we end up telling.

It’s important to trust ourselves as artists and writers, and accept that sometimes that means we don’t know where we’re going with something until it pays off for us, for the characters, the plot—the story.

I hope if you’re struggling with a story, you can find it in yourself to let go and trust yourself even when things aren’t going along how you imagined they would in the story. You might be surprised by what comes of it.

Don’t link to your email list provider in your books

I’m going to sound smug for a moment, because frankly, that’s how I’m feeling right about now.

From the beginning, I’ve done everything I can to make life easier on myself, and it’s paid off in several ways in the long run.

I make all my links in my books go back to my own author website, including the link for my newsletter sign up.

Link to one of my books? It goes to my website (a page just for that book).

Link to my newsletter sign up form? It goes to my website (a page just for the form for the newsletter sign up).

This is part laziness on my part and part forward thinking. I’m always imagining worst case scenarios, and the worst thing I can imagine happening with links is some service going under and me being stuck with the task of editing who knows how many books and having to upload new files to all the distributors.

So here’s my advice to you, especially if you have a lot of books or plan to write a lot of them!

Link to your own website pages, no matter what anyone else recommends you do, or how much they swear you’ll earn more or get more subscribers or whatever.

I mean, I guess if you don’t mind the work, and doing it in a hurry too when something happens that screws up three hundred links you’ve put all over the web or inside your books and promo materials, then do what you want, but I will never recommend anyone link to anything but pages under their own control.

The end.

:-)

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.

I’ve discovered pandoc

I have discovered pandoc. Oh dear.

It has garnered an immediate place in my backup routine and has filled a gap that my switch from Microsoft Word to LibreOffice Writer created in my editing and proofreading routine.

And I’ve discovered that I like reading the HTML version of my document better than the EPUB when I’m proofreading because paragraphs are spaced automatically instead of appearing in book form and that makes for really easy reading to pick out mistakes.

It’s also super easy to open an HTML file from Dropbox on my phone and tablets.

So, here’s how I made it work for me, in my routine. Maybe you’ll get a few ideas from this that’ll work for you.

First I installed pandoc. It is a command line tool so that’s a big deal for me. I don’t do command line work. I can, if I have to, but only if I’m looking at a cheat sheet. I have no advanced knowledge of command line stuff so what I present here is what I found in the pandoc documentation that worked for me.

One thing I do know how to do is create a .bat file for windows. I know only a few things about that, though, too.

That said, I know just enough to know it would be possible to do the thing I wanted to do once I realized how cool pandoc was.

So, let me start again: I installed pandoc. https://pandoc.org/

I followed the super easy installation method. I downloaded the windows installation file and ran it. :-)

The pandoc website is super easy to browse and I browsed right through the About, Installing, and Getting started pages. I skimmed the Demos and searched a bit of the Documenation at points too, but pandoc is really easy to use if you can just get the command line stuff right.

So here’s a cheat sheet. :D

It’s nothing special, but maybe seeing it will give you ideas.

I store my working files in a structure like this:

\users\myusername\files\publishing\works\series-name\01-book-title\

I do it that way so all my book folders are in the order I wrote them and not in some other random order.

I don’t even bother with the command line / terminal. I put my stuff in a .bat file that I created in notepad. Seriously.

I knew about .bat files and have used them for backing up files in the past. So I combined that with the stuff I discovered about pandoc and made a file that will generate a format for me and save it somewhere just by me clicking the file and “opening” it. .bat files don’t really open so much as they “run” so that’s what’s actually happening.

I click the file to open it and it runs. :D

Oh, and just to note, I’m using Windows 7. I don’t use Windows 10 so I have no idea if this stuff is just as easy there or not.

Once pandoc is installed, just right click in the folder where you store your book file and choose New Text Document from the context menu.

Here are supporting pictures to show me walking through what I did last night but in a dummy folder this time.

I made a new text file.

I named it “formats.bat”.

The file tries to default to “formats.bat.txt,” but I just deleted .txt so that the file is a .bat file. You’ll get a warning. Tell it you know what you’re doing and to rename the file extension.

Since I didn’t want to have to type up a crazy long file path, I had to make sure my file was actually in the directory where I put the .bat file.

If I’d been using one of my real book files like I did last night, this wouldn’t have been necessary because the file would have already been there. But that’s the problem wtih dummy folders. You’ve got to fill them with dummy files. :-)

Now I edit the file and put the pandoc command line stuff in it so that it’ll generate a couple of alternate formats and spit them out.

Here’s what’s in that file for easy copying and pasting:

pandoc book-title.odt -s -o book-title-draft.epub --metadata title="Book Title draft" --metadata author="Your Name"
pandoc book-title.odt -s -o book-title-draft.html --metadata title="Book Title draft" --metadata author="Your Name"

It won’t ask about overwriting files. So BE SURE you don’t mess up those file names and that you don’t mind having the files overwritten.

Just swap out “book-title.odt” for your file name.

Pandoc does handle .docx files too so you could start from that rather than an .odt file like I do. Also swap out the “book-title-draft.epub” (and .html) file for whatever name you’d like. Finally, the –metadata stuff is only relevant to certain file types so it isn’t needed for all conversions, say book-title.odt to book-title.txt. :-)

I use this to generate backup formats for my book, including a plain .txt file, and I actually have the EPUB and HTML files saved to my Dropbox folder instead of the directory it’s in so that I can open that file on my phone and do my editing read-through there or on a tablet.

These will be basic files, nothing fancy, but they are perfect for me to do my editing read-throughs that I do as I go, or as backup formats.

If you’re the type that prefers to start with something other than a blank document, you can take the EPUB or HTML into Sigil or Jutoh and tweak it there at the end if need be. I prefer to import my formatted word processing file for that into Jutoh, but it’s something I might look at just to see about when I get that far with my current book. :-)

It’s a one-click document generation and backup solution.

It is so easy. I love it. :D

That didn’t last

I made plans before I finished my last book not to start the next in that series until I’d written the book that I already have in progress. I’m attempting to keep my enthusiasm for my projects high by managing them better. It’s easy to lose enthusiasm when I write a few thousand words and then move to something else for months at a time before I get back to it.

The last book I finished? I wrote about that delay. I also wrote about how much more of a chore writing is when I have delays like that because I get bored and lose interest in what I started and have difficulties getting that interest back.

To be technical about it, writing that last book took me from March 2017 to November 2018. That’s more than a year, and that’s a long time to try to keep up interest in writing one story.

That said, my plans to avoid doing that again aren’t working out—which is a total bummer. :-|

I got an awesome idea this morning for the direction I want to go in the series I finished that last book for. At the same time, I’ve had no ideas for the series and book I’m currently supposed to be writing. I haven’t had much interest at all in finishing this book—the same one I was flying through just months ago while still trying to finish the other book.

I wrote down the idea for the series and my thoughts about it, or some of them anyway, and I went ahead and started the document for the next book in that series. I haven’t gone so far as to write words for that book yet, but it is calling to me something fierce. The idea for the opening scene is right there in my brain and it wouldn’t take any effort at all to just let myself explore it a little.

It doesn’t pay to ignore the muse, but I’m trying.

It’s a conundrum. Miss out on harnessing the enthusiasm I have for the one series to struggle with the other book instead? Or write what I want while the little bit of enthusiasm I still have for the other book continues to wane?

The only right choice seems to be to let go and allow myself to work on two books at a time again. Or to make myself. Call it what you will.

But hey, it worked for the last book.

Sort of.

I finally finished it, at any rate, and I enjoyed doing it, and I broke through to a 6,000 word day. I didn’t push myself to do it, either. It just happened.

Weird ways I use my calendar

I use a Google calendar for all kinds of things, most of them very normal. I use it for my scheduled appointments and events, and I use it as a task list. I hear you’re not supposed to do that, and I understand why because I’ve read the trusty Getting Things Done book.

I found a lot in that book that helped me set up some systems that I continue to use nearly ten years later. But I still choose to use my calendar for tasks. My brain doesn’t do well with stuff that is out of my sight. I’m very much an out of sight, out of mind kind of person. And when I’m not, it’s because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about whatever thing it is I’m afraid is out of sight and will be out of mind shortly. :)

Most tasks are just set up as “All Day” events and when I finish them, I add a “+” at the beginning of the event name. It’s easy and it lets me search backward when I need to.

Such as: when was the last time I reconciled my accounts in GnuCash? Ah…that’s right, August 20th and it wasn’t part of my normal routine, because I didn’t “+” the event, I added a new event straight into the calendar. :)

But then there are the weird things, like my weight.

I set up my weight as an event and throw it in there every so often just so I can look back and see where things stand. Search makes it easy since the keyword is “pounds.”

Personally, I appreciate the broad overview this gives me. It’s easier to see significant changes when you get rid of extraneous data like what you’d see in a daily log.

I also keep affirmations of one kind or another in my calendar. I have some of them set up as recurring All Day events, so just about the time I’m likely to forget them, they pop up again.

I add All Day events for anything I want to remember, really, from “stray kitten arrived” to “woke up with vertigo” (which happened last week).

I recently created a calendar called “Writing” (separate from my publishing calendar) and I think I’m about to start using it in the same way for memorable stuff related to my books. Stuff like “came up with twist for SB” (SB = Some Book). :)

The one thing I don’t do is use my calendar to track my daily word count. Too much data. If I search for “words” I would be sure to get pages and pages of useless info, because I already keep up with my daily word count in a spreadsheet.

But now that I’m thinking about it, I am definitely going to add a yearly word count to my calendar. I do have a yearly word count summary in my spreadsheet, but the numbers are spread out and not so easy to see side-by-side. I don’t want to make any changes to my spreadsheet, so this will give me a different option for viewing my year-end word counts.

July 9, 2018 Monday writing

Here’s another post about my writing day.

On the one hand, I’m pleased that I started off my plan to write 2,000 words a day somewhat successfully. I ended up with 1,825 words. Not 2,000, but close enough that it won’t drag my average down in the long run (I hope). On the other hand, I’m really disappointed that it took all freaking day to do it, and I didn’t even make it to four solid hours of timed writing. I clocked only 2.67 hours, in fact.

I’m going to say this up front. I have to take breaks between most writing sessions and that’s just the way it is. I pee a lot. I have to move my legs. I can’t sit still for long periods. If I don’t move, I can’t focus. If I don’t click away from my book when I get too wound up, I can’t focus. I need a lot of help focusing, to be blunt.

The most hours of timed writing I’ve ever logged in a day is just over ten and a half and that was the hardest day I’ve ever spent writing. I started early in the morning and I finished late that night. It’s also my record word count day at the moment.

I just cannot sit and write for four hours straight. It’s currently an impossibility for me. I don’t know if it always will be, but I suspect I will never be that person who sits down and doesn’t move until their daily word count has been reached. Well, maybe if my daily word count was like 500 words or something. I might make it. Some days. :)

But one thing I don’t expect is to end up with four hours of timed writing from a 12–4 writing schedule. That’s a completely unreasonable goal for me, and I know it.

But three would be nice. So I’m working on it. I’m going to really focus in on that 12–4 writing time and try to get a consistent three hours of timed writing out of it. The rest of the day? I don’t care. I’ll just do what I can do.

Now back to the post about my writing day. Here’s the log, which I wrote in OneNote yesterday but got too tired to post before I went to bed. It’s long! I recorded a lot of minutia.

  • Start at 12 pm and get as close to 4 hours of timed writing in before 4 pm as I can.
  • Do 20 minute sessions today to help me stay more focused on speed.

(Although the 60 minute sessions do work to keep me focused during them, I don’t like starting them, and so I always feel like I end up doing less writing in the end. I should confirm that with numbers but maybe some other time.)

12:23 – Just finished my first session of the day.

Session #1 didn’t go great. I ended the session at -22 words. Too much editing of yesterday’s words and no forward momentum at all. I will try to correct that with session #2.

To help limit the necessity of breaks, I had coffee earlier so I could move on to something less likely to force me away from my desk every five minutes. I’m having hot water over lemon and honey, instead.

Now, unfortunately, I do need a quick break. :D Be right back.

12:39 – I’m back and ready to start session #2.

1:00 – Session #2 done. 211 words. Total words: 189. Still in the weeds of yesterday’s work. However, I ended up expanding one conversation and that’s where the new words came from.

I posted an update to my CampNaNoWriMo cabin and to a small writer’s group I’m part of on Discord. Grabbed lunch and am eating at my desk today because I forgot to eat lunch before I started at 12.

1:25 – Ready to start session #3.

1:46 – Session #3 done. 156 words. Total words: 345.

2:06 – I had a short break to check the mail (real mail!) because I saw the postman put a package in the box, and sure enough, it was my keyboard replacement and the fan. I’m still waiting on the frame and I’ve decided to let that come before I dig into the computer for the repairs.

I’m actually liking this temporary keyboard quite a bit. I might continue to use it. We’ll just have to see. Now, time to start session #4.

3:02 – Finished session #4. 357 words. Total words: 702. Don’t know where the rest of my time went. I didn’t leave the computer. I think I looked at few reports or something, and time must have gotten away from me before I clicked “Start” on the timer.

3:36 – A cup of cocoa and coffee later, and I am back. I think the honey and lemon wasn’t such a good alternative to coffee, not for the reason I wanted it as an alternative. The lemon seemed to be just as big an irritant to my bladder as the coffee usually is! But at least with the coffee, I get a little caffeine high. So I won’t be doing that substitution again as a way to cut down on breaks, because it did not cut down on breaks. :)

Starting session #5.

4:00 – Finished session #5. 297 words. Total words: 999. About halfway to my initial 2,000 words goal.

4:17 – Starting session #6.

4:41 – Finished session #6. It was a good one! 388 words. Total words: 1,387. That was a pace of 1,164 words an hour. If I kept that up, I’d be done with my 2,000 in a snap. I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen. :)

4:59 – Starting session #7. Hopefully I’ll get a few of these in before I stop again. I’m wearing myself out here with all the jumping up and down out of my seat.

5:29 – Did not start session #7. I played a game of spider solitaire first. Now I’m starting session #7. I’m actually really kind of sleepy and tired. But I’m going to do at least this one more session before I take a dinner break.

5:58 – And an unexpected interruption derailed that attempt. Starting session #7 now.

6:39 – Finished session #7. 211 words. Total words: 1,598 words. My pace slowed, but yeah, no surprise there.

8:56 – I stopped after the last session for a dinner break. I would have preferred to get my 2,000 words first but time kept getting away from me so I decided to stop early enough to come back after. So here I am. Ready to start session #8.

9:54 – Or not. I played a game of spider solitaire instead, ran some numbers on my spreadsheet, and then dealt with an interruption. I’m going to finish my game of spider solitaire and then start session #8.

I’m disappointed that my 4 hours of writing have taken all day. And that I haven’t reached 2,000 words yet.

I’m giving some thought to what I can do differently but there’s not a lot, not while I have people in the house with me all day. I’m just too prone to distraction and I tolerate too many interruptions, from others and myself.

It would serve me well to get up early and start writing while it’s quiet, but I’ve gotten into a nice routine with the 12–4 schedule and I don’t want to mess that up. I also kind of like not having to jump right into writing. If it were just me here, I don’t there’d be any problem at all with 12–4. It’s just that I’m not here alone most days and won’t be until mid-August, and then only some days, and not even close to most of them.

So, I have to learn to get by even with the interruptions. Things won’t change for a few more years, I expect. Time waits on no one.

10:35 – Alright. I’m done with that game. I’m not finished with it, just done. The biggest impediment to this plan of mine is my laptop’s broken keyboard. I’d love to take my computer up to bed and sit there and do some last minute writing but I can’t, not unless I want to have my space bar doing ridiculous things to my book. So I’d better get started. I’m fast running out of all steam. Pretty soon I’m not going to even care if I reach 2,000 words today and I’ll give up. Happens every time I let myself get sleepy.

Starting session #8 now. Also, my music has reached the “driving me crazy” phase of the day, so I just turned it off, with prejudice.

11:53 – I’m not sure when session 8 ended, but I wrapped up by updating my spreadsheet and then ended up working on the story a little more after that.

Total words for the day: 1,825.

Tomorrow, the only thing I’m going to focus on is staying on task and getting my sessions done. I think I’ll try 30 minute sessions and see how that goes.

Timed reading while I’m working on my book

Today’s writing plan was simple: time myself as I read through what I already had written (chapters one through four) and then use my timer for some 45 minute writing sessions.

I use the timer when I’m doing my proofreading check at the end (for publishing).* I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about that here before. It really helps keep me focused on reading and not getting distracted the way I used to do when I did my final read through.** This is one of those coping mechanisms I’ve come up with over the years to deal with the fact that I don’t always find it easy to focus, even when it’s something I want to do.

Today was the first time I’ve tried the timed reading thing while going back to read through and fix things during actual story creation.

I liked it. I think I’ll do it again when I need to.

But there was a definite difference in speed. My proofread usually takes 15-20 minutes per chapter. This was much more time consuming! I ended up spending most of the day on this. Focusing is hard work (for me), no joke!

Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to go off and write for a few minutes, then pack it in for the night. I just don’t think I have it in me to do any 45 minute sessions. It’s 10:48 pm and I’ve been at it all day.

I do think I’ve cleared out all the deleted stuff in my head so that when I really get into the next scene I’m not going to be confused. I do hope so.

Maybe I’ll reread on my Kindle in bed tonight where I can’t touch it except to highlight errors and just try to settle it more firmly in my thoughts.

+=+=+

* I have a spreadsheet for this stage. I have a column with my chapter number and I sit down with that chapter, turn on my stopwatch timer, and read. I record the time. I move on to the next chapter. Breaks are optional.

** I used to just keep up with my percentage read based on my Kindle locations in the final manuscript (after sending it to my Kindle). I tried to read in long stretches of time, sometimes setting hour long goals for myself to read as much as I could in that time. Trust me when I say that I really like my current spreadsheet method much better. :)

June 19–29 progress

Hey, maybe I’ve found a title format I like for these posts. :)

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a vat of Elmer’s glue. I have been making progress almost every day. I’ve had only two zero word days for the entire month of June. Those are the only two days I didn’t sit down to write.

That said, I have stalled out on the book. No doubt. I started chapter three four different times, then gutted it. Then I incorporated some of those words back into a different chapter three and pushed some more off to chapter four. Then I deleted those words. Now I’m looking at incorporating some of them into chapter four after all.

But I need a thorough read through today. I started doing one yesterday but got stuck on fixing the first scene of chapter one. Which I had honestly thought I was done with after the last time I revisited chapter one and gutted it then swapped out scenes one and two and found myself pretty pleased with how that went.

I again think I’m done with that first scene in chapter one. In fact, I’m happier than ever with it and hope it is actually better and not just imaginarily better.

(Imaginarily isn’t a word? I don’t believe it. Using imaginatively instead just doesn’t feel right. Moving on.)

The lack of actual progress has been frustrating though. My book’s word count hasn’t moved much at all in the last week. Friday the 22nd, I ended the day with a word count for my novel of 11,017 words. Today, I’m starting at 10,890 words.

Words written June 19–29: 2,692

My June-to-date word count: 11,034

I’d like to get to 15,000 words by the end of today but it’s going to take a whole lot of writing to get there. And I have to get out of whatever funk I’ve fallen into with this story.

June 16–18 progress

Here’s an update. These updates are one of the several ways I’m trying to stay accountable to the writing plan I’ve made for what’s left of 2018. (Especially important considering how I let the year start off.)

June 16: 715
June 17: 193
June 18: 259

The goal each day has been at least 2,000 words, but I’ve gotten bogged down in the current chapter I’m writing and having no luck writing my way out of it.

I started out this chapter in one way, then began again, and again, and again, but didn’t want to lose what I had. Big mistake. I’ve tried to stitch it all together, but that’s where I end up bogged down.

I don’t tend to think I write out of order, but I when I try to look at things objectively, I know that sometimes I do. This may be one of those times. It’s also possible I should have just deleted everything in the chapter and started completely fresh, but I didn’t think that was going to be necessary. I did end up deleting a lot, and rewriting a lot, and wishing I’d just deleted to start with, but missing every little bit I ended up losing. It’s still a bit of a mess, but I did manage to put all of it back together. I have some thoughts about things I missed that I need to fix, but I am hopeful I can get in there and do that without going off on a tangent again that changes everything that comes after (which is what tends to happen and is the cause of a lot of writing grief for me).

It may also be that I’m a little too worried about what I’m writing (perfectionism rearing its head). It’s hard to tell. I can’t seem to let go of the idea that things just aren’t right yet.

If I bog down again today, I’m going to have to lower my expectations for this story, because I want to finish this book within a six week period, and I’m already approaching the end of week four since I began working on this book in earnest.

You know what? I read back through that last paragraph and it’s obvious why I’m bogging down. I’ve put expectations on this story and I’m going to have to let them go, now, not later.

So there you are. This is where I am with the writing as of this morning. Hopefully, I’ll have better progress to report the next time I do a progress post. :-)

Playlists help me focus when I’m writing

This is my current music playlist, using Amazon’s Prime Music (except for one song on there that I purchased from Amazon a while back).

—deleted because I think I deleted it at Amazon— :D

I’ll probably end up purchasing several of these songs eventually.

My favorite find of the bunch is Best Shot by Jimmie Allen. Love it, really.

I never pick songs for their words when I set up these playlists, I pick for mood. And repeatability—because I put the playlist on repeat and keep it going until I’m either sick of it, or the book is done. :-)

I usually just plug my headphones into my computer and play through the browser at music.amazon.com. When I’m playing offline (my music only), I use Windows Media Player, because it’s easy. I like it best, but I do like to take advantage of Prime sometimes. And other times, I use my phone, but my playlists there have to be recreated because my phone uses Google Music as a player and it’s kind of awkward setting up my offline playlists.

I use the computer to play my music because it’s the easiest to start and stop and mess around with while I’m writing, and most often I purchase the songs that keep my attention, and then end up making my playlist offline so I can play music when I’m on battery and not waste the battery streaming over WIFI.

Music is an important part of how I do this writing thing. :-)

Ready to edit today

screenshot of sunlit paper Today I’ll be editing. I have fresh coffee, my document on my Kindle Fire (the oldest one I have), and some fresh sunlit paper and a pencil for notes. I have tablets and journals and pencils and pens everywhere, to be honest. :)

It’s time to edit this book and I want to do it while the story is fresh in my mind. I know that’s opposite of what a lot of authors recommend to other authors, but I have my own way of doing things, for reasons that make sense to me.

Of course, I dated the page yesterday, so that’ll have to be updated, but other than that, I’m ready to go.

With as much sun as is shining onto my face, I’ll have to watch out, but I want the warmth of the sun right now. I find it motivating when it comes time to focus on reading. :)

So here is the plan.

Every chapter will be timed. (I do this to stay focused.) If I need to stop for a break, it’ll come at the end of a chapter. This is helpful so I can get a feel of the momentum in a chapter and pay attention to pacing. If I’m stopping three times in a chapter, I just get to the end and have no idea how fast or slow it felt.

After 3 to 4 chapters, I’ll catch up typo edits and the like, and save all other notes (highlights really) until the end.

This is so I don’t run into an issue with the Kindle losing my highlights. It hasn’t ever happened, but if it does, I don’t want this to be the day. Until I started doing it this way, I regularly ended up with 30+ pages of highlights to deal with all at the end. The horror of losing all that and having to start over is what led me to change my ways.

I’ll be using the notes page to make notes of continuity stuff and things I want to check at the end. I’ll be jotting down eye/hair/clothes/names and a small chapter summary of one or two sentences, too. But I might save that for the end of the chapter so it doesn’t bog me down as I read. This is something new I’m adding to my process so I’m going to have to work out the details as I go.

Anyway, I think I’m ready. I will definitely post a screenshot from my spreadsheet later. :) It’ll be interesting to see it all laid out. The spreadsheet tracks the reading sessions, and using it and the timer has worked really well to keep me completely focused on reading.

It’s also cut the time it takes me to do the read through by a significant degree. It used to take a week at least. Now it takes a day (or two).

This is the kind of thing I’m hoping to find with my writing someday. A process that just works.

I haven’t given up looking. But for now, it’s time to focus on edits. :)

 

I wrote -96 words yesterday

How is it even possible to write negative words? In case you’re new here, let me explain my tracking sheet.

I put in my current doc’s word count, and it tells me how many words I’ve written today. As you can see, today’s total is zero at the moment. (The 3,333 below today’s count is the goal and it is a formula that will tell me how many words I have to go to get to that goal.)

Starting at row 10 is the list of all my works in progress and below that all my completed works, with word counts noted. That’s where I update my word counts to get an updated cumulative word count. The previous total number is manually adjusted each day so that the spreadsheet will calculate an accurate number of words for today. This lets me work on as many stories as I want in one day and still have a central place to track that word count.

I’m sure some people would like to have individual spreadsheets for each book or story, but I really don’t want or need that much granular detail. I tried adding another step into my tracking process for a while, but keeping up with one more sheet was just too much of a time waster for me.

Anyway, my point is that I have negative words because I obviously deleted more than I added, so at the end of the day my word count in the doc for my current book was lower than it was at the beginning of the day. For my sheet to be accurate, I have to record my doc’s actual word count. I like it that way even if it does leave me in the hole some days.

Sadly, -96 words is nowhere near the 1,500 word goal I set myself last night. I fell down hard on that. My only excuse is, well, an excuse. I’ll take a pass on making it.

How to not write a lot of words

I feel asleep at the computer last night. Well, mostly I feel asleep if you count head bobbing and momentary lapses in consciousness.

So no, I didn’t make it through my book so that today’s writing could go more smoothly. In fact, I kept tinkering with that particular scene I mentioned yesterday until the head bobbing and lapses in consciousness caused me to read the same two lines in the story about twenty times.

Today, however, I finally figured out why I kept tinkering with that scene, fixed the thing I needed to fix, and am so glad it’s done. The scene is also much more in line with what I wanted. I’m pretty happy with it right now.

I adjusted some chapter breaks (about 4 or 5 of them) and now I need to finish the read through edit I’m doing for about 14 more chapters. To be honest, I’m not really editing. I’m just fixing stuff so the damn story can start moving again. :D

As for the chapters, I like to have chapters of about 2,000 to 2,500 words, and definitely not more than 3,000 to 3,300. I usually have several good breaking off points in a chapter, so it wasn’t hard to find new cliffhanger style endings for the new chapter breaks. :D

Only one chapter defeated me and I had to leave it at 3,140 words. There just wasn’t a good place to split it and I liked the ending it currently had too much to bury it in the middle of the next chapter.

I’ve managed to gain 169 words today so far doing this and I’m hoping not to spend too much more time on that and get on with the real writing soon.

Since I’m not anywhere near where I’d need to be right now to have a 5,000 word day, I’m going to quit hoping for that and just write as much as I can.

So no more breaks for me until I’m ready to call it a day on the writing. WIFI is going off the minute I post this, and I’m going to hide my damn tablets and phone. (Okay, I just turned them off, but that should serve the same purpose!)

Random thoughts: File naming conventions

First, a new column for the blog, if you can call anything here columns: Random thoughts.

Second, I had one. :D

It led me to researching the accepted wisdom for naming files. I have a very confused set of file name conventions I just haven’t been happy with for a while.

Almost everything I’ve read over the years says to avoid spaces in file names, so a while back I started naming folders and files like this:

c:\Writing\MySeries\MyBookTitle\MyBookTitle.docx

I did that not just because of having read a lot of advice saying to avoid spaces. I also had an instance where a file on my computer wouldn’t delete. I had to use the command prompt to get rid of it, and oh boy, was that a headache. So I don’t use spaces in file names in most instances anymore.

Some folders are like this though:

c:\Writing\MySeries\MyBookTitle\cover

In fact, all the subfolders inside my book folders are lowercase and use _ for spaces like_this, but all the folders outside those book folders are LikeThis or Like This.

I hate it.

It’s not very readable, and it’s definitely not consistent, although it is more readable than my first iteration:

c:\writing\myseries\mybooktitle\mybooktitle.docx

It was a nightmare with filenames like:

myseriesbookcovertemplate5x8.xcf

So I continually find myself looking for a better way, and yet internet searches never turn up anything I find particularly useful.

At some point, I read something that said to avoid hyphens because of cross OS compatibility. Underscores were the winner, but I can’t remember why, and so I started using _ whenever I needed a space.

I still don’t like spaces in file names because of the internet issue. And they’re ugly. Seeing %20 mixed into a long file name makes that filename look ridiculous and difficult to read.

So mostly I tried to stick with PascalCase.

PascalCase was a new term to me when I came across it. I thought I was using camel case, but apparently thisIsCamelCase, because it uses a lowercase first character.

Today I came across loads of people recommending ‐ instead of _ as a space replacement. So I’m back to wondering why hyphens aren’t a good idea in file names, because I still don’t remember why underscores were the winner, only I didn’t run across anyone talking about that issue this time around so I still don’t know!

And really, I think they’re mostly talking about filenames and folder names for the web, and that doesn’t matter much to me except in a very few specific instances (like book cover file names).

One reason I don’t like the dash as much as the underscore is because the dash isn’t as easy for me parse out as a space in a column of file names. But an underscore, if used in a hyperlink with an underline, is unreadable. You won’t even know it’s there sometimes.

:o

Really, this whole this is just one big annoying mess.

However, I have finally settled on a file naming convention this time, one that I’m pretty happy with, despite everything (and after two days of letting this obsession occupy brain space). Although to be honest it doesn’t solve the readability problem of PascalCase.

Maybe you don’t have trouble reading it, but I sure do!

Anyway, here’s what I came up with:

Stop using [ ] and other special characters in file names

Use hyphen instead of space when needed

MyFile-2016-01-09.txt

Dates like 20160109 are impossible for me to read, so I don’t use them.

Stick to title case for most things with no spaces

MyBookTitleNotes.docx
MySeries
MyBookTitlePbCover.xcf

When using 1–9, use 01–09

01-MyBookTitle

MyBookTitle root directory

MyBookTitle.docx
MyBookTitleMeta.docx
MyBookTitleNotes.txt

Folders (when needed)

backups
cover
ebooks
paperback
research

Folders are lowercase because they’re less distracting that way.

I know this is inconsistent with my other folders, but I actually do find them less distracting when they’re lowercase and they’re all one word names, and these particular folders are inside folders where I have to differentiate between a lot of similarly named files. I just won’t use two word file names here. If it ever does become necessary, I’ll just use a hyphen.

Files inside these folders

\cover\

MyBookTitleCover.xcf
MyBookTitlePbCover.xcf
my-book-title-1000.jpg

For jpg, png, gif, tif, use all lowercase, no space, no underscore, since these files are more likely to be used online.

\ebooks\

MyBookTitle.jutoh
MyBookTitle.epub

\paperback\

MyBookTitlePb.docx
MyBookTitlePb.pdf
MyBookTitlePbCover.pdf

Add a version number to the old file when replacing it so that it doesn’t overwrite old file in \backups\ folder if it is moved there later

MyBookTitlePb.docx (current)
MyBookTitlePb1.docx (oldest)
MyBookTitlePb2.docx (second oldest)

And that’s it. I did some cleanup to rename the files and my directories now look a lot better and everything is much more consistent. Now I’m satisfied, at least for a while. :D

Oh, and if you’re wondering how I changed all these names quickly and easily, I used a bulk renaming utility for the majority of the work. They’re very handy to have around!

Let me say that although I feel very satisfied with the changes I’ve made, I’m completely aware of the fact that spending two days on this was two days too many.

It’s procrastination, plain and simple, most likely to deal with the writer’s block I’ve got going on, and the only way to solve that is to get this obsession out of my system. Honestly, I almost believe these episodes are a way for my subconscious to keep my conscious thoughts occupied so it can work out whatever issues are going on with my writing. :)

Here’s hoping I’m correct about that and that when I finally put this obsession to bed, I’ll be ready to get past the current part in my book that has me completely stumped.

I miss Evernote, but I miss it less after installing Pocket

I’m pretty happy with my switch from Evernote to OneNote in most respects, except one. I used Evernote as my to-read list and regularly clipped articles I wanted to read later to a “To Read” notebook. If I liked the article I moved it to my Clipped notebook, where I kept random articles and clippings from the web to revisit later if I wanted.

I don’t organize these articles, because it’s not some massive amorphous list of things I’d like to read someday/maybe. These are articles I absolutely want to read as soon as I have time and I get through them quickly. No one article usually sticks around longer than a week, and if I keep passing it over, I usually just delete it.

I still have those notebooks in OneNote, but OneNote doesn’t quite work like Evernote did and I find it more difficult to read articles I’ve saved.

Pocket has become the solution to that problem—an excellent solution, in fact, because it’s compatible with every device I own and I can read on any of them, much the way I was able to read my Evernote notes on any device, even my 5 year old Droid X.

Although OneNote is compatible with almost all my devices, it won’t run on the old Droid (which I still use as a reading device) or my second generation Kindle Fire. Believe it or not, these are my two favorite reading devices and I choose them over my newer options almost every time, unless I need OneNote. Now I can read on my preferred devices, despite their age.

If I want to save an article, I can visit the original article from Pocket and clip it to OneNote. (I tried it and it works just that easy.) This seems like it’d be extra trouble compared to just moving a clipped article from one notebook to another, but this really isn’t a big deal for me, because I don’t save that many articles. Mostly I read and delete.

And if in the future Pocket goes the way of Evernote and starts limiting device usage, I’ll just go back to reading on OneNote.

Some days, I still miss Evernote. I used it for years and was quite happy with it, so it’s only natural. But now I don’t miss it quite so much. :)

Evernote is changing, but so am I: switching from Evernote to OneNote

Evernote has been my go-to software app for notes for many years. I’ve loved it for a long time, but the time has come to make the switch to OneNote. The thing is, I have an Office 365 subscription that I’m very happy with, despite the fact that I don’t actually use the new versions of Excel and Word.* I tried OneNote soon after installing Office 365, and although I didn’t hate it, I didn’t see a big need to switch.

One reason was because my phone is getting old, I mean really old (it’s an original Droid X), and it’s starting to have trouble running newer applications. My little Droid X is still on Android 2.3.4. But goodness, I love that phone, and it still does what I need it to do: check my email, send texts and messages, play music, make calls, take photos, and run my 6 e-reading apps.

On the other hand, Aldiko has recently started crashing on me, and the Kindle app has started to load really slowly, so it’s definitely going downhill. And my phone won’t run OneNote, while it still runs Evernote without a hitch. So I decided at the time not to make the switch.

But last night I got the following email.

Evernote Basic is changing

At Evernote, we are committed not only to making you as productive as you can be, but also to running our business in as transparent a way as possible. We’re making a change to our Basic service, and it’s important that you know about it.

In the coming weeks, Evernote Basic accounts will be limited to two devices, such as a computer and phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet. You are currently over this limit, but will have at least 30 days to adjust. Plus and Premium accounts will continue to support access from an unlimited number of devices.

Look for additional communication from us explaining how your account is changing and outlining your options. For more information about why we are making this change, see our blog post.

The problem with this is that I use Evernote everywhere: phone, Kindle fire, Fire tablet, laptop, desktop… You get the picture. But out of the 60 MB of data transfer Evernote allows a free account, I use less than one MB most months. Right now, I’m at 259 KB for the month. There’s just no reason for me to pay for a subscription for this service. And now I won’t be able to access Evernote on all my devices.

To put it bluntly, Evernote has suddenly become much less useful to me.

So, last night, I used the OneNote importer to copy my Evernote notes to OneNote. And I quite like it. It’s going to take a little getting used to, but I think I’ll manage.

I have to say, I’m sorry for Evernote, but I think their recent changes are going to be the end of them. Not because I think it matters that I switched, because I was probably never going to be a paid user anyway. I don’t worship the ideal of a paperless life, by far, and I don’t like digital clutter either. But instead of making changes that will make Evernote indispensable to users, they’re limiting it in a way that makes it less likely the software can ever become indispensable to those who might go on to become paid users.

*I still use my Office 2007 versions, although there are features in the 2016 editions that I like, such as how Word remembers where you last were in the document when you reopen it. The switch to OneNote made me feel like I should try again, because I really like the OneNote interface. I just… really hate that green all over Excel. The blue from 2007 was so much more soothing a color. I loved those colors. It’s made it really hard to get over my other issues with 2016 and commit to the newer versions.

Editing and proofreading finished!

Finally, I finished reading the last section of the book this morning, and the edits for that bit were super quick. I actually like the book much more than I remember thinking back when I finished it! :D

But it’s been more than a month since I finished the book, so I guess that makes a difference. :)

So, now I’m onto formatting and publishing. I need to finish all that today. :o

Also, I’m still trying to decide if I want to go back into KDP with this pen name or not. I pulled the book out when the last renewal came up, in anticipation of making sure both books were either in or out, on the same time line.

This is the second pen name book, and I’m not expecting great things from it, not after a wait of nearly a year since the last book came out. :o

So: do I want to put the book into KDP?

  • In favor of KDP
    • Time saved by publishing only at Amazon (about a day)
    • First book was in KDP, so I might see better results for second book if it goes in for at least a little while
  • In disfavor of KDP
    • The first book will be a new book on all vendors other than Amazon, so I’ll have two new books on those sites
    • I like my books being available in lots of places
    • I don’t like being paid by page reads. Reminds me too much of the rip-off that is Google Adsense, etc: big companies taking advantage of small publishers to make big money and share only a pittance with the person responsible for the actual content. Amazon’s page read program isn’t that bad, but it feels bad.

Hmm. I’ll have to decide, but I can finish the formatting first!

Finally, do I want to continue with a pricing experiment (which is one reason I created the pen name) or do I just want to price at $6.99?

Both questions I need answers too by the end of the day today.

Now here’s some accountability for today’s activities. (I’ve decided I really like using lists for this stuff, no idea why.)

  • 11:29 am
    • Time to format my Word docx, will try to finish before I stop for lunch today.
      • Stopping at 12:30 pm with only the table of contents to finish. The other formatting only took so long because I was puttering with my styles and updating the formatting of the first book in the series.
  • 4:10 pm
    • Starting on the table of contents
    • Finished shortly thereafter
  • Worked and reworked the blurbs (descriptions) for the current book and the one before too many times to count before I came up with something I really liked. Two hours at least, although I didn’t really keep up.

Uh, I gave up. It’s just been ridiculously hot in here this afternoon/evening, with 90° Fahrenheit and sun outside, making it hard to cool down at the computer. I’ll get back at it in the morning when it might be at least a little cooler. (Did I say they’re finally coming on Tuesday to fix the A/C? Yay!)

Also, I got distracted by a movie I didn’t intend to watch to the end while I ate supper. But it was lovely and wonderful and I couldn’t turn it off. Consider this a rec for The Age of Adalind. I loved it!

Supper was frozen blueberries, fresh cherries, and plain Yogurt and just enough honey to make it sweet (makes a really cold desert), a peach, an orange, and some strawberries. Too much fruit, I know. But I’m not cooking in this heat. Forget that.

Anyway, I’ll move on to generating my EPUB tomorrow and publish sometime after that.

The truth is, I haven’t decided on the KDP or pricing issue anyway, so I’ll make a commitment on those tonight. Then I’ll get up and get this stuff done, so I can get back to writing, ASAP.

Now, off to bed so I can be up early enough to get some windows open and get this house cooled off before facing another 90° day.

How I back up my writing files

I keep multiple backups of my writing files.

I have saved jobs set up that use yCopy2 from Spacejock software. I’ve been using the program for so many years I can’t even say for sure how long that’s been. It’s a great little program and I love it. If it ever stops working, I’m going to be sad beyond measure.

I use Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, an SD card, an expansion drive, a second computer on my network, a backup directory on my laptop hard drive, and email.

It sounds a little crazy as I write it out, but I like it. Yes, I use a lot of hard drive space to store multiple copies of my important files, but no, I don’t ever get them confused because I have a system that works.

I have a main writing directory for all my writing related files (outside of the Windows My Documents directory). I run my yCopy jobs 2–3 times a day, when I’m ready to break from my work usually, but anytime, really, especially if I’ve accomplished something I want to be sure I don’t lose if a catastrophe were to strike within the next few hours. :D

Yes, I’m also a bit paranoid.

Those yCopy jobs copy my entire writing directory into my Dropbox folder, my Google Drive folder, my OneDrive folder, onto my SD card, onto the expansion drive over the network, and onto the second computer’s hard drive to a folder that mirrors my laptop folder. I manually email myself copies of my Word documents every so often, just as a last ditch safety measure, and once a month, I copy and archive my writing directory to a backup folder on my laptop’s hard drive. I do that one manually, so if there’s ever a problem with yCopy, I will at least have this. I recently cleaned those out to limit how many copies I had, because I was approaching one for every month since July 2012 and that’s a lot of duplicates (especially considering how I back up my word docs as I’m working on a book), and my main writing directory has been growing quite a lot since I became more focused on learning cover design so they were taking up ever more space on my laptop. It’s also the directory where I keep my stock art downloads and that’s been growing too. So… it was time to eliminate some excess. That said, I still have about 4 copies of my writing directory as it existed at the time I made the copies for each of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and monthly for 2016 to date.

Yes, I am terrified of losing work.

Yes, I have pulled files out of some of those folders after I regretted deleting a file from my main writing directory.

Yes, I check the files and associated directories regularly to make sure yCopy is doing the job I need it to do.

Yes, it’s totally worth it. I have peace of mind. If my house burns down, I have the cloud files. If the cloud becomes inaccessible, I have my hard drives. If my computer is stolen, and I get locked out of my cloud drives AND my email, I have my second computer, my expansion drive, and my Kindle. Did I fail to mention that I also use “Send to Kindle” to send my in-progress Word docs to myself each night? Yeah, I do that too.

I know there are probably many more ways to make myself even safer, but this is the level I’m comfortable with. To be honest, I know it’s much more than most people will ever even consider doing, but these files are important to me, and I do my best to treat them that way.

As for my other files, I finally started backing them up too, but I’ll be honest, I just don’t worry about them that much. It’s the thought of losing my books that terrifies me. :D