Daily writing – Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020

I wrote 190 words on Tuesday, and more than half of those were on paper with a pencil. :-O What?

I used to write a lot on paper, but I really don’t work like that anymore. This is what the streak has driven me to. :D

I was out yesterday evening and tired when I came home and tried to do my words at the computer but I kept nodding (I did stay up until 3 am the night before) so I gave up. I said, nope, not doing it tonight. Don’t care about the streak. Just can’t do it.

Then I put away my computer (I was in bed), and before I knew it, I’d picked up my little notebook that I keep with me almost everywhere, and my pencil, and I’d started writing. It came so much easier than it had been coming on the computer that it took me a minute tops to write enough words to keep the challenge part of my daily writing streak alive.

In fact, I spent fifteen minutes or more staring at the computer trying to get something to come to me to write next, and yeah, I wrote 80 words, but it was hard. I was just too tired.

Only apparently I wasn’t.

So here’s my little tip of the day: If the words aren’t flowing, pick up a pencil and a notebook and try that. You might be as surprised as I was that what had felt hard a minute before felt effortless a minute after. :-)

Now, I’m ready to start my three hours of leisurely writing and get my first 1,000 words so I can get that cup of hot chocolate I mentioned a day or so ago. Yesterday was not a good day for writing, so I didn’t, but today I have no other plans and I’m kind of hoping for TWO cups before the day is over. ;-)

(Also, I changed the title format again, and left a note in Sunday’s post that explained it.)

Daily post – Jan. 23, 2020 – Thursday – Part one

As I said in my last post, I seem to be feeling better today (those sleep habits coming into play again) so I’m expecting myself to get some real writing done today.

Luckily I woke up feeling good today and hopeful and even a little inspired so maybe I’m getting there. :-)

I’ve had a little visit from project block and normally I’d just move to another story for a while but this book is expected and I haven’t finished it yet. Since I gotta make a living, I need to work on this book, and lo and behold, that has added pressure to the writing that I don’t need—or deal well with.

I have to trick myself into changing my mindset and that’s actually pretty hard to do—although not impossible.

I’m also really not in the mood to write. And when there’s no one but me telling me I have to do this, well, we all know self-imposed deadlines and threats and promises of rewards are very unlikely to work for long. :D

They help, sometimes, but they’re no magic cure.

I just do not like writing when I’m not in a writing mood. I get bored with reading too sometimes. Like right now, I keep starting books, getting about a chapter in, and dumping them. Nothing satisfies, and I can’t concentrate on a book long enough to care.

Some of these books would probably have been perfectly fun to read, and I expect I’ll come back to some of them later. Some of them just aren’t for me and I’ll never read them. Those I’ve already deleted. Why bother keeping a book I don’t like? I’m sure not going to force myself to read them later. I couldn’t even force myself to read bad books in high school when my grades depended on it. Luckily, I was good enough at bullshitting my way through those reports and papers to do okay anyway. :D

Here’s a funny story. One of those books was The Hobbit. It’s a fantasy classic, but I just could not get into that book. I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, although I liked the movies very much. I’ve tried, don’t get me wrong, but ugh. It was torture! But I love fantasy. I’ve read The Belgariad (ten books, plus extras) too many times to count. Those are some of my most read books.

I start books, put bookmarks in where I stopped (if it’s a printed book), and go back sometimes years later and finish them. Sometimes I never finish them. And lots of the time, once I restart, I have no idea why I stopped reading them.

I don’t go back and re-read the stuff I’ve already read. I just pick up where I left off because I usually remember everything once I’m a few pages in again. Lots of people can’t do that. But, I’ve said it before, people are different. That’s one of my superpowers. :D

Right now, I’m barely reading. I’m just not in the mood for that either.

I think I’ve said it before, somewhere probably buried within the site, that reading tends to be my bellwether for where I am creatively speaking, and if I’m not in the mood to read I’m almost never in the mood to write.

But if I gave in to my moods all the time, I’d be—wait. I kind of am poor at the moment. :D

The sad fact is, I don’t really care. When I don’t want to write, I don’t write.

Getting past that is indescribably hard. I’ll suffer a lot to keep from doing things I don’t want to do—a lot more than most people would be willing to suffer, for sure.

I binge write mostly. The same way I binge read. I want to establish a routine that will help me write more, but I only want that because I want to be more prolific. :D It’s kind of a pie-in-the-sky dream but I am doing things to help it become a reality.

My daily writing streak is now 170 days long. That’s an improvement over my former record of 122 days.

My January word count is 19,676 words (publishable only, anything I deleted hit my word count as a negative). So I’m currently at my second best January word count since I started keeping up in 2012 and that’s with nine days to go in the month.

Small wins. :D I’ll take ’em.

Right now I’m in the situation of needing to write when I’m really not in the mood and my natural inclination is not to care enough to do anything about it.

I spend a lot of time trying to get past that by introducing other things to my writing that I find exciting or motivating: challenges, goals, rewards, talking myself around, blogging until I’m sick of it, running numbers in my spreadsheets, doing what-if analysis, imaging what could happen if I did this much writing or that much publishing, etc.

The goal of the daily writing streak was to help me get over the hump of inertia when I lose interest in writing for a while. That has worked on one level, but not as much as I’d hoped.

Yesterday, I had a little fun running some numbers to assess the effectiveness of the streak.

Over the 169 days of daily writing, I wrote 125,202 words.

Over the 169 days prior to the streak, I wrote 132,296 words.

BUT the 169 days covering the same time last year (and the year before and year before, etc.) shows the streak has probably made a difference overall.

Over the previous years’ same time periods, I averaged 35,225 words less than the current streak period, and not one of those periods had a higher word count than this one.

Yay! I’m glad to know it has helped at least in that regard.

Now if it would just make me want to write more than I want to write, since I totally want to write more than I’m writing! ;)

There’s probably a reason December and January are usually my slow months. And to be honest, I’ve actually done really well this year. I’m currently on track (extrapolating this month’s daily word count to the whole month) for this to become my 21st best month out of 91 months of tracking even if I keep trudging along and don’t improve any more than I’ve already improved. That’s nothing to sneeze at. :)

It just goes to show that for those of us who find routine difficult and boredom a mind-killer (and a will- and motivation-killer too) that you don’t have to accept that as the status quo. You can still improve if you find something that keeps you moving, even if you’re feeling like you’re moving through molasses (it happened, 1919! (that’s an affiliate link, by the way)).

What I need is a big exciting idea to pop into my head and save me from this bored-with-everything phase I’m in. ;-)

Truly, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t write on any story right now. I’d just hole up and do absolutely nothing productive whatsoever.

But I will keep trying to move forward and get it done anyway. :D

Because there’s poor, and then there’s poor. I’d rather avoid the second one. ;)

On that note, I’m going to go stare at my book and write the next sentence and see where I end up today. :)

Since I’d rather not revisit this long post later, I named it Part one and will post my end of the day accountability post in Part two.

A test post that turned into a post about writing and trusting the process

This is a test post that I’m posting before I make a fool of myself complaining about a WordPress bug. I’d like to see if it’s reproducible before I publish that draft! This post was already a draft that I made on January 1st, but never posted, so it fits the bill for what I need to test.

At the moment, the Publish date is set to “immediately” which means there’s no publish date set on it.

Now I’m going to quick edit the draft, by changing something minor like adding a new tag. Then I’m going to edit regularly and check the date.

:D

Be back soon with the answer.

Well, it definitely messed up my dates. The date is set to the time of the quick edit: 11:01 a.m. Now, if I publish this post, I’ll have to remember to change the date and time. Or not, since I’m just using this post as a test.

I’m going to publish this, just because it supports my post about the bug. :D

It’s not a bad example of how I use writing to help me think things through. I pretty much write down everything, else my thoughts just spin too fast to really make sense of and I get distracted. Writing helps me focus. :D

In a related tangent, and to make this about writing, that’s why I like being a discovery writer.

If I try to consciously think about what’s coming up or what to write next in the story, I can’t bring it all together. I try to follow too many branches of the story. Writing it down keeps me centered in the story and actually creating it. I do not do well trying to make up stories if I’m not writing it down. On the other hand, I do fight that same problem while writing, which probably accounts for 50% of the reason I’m just not a fast writer.

For example, two days ago, I was cycling back through my current scene in progress because something felt off, and I added a line. That line led to another line and another, and then before I knew it, I’d branched off the current path I was on and started on a new one.

The problem is that the paths are somewhat incompatible, and yet, the second path wants to be there.

Why, you ask? Why not just delete it all after that point where I diverged and keep going as I am? I don’t know. I do that sometimes. And sometimes I don’t. I can’t always say why my muse wants me to make something work even when it seems like it won’t. At the moment I’m thinking it just wants me to keep writing until I find a way to circle back to that bit and it fits.

In my last book, this same thing happened in a scene and the end result was that I ignored the frustrated part of myself that kept saying just give up and delete the damn thing and keep going—that I’d come up with something just as good if I did (I often do), but I didn’t listen. I’m glad I didn’t listen. When I read those parts of the book back, what’s there was really good for that book. It turned out to be a pivotal moment for one of my characters and set off some really fun action and great character moments for others too.

Anyway, on to the real work of the day. :D I have to complain a bit about WordPress and then work on finishing my current book. :D

(Yep. It published at 11:20 a.m. as 11:01 a.m. Definitely a reproducible bug in WordPress.)

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.

The spreadsheets that help me tame the minutia of indie publishing

I’ve been reading a lot lately about spreadsheets and inventories on The Daily Journal.

Reading about the time involved in such a massive project has made me very happy that I’ve been tracking my stuff from the very beginning.

My main “publish-list” spreadsheet is up to ten tabs of data these days, and even includes all the sales links for my books on all the retailers I upload to. It’s been a handy thing to have.

I include so much in this spreadsheet that it’s difficult to think of something I can’t find there.

Screenshot

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Within those tabs, I have a sheet called “File Updates” that tells me how long it’s been since I updated a file on any particular distributor site. It was a wake up call when I added that one because I ended up with a lot of titles in the “2000+ days” category, meaning all the back matter was way out of date.

I recently decided to tackle those old files and the way I’m doing it is to have a goal of updating at least one old file each week on an ongoing basis. That’s 52 files updated in a year, so that means I will have caught up within a year or so without adding in a lot of extra work or losing a lot of writing time.

(I have 34 titles at this point. Someday it will become more than a year’s worth of weeks of updates but I’ll worry about that when it happens.)

I also have a pretty streamlined EPUB generation system these days so this first year of updates will go a long way to making future updates take minutes instead of the hour or so it will take for some of these books now and will mean I should be able to easily update multiple books at a time instead of keeping it to one a week after this first round.

I update my publish-list spreadsheet every time I publish something or make a change that needs to be recorded. And keeping this thing updated is something I force myself to do every time I do anything that affects the data I keep up with. I don’t let myself off the hook on this, ever. It’s just too probable that something will slip through the cracks if I do.

Chopped up writing day but a writing day it will be

It’s going to be a chopped up day but writing can’t wait, so I’m setting aside several blocks of time. I’m posting here for the accountability. I’ll come back and fill in my progress later today when I have the time to spare. I think I’m going to like this planning and working to the plan thing. :)

10:15–11:15 am

I wrote 588 words during this block of time.

5:00–7:30 pm

I wasn’t even home yet. So this one didn’t work out.

9:00–10:30 pm

I was so dead tired I didn’t even bother looking at my computer. Two hours longer in the pool than I planned wiped me out.

I love swimming but I came home as wrinkled as a prune and more sunburned than I wanted. Luckily, I have skin than tans easily once I start getting a little sun, and I had been acclimating myself to the sun this year in an effort to raise my low Vitamin D levels and avoid the supplements my doctor wanted me to take for the next year.

(And I will say, today—I’m writing this update on Friday morning, the day after—I feel really good. The exercise and sun really did me a favor. :) Hopefully I’ll see the benefits in my writing stamina! I’d like to write a lot of words today. I’ll update with a link when Friday’s post goes live.)

Thursday words: 588

*I take my ending document word count and input it into my spreadsheet, which calculates the difference from the ending word count for the day before and tells me how many words I “wrote”, which of course, isn’t about how many words I wrote at all. It’s about how many words more my document contains today than it contained yesterday.

It’s by far the easiest way to track word counts and keeps me honest about the progress I’m making each day writing words that will end up published. :)

Screenshot of my word count tracker spreadsheet

As you can see in the screenshot of my spreadsheet, I’m currently trying to practice my way into writing 2,995 words a day.

I’m nowhere near close to that as a daily average, so don’t get goggly-eyed at it. I’m not there and who knows if I ever will be. I’d like to be, for reasons I won’t get into in this post, and that’s why that number is there. :)

Finally, those word count lengths in my spreadsheet for novel, novella, and novelette are my personal goals. The SFWA sets novels at 40,000+, novellas at 17,500+, and novelettes at 7,500+ words, and I use something very close to those definitions as my own guide when categorizing my stories. :)

Screenshot of the Nebula Award rules from the SFWA website

My length categorizations are only slightly different and at this point I can’t remember exactly why that is. :)

Novel > 40,000 words
Novella = 15,000 to 40,000 words
Novelette = 7,000 to 15,000 words
Short story < 7,000 words

In all honesty, I think it’s because I have more stories than not that fall at the upper edges of those word counts and I felt like they fit the category above more than they fit the category below so I adjusted the numbers to fit my writing style. :)

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.