Revisiting a post: The “no timers” thing

I am finally settling into a nice work flow that does not rely on timers to keep me writing. I’m occasionally dipping into more than one story at a time, but I’m surprised at how often I’m staying focused on one book.

It’s obvious to me now that something was wrong then, but isn’t that how it always is?

I can’t remember at this point exactly when I decided I was going to seriously focus on not using timers, because I’d posted about abandoning them, then went back to using them, before deciding to give them up one final time.

On 8/10, I got rid of my time logs and sessions.

In September, I began using timers again.

Sometime in October, I ditched the timers one final time.

On 10/21, I gave up on daily writing.

On 11/14, I had my best one-day word count to date. I broke through the 6,000 words in a day barrier.

My word counts have steadily increased month over month despite (or because of) the changes in my routines.

8/31/18 7,840
9/30/18 13,358
10/31/18 20,602
11/30/18 31,928

I’m writing and I’m enjoying it, and I’m not driven by a timer! It feels wonderful.

About the writing of my current book

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

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

3/9/17

I wrote a few words.

12/26/17

I wrote a few more words.

2/16/18
and
2/17/18

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

5/9/18

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

5/25/18
to
Present

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

What does that all add up to?

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

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

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

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

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

Book: Book 19, day 100.

Short story: Short story 13, day 2.

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

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

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

I’ll have to think about this some more.

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

Whew. Crisis averted.

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

The “no timers” thing

When I revisited getting rid of my timers, I thought the beginning of 2017 and the middle of 2017 was the last time I’d addressed the issue. But I was wrong. As I published my last post and checked through it as I usually do, I clicked the “corrective action“ tag.

It showed me a post I wrote in November 2017 called, appropriately, “Done with timers” that kind of shocked me. I had forgotten all about writing it.

First, no more timers. I’m not even talking about temporarily. I’m doing away with timers.

I know that didn’t work for me at the beginning of this year, but that was because I was using timers in conjunction with no schedule and no goals either. That was a mistake.

I know what I need as far as word counts: 500 words a day minimum, 3,000 words a day goal.

The goal is there to help make a particular dream I have a reality. I want to move. I want a new house. I want a pool. I need money to make that happen. :-)

I really don’t need to track anything else. Those are the numbers I need, each day. One is easily accomplished, the other is a stretch. Tracking my daily words is the only metric I need to know if I’m doing what I need to be doing (500 a day) or want to be doing (3,000 a day).

Swap out that 3,000 a day with my 2,000 words a day plan and this is pretty much what I’m doing now. I didn’t set a 500 a day minimum this time, but now that I’m reminded of that, I think I will.

I’m not going to forget and I’m not going to go back. I am done with timers. I mean done done done.

That 500 word minimum has the benefit of making yesterday’s word count an important success (I wrote 571 words, after all) and gives me something to push for tonight that’s more realistic than 2,000 words, because I’m not even going to pretend I’ll be able to go from the 53 words that I have to 2,000 words before I call it a night considering how late it is. But 500? Definitely possible.

And to top it off, this also means I have a 500 words a day streak going that I won’t want to break tonight. I mean, it’s only two days, but it’s two days in a row!

Taking another run at “The End”

It’s the day after the day after Thanksgiving and I’m disappointed to say that I really didn’t get much done yesterday when it comes to writing.

I’m taking another run at “The End” today. The last time I tried, I was still using timers. Today, I’m not planning on using any timers. Can I stay focused without them? I actually don’t know, but it’s important to me that I try to learn how.

The plan for today is simple.

500 words minimum.

Finish the book.

First up, as soon as I hit publish on this, I’m putting my Word doc front and center.

Second, I’m going to use willpower and stay off the internet until the book is done.

Third, today is the day I start trying to write more. I really want to get my daily average above 1,000 in 2018. I’ve been trying for years to improve, but the numbers just keep getting worse. The less often I write, the harder writing feels. Gotta fight that the only way I know how. I have to write more. It starts with a 500 words a day minimum and an effort to always push for a little more.

Fourth, I can no longer care about the quality of my work. I have to focus on having fun writing stories. Typing fast. Finishing fast. I can’t let another book take this long to finish. Each of these are part of my effort to bury my inner critic. That critic is killing my desire to write fiction, and since writing fiction is how I want to keep making a living, the critic has to go.

How do I train myself to write freely? Not sure! But I have to try. Otherwise, I’m going to give up writing. I can’t keep going the way I have been. I remember when writing was FUN.

That truly is the worst part. Being able to remember the fun of it makes it impossible to accept that I just have to do it, whether it’s fun or not. Because I don’t. I can choose another job if this one loses its appeal.

But I don’t want to. I want to write. I just want it to be fun again.

Read another book and learned something about writing

I didn’t write anything yesterday, after a really late start to the day, reading half a book, then going off to do stuff that has to be done when you’re running a household. But reading that book yesterday and today—which I really enjoyed, by the way—taught me something I know but seem unable to learn.

When writing, you have to allow yourself to write what comes naturally.

I keep trying to find a way to explain this but it’s not coming to me easily, even though I know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s about phrases and sentences and letting the words come the way they want to come and avoiding the urge to go back and fix them, when the truth is, they don’t need to be fixed.

I’m not talking about letting myself write sub-par prose because it’s good enough. This is nothing like that. I’m talking about writing good prose. Strong prose. Stuff that upon reading it creates vivid images in my mind, but that when I write it feels like bad writing. It’s not bad writing. That’s what I saw in this book. So many of the phrases I’ve taken to rewriting worked great just as they were in that book. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those phrases would have come—do come—naturally to me, but then I change them for reasons that I’ve only now realized are problematic at best. It’s me trying to force a style on the words, a style the words don’t need. I had started to feel like maybe this was what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure. But I can see it clearly now after reading something that reminded me a lot of my own natural writing style.

This—this thing I’ve just realized, maybe not for the first time, probably not for the last either—is the main reason why I can’t stop writing slowly: I can’t write what comes to me naturally and leave it alone.

It’s just another way perfectionism has slipped into my writing and slowed me down.

I spend too much time parsing every word I write and trying to control every phrasing, every sentence, every paragraph break. This makes writing hard, and is it any wonder I don’t want to do it when I’m fighting myself the entire time I’m trying to write a story? Writing isn’t fun when you can’t let go.

After a few days of reading, it’s so easy to see this problem in my writing. The sad thing is that I know to watch out for this kind of thing, this second-guessing of myself as I write, and yet I still haven’t learned not to do it.

But at least for today, for now, I feel a little more free than I did yesterday, and I’m hopeful today’s writing will come easier because of it.

Now, it’s 5:11 pm and I have 1,557 words to write, and I’m going to do it. I’m not looking back at what I didn’t accomplish yesterday, but moving forward toward what I can accomplish today.

One hour sessions, starting now. I’ll post updates below.


Updates

Session 1: 60 minutes, 367 words

I’m just going to say right off, and hope I’m not wrong, that the reason for the slow writing in this session was that I just didn’t (still don’t) know where this scene is going. I actually felt I was writing pretty fast for a while, and I wasn’t second-guessing myself, but then I kind of hit a wall and my brain wasn’t ready to tell me where to go next. I can hope I’m right about that, anyway. Also, I did straight up delete 115 words. Still, that only improves the numbers marginally. I’d have liked to have written about two times faster than I did.

Session 2: 77 minutes, 260 words

After that, I gave up for the night. This scene is just kicking my butt and I don’t even know why.

Word count: 644 (added a few more words after I stopped counting the time)

I’m frustrated, but I’m not really sure what else I can do to get past this other than practice and push on.

It’s time for a permanent reduction in distractive reading

I’ve started using the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox again, temporarily, to help me keep an eye on time I’m spending on things I need to cut out of my day so I have more time for reading fiction, watching TV, doing random stuff, all while still having plenty of time for writing.

See that number 1 in the picture above? Yeah. I’m not surprised, believe it or not. I know I have a problem with that site. And FYI, that 8:13 is hours and minutes not minutes and seconds!

Thirty-four percent of my time online is going to clicking through forum threads and reading them, and almost never engaging in actual discussion. It’s stressful. Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, because why go there when I don’t actually enjoy it? But I do go there—every time I get a little antsy and start looking for a distraction.

I’m going to have to make it a rule that I can’t go there anymore. I really don’t know how else to stop this massive waste of my valuable time.

Same goes for news. Almost nothing I read has any relevance to my life at all, and yet, every time I get on my phone or tablets or my browser, I end up scrolling through the headlines, looking for something interesting to read. It’s like an addiction. I really don’t like feeling addicted to things.

Not only that, but I keep telling myself I’m going to watch more tutorials on design, I’m going to read more fiction, I’m going to study a language, I’m going to learn to draw, I’m going to write more every day, I’m going to go out more, I’m going to visit family more often, and yet I keep wasting vast amounts of valuable time reading news and forum topics that are just a repeat of what I read yesterday. It doesn’t make any sense to let it continue.

in light of that, I’m making a new rule for myself: no more trending news, no more NPR, no more Kboards, no more The Passive Voice. I already don’t watch news videos or television news, read newspapers, or news magazines, so I think that’ll cover it.

I’ve reduced my media intake before and I quite liked it. It’s time to make it permanent. It’s like that old adage of closing one door to let another open.

I will seek out the things that matter to me, and in the process, I’m sure I’ll come across other topics that I’ll feel are important enough for me to delve into in depth. No more skimming news items or forum topics looking for my next distraction.

Even writing that, I feel a huge sigh of relief just waiting to escape. It’s the right thing to do for me and I already feel better.

Ah… :D

No more coffee—a lifelong challenge to ditch coffee for good, forever

I’ve quit and restarted my coffee habit many times over the course of my life. It’s finally time for me to commit to making a lifelong change. I like coffee but the caffeine and even the coffee itself isn’t doing me any favors these days.

This post is my written commitment to ditch coffee for good—forever.

No more coffee.

I’ll check in on this once a week or so for a while, then once a month, then only if something changes.

As an aside, I’ve also committed to eliminating as many sweets from my diet as I can. I’ve been doing pretty good with that. I use the Android app Loop – Habit Tracker to keep up with my success rate, and it seems to help.

Sweets-free days as recorded in the Loop – Habit Tracker app

I’m being pretty strict about what counts, so although I had only a few semi-sweet chocolate chips, they were enough to stop me from marking yesterday and the day before as sweet-free days. I think it’s best that way, because I don’t want half-measures to eventually derail my effort in this.

I already have a habit set up in the app for coffee-free days, but as you can see below, I haven’t made much effort at all up to this point to avoid coffee. That’s going to change going forward. :D

Coffee-free days as recorded in the Loop – Habit Tracker app

 

New year, no plan

Today begins the new year. On the other hand, my plan hasn’t changed. In case I haven’t done a good enough job of laying out that plan, here it is again.

There is no plan.

Here’s what I wrote in one of the Google+ communities I’m in.

2016 words written: 220,071

Definitely want to see some improvement in 2017, but this is the year of no goals and no timers! I’m ready to fall in love with writing again.

I’m hopeful a little less focus on goals and a little more focus on just writing as much as I can will prove to be a winning combination.

In fact, I just told my daughter I’m making year 2017 the year I quit trying stuff I’ve already tried (goals, schedules, timers, sprints, etc). My word counts have actually gone down, not up, since I started in 2012 and I’m done with beating myself over the head with this stuff.

I think the best shot I have for writing lots and lots of words is making sure I’m having so much fun doing it that I can’t stop myself. :)

Truly, no joke, that is my plan. That’s this year’s big experiment. It came about because of yesterday’s thinking about goals, and how much they haven’t helped me progress as a writer.

Here’s to a happy 2017 and lots of words written. :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah…

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

New goal: more average and moderate word count days, fewer low word count days

I have to stop reevaluating my daily word count goal.

It’s kind of stupid really, all this number crunching I do. I’ve approached it in so many different ways that it doesn’t even make sense to keep redoing the calculations. I already know about where the numbers are going to end up.

I guess I keep hoping I’ll discover I’ve done something wrong and I’ll be able to write 500 words a day and make a killing and finish all the books I want finish in as little as a few months or a year at the most. :D Totally unrealistic, honestly, but I keep trying anyway.

I need to write…

  • 2,085 words a day to earn my ideal income.
  • 2,192 words a day to write 4 books in 4 series each year (16 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 1,644 words a day to write a book a month (12 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,466 words a day to write a book a month for one pen name and a book every other month for a second pen name (18 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,164 words a day if I write for 4 hours a day at my average 541 words an hour pace.
  • 1,623 words a day if I write for 3 hours a day at my average pace.

See where I’m going with this?

I have to stop reevaluating these numbers! It isn’t helping me in any way that I can see. None. It’s nothing more than a way to pass the time and distract myself from what I really need to be doing: writing.

I need to just write as much as I can each day, but that attitude never seems to work out for me. I need a bit of structure, but not too much. I don’t want another schedule, and I hate the arbitrariness of picking one of these numbers as a daily quota. How do I decide? (I’m remarkably indecisive. Impulsive too, but that’s another post.)

After a bit of thought, I’ve come up with a possible solution.

I’ve created a scale to help me keep things in perspective. :)

1,000 = low word count day
2,000 = average word count day
3,000 = moderate word count day
4,000 = high word count day
5,000 = record breaking word count day (always, because 5k is such a push for me)

My goal is to have more average and moderate word count days, sprinkled with high and record breaking days, and as few low word count days as possible.

I can track this by monitoring how I’m doing keeping my average daily word count at or above 2,000 words a day.

Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much easy as simple. :D

The concept makes sense, anyway. :)

That means today’s goal is to reach 2,000 words, and this week’s goal is to keep it there. And the month’s goal is the same, and so is the year’s goal. Like I said, simple.

Wish me luck.

Recognizing perfectionism

I had a realization yesterday morning and it’s led me to some serious soul-searching. My 12-month 1,180,000 word challenge is quite possibly—probably, in fact—a manifestation of perfectionism.

I’ve been upfront with the fact that I suffer from repeated bouts of perfectionism, and I don’t always realize when I’ve let it creep back into my life.

But yesterday, I started to realize that the only reason this plan even exists is because I spend a lot of time imagining the awesome way I’ll feel if I write all those books right now, if I can find the perfect system so I can write a perfect number of words every day, all so I can design a perfect release schedule for the many series I have going.

I do not need to write that many books in 12 months.

Not only that, but this goal is so far from realistic for me that I’m not sure it’s even part of my universe.

To reach this goal, I’ll have to write 5 times my current average daily word count. FIVE TIMES.

Every single day.

But perfectionism keeps me re-figuring my calculations at every turn, trying to find a way to do the impossible, because it fits some ideal I’ve come to worship. As if I’m just not doing enough, as if I’m a loser if I can’t write all the books in all the series, and write them damn quick, too. Because I should be able to do it, because it’s so reasonable if I just consider the numbers.

Bullshit.

This all started because I do want to write a lot of books in the series I have going, and the unfortunate truth is that at my current speeds it’ll take me 3.5 years to write them. But I also want to write other things, and I definitely don’t want to wait 3.5 years to start writing those things.

But realism never has been one of my strengths, and neither has delaying gratification.

That was the crack that let perfectionism sneak in. What if I could write this many words? What if I could follow this schedule? What if I could double, triple, no, quadruple my word counts? What if, what if, what if.

I’ve set myself up for failure, trying to reach for some ideal. And I’m failing under the pressure. I’m losing my enjoyment of writing.

I’m going to fix this, now that I’ve recognized what’s going on

I’ve stopped the schedule experiment.

I’m ending the push for 1,180,000 words in 12 months. I studied the list of books I want to write and decided I need to focus on only a few series instead of trying to do everything.

It’s impossible. I can’t do everything, not in the time frame I want.

I love all the series I write, I really do, so I picked based on reader interest and money. I settled on 3 series, plus the pen name series. I picked the pen name series not because of reader interest and money but because of potential for those things. Also, if I give up that series, the pen name is dead, and I don’t want that. Not yet. I want to finish that experiment.

That’s not to say I’m not still setting the bar high. I want to release a book every month for my main name, and a book every 3 months for my pen name. For me, that comes to 2,192 words a day.

To be clear, at least to myself, it’s not a daily quota. It’s a goal.

2,000 one day and 2,400 the next will work fine. :)

It’s possible I’m fooling myself, still. 2,192 is still almost 3.5 times my current average daily word count. I’ll have to take that chance. I need to step up to another level in my earnings, and I can’t do that being satisfied with the number of words I’m currently writing each day.

I debated this goal, wondering why this feels necessary, wondering if I was just replacing one unrealistic goal with another, less obviously unrealistic goal, but decided in the end that I have good and valid reasons for not eschewing goals altogether. I can’t expect to get off the income plateau I’m on if I just keep releasing books at my current pace. Growth and improvement are important and having a big goal doesn’t have to mean I’m succumbing to perfectionism. This plan is a stretch, no doubt, but it isn’t grandiose in the same way as my plan to write 1,180,000 words a year.

One reason for that is because I’ll only be focusing on 4 series going forward. The consequences for failure are mild compared to the consequences I’m already facing because I haven’t been able to reach this other, huge, goal.

Even if I only increase my pace to 1,000 words a day, I’ll still be putting out 2 books a year in each series. That’s considerably better than the current schedule for one of those series, which hasn’t seen a new release in 18 months. And let’s not forget that it took me 11 months to put out the second book in the pen name series. I’ve spent too much time writing other stuff, in no particular order, just trying to stay on top of all the series. I can’t keep up.

So going forward, I’ll be writing a book for each series, in the same order every time, and I’ll stick to one book until it’s done before I move to the next.

Could be this is a mistake. But if I reach my 2,192 words for a day, I can write on anything I want, including those series I didn’t choose to make part of my plan. It’s a reward for staying on track.

And if I do stay on track long-term, I’m considering throwing in one of those side projects every three or four cycles through the main series. I’ll consider that a reward to strive for, too.

In the end, it was important for me to recognize that I’d let perfectionism into my planning. I don’t think it’s done my career any favors and it had to go if I want to move forward. It feels weird to give up on this challenge, but sometimes you have to give up on the things that aren’t working to make real progress.

July 11: follow up & the decision to go all in

I’m really disappointed in myself right now. A couple of things happened that stopped me from returning to my work at 1 pm today, one of those being a  headache. That’s a legitimate issue, but in all truth, I should have worked through it. I needed to work through it.

I know what was to blame for the headache. Four days ago I drank a cup of coffee. The next day and the day after I drank another. Yesterday, I continued the pattern.

Today I didn’t. And I got a headache.

Just to prove the point to myself, I finally gave in and drank a cup of coffee at about 5 pm. Yep, a half hour later the headache started to get better.

It’s gone now. But my day ended up completely off-kilter and I just never recovered. Also, I started to obsess over the fact that I’ve been regaining some weight I lost last year. I can’t write, I’m having trouble controlling my eating, my time, my attention—it all seems to point quite clearly to me toward the fact that something’s got to change.

Moderation isn’t working for me, in anything.

Tomorrow I begin a new plan. I’m going all in, moderation be damned.

I will follow the schedule, even if I’m just staring at the damn laptop screen and doing nothing.

Meals will be meat, vegetables, and fruit, and nothing else for two weeks. I eat a varied diet—but I eat too much!—and I eat way too many sweets. I am completely addicted. I don’t say this to make light of addiction. Alcoholism runs rampant on one side of my family tree. Obesity runs rampant on the other. I think it’s pretty obvious addiction issues plague both.

There’s a reason I’m very, very careful about how much and when I drink anything alcoholic. I’ve never been drunk. Ever. And I never plan to be.

It’s time I started treating certain foods as if they were alcoholic beverages. Frankly, I think my body already does. I’ll just make it a conscious choice now to do the same mentally.

(Just a quick note: I’m not banning grains, but honestly, I generally only like them when they’re part of cakes, desserts, or smothered with sugar so what’s the point of trying to fit them in? Toast? Only if there’s sugar and cinnamon on it. Rolls? Only if I add honey to the butter. Oatmeal? Only with sugar and maple syrup. Rice? I add sugar!!! Usually a tablespoon per cooked cup or I can’t eat it. I can’t stand cornbread. I don’t even like wheat bread that much.)

So that’s it. Tomorrow I’m taking control of a few areas of my life that feel completely and totally out of my control.

Wish me luck getting over this hump.

When something isn’t working, it’s time to change something

I still believe that writing on multiple stories is the way to a better word count for me. So this isn’t about that. What it’s about is the fact that I just cannot seem to get moving again on ANY of my books. I am stuck.

So if what I’m doing isn’t working—and nothing I’ve tried of late has worked to get me started again—it’s time to try something different.

Something different doesn’t mean something new

I’m going back to a schedule. I know I have a terrible history with schedules, but for the moment, I think it will help. I don’t know how long I’ll need it, but starting tomorrow I’m going to make it very important that I sit down and write EVERY DAY during my scheduled writing time.

I’m dropping back to my 3,233 daily goal (which is 1,180,000 / 365) from my more recent attempt to write 3,933 daily (1,180,000 / 12 / 25). This means I need only 4 hours of timed writing if I can reach an average pace of 808 words per hour—a stretch, but definitely possible with my increased speeds of late.

At this lower daily word count, I will have to write every day to reach my goal, so I’m setting aside the idea that I can’t write on publish days, if only because I blame the days I took off this past month for my current inertia. I need my daily writing to become habitual.

The schedule

The schedule is a morning schedule, because I wake up early whether I want to or not, and trying to mess with that never works out well for me. The fact is, I’ve been getting up early for several months now, and I don’t expect that to change until the sun stops coming up before 6 AM.

  • 7:00 to 8:00
  • 8:10 to 9:10
  • 9:20 to 10:20
  • 10:30 to 11:30

I’m going to make a big deal about upsetting my schedule or changing my routine. Writing daily is important. At 4 hours a day, that’s only 28 hours a week of writing time. There’s just no reason for these hours not to be treated as the critical hours they are. I’m hardly asking too much of myself even after you factor in break times and the time I need for publishing related activities.

And that’s really all I have to say in this post. The plan is not all that different from many other plans I’ve made over the years, but it’s different at this moment from what I’ve been doing. Schedules have worked for me in the past, even if only for a while, and I’ll take that if that’s all I get. I just need something to get me focused on writing again. Wish me luck. :)

I’m accepting no excuses for tomorrow. At 11:30 am tomorrow, I’ll post my first results (accountability) post for this new schedule.

Time to focus on the 12-month 1,180,000 words challenge

So I’ve been giving some thought to what I can do to get moving on this challenge: 12 months, 1,180,000 words. I need to stay focused. I’ve had to step back from the cover design practice, because I had become well and truly obsessed.

57 of 98 days since January 1 have been zero word days. That’s… scary high. I don’t know that I’ve had that many in so few months at any time since I started writing to publish. Saying that made me wonder, so I pulled up my spreadsheet and set up a quick formula to count and discovered that I do have one period of 98 days that had 68 zero words days in it. That one ended in November 2013.

The fact is, I don’t want any zero word days anymore except for true emergency/sick days and publishing days.

I’ve got to figure out how to make that happen.

One way is to start having more fun with writing. I’m stagnating, I think, under self-imposed expectations, and that’s stealing a lot of the fun from writing. When it isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it.

I want to wake up excited to get started every day. I know I can get back there, but I’m going to have to break through this wall of expectation first.

I’ll be trying to do that today: putting all my fears and expectations aside and writing only what excites me. I have a rule: skip the boring parts. In fact, I have more than one rule: No more length limits / deadlines. Just write the story. Write the parts I like, skip the boring stuff. I also believe that art and great story do not come from purposeful thinking. That came from Dean Wesley Smith, although I can’t remember if he said it in a lecture or on his blog. A search of the blog didn’t turn up anything, so I’m going to assume it was a lecture. I’ve paid to watch several and I recommended them to anyone who asks about them.

As for the cover design practice, here’s what happened.

I’ve made some huge leaps forward with the cover design over the last few weeks, but I started to realize a few days ago that I’m suffering under the lack of a deadline for finishing the covers. In the past, I always waited to do covers until the book was finished and I was doing copy edits. That meant I had a hard deadline of ASAP, because I usually need to get those books published. Without that deadline, I’ve discovered I spend too much time trying variations, avoiding commitment, and being indecisive about whether the cover or the series look is good enough. And although I tried the outsourcing approach, it felt like more work than just doing it myself. And no, I wasn’t satisfied, in any way, with that experience. I won’t be doing it again any time soon. The designer was good, the covers were pretty, but they just weren’t what I wanted, and the whole process took away my control and made publishing a lot less fun.

Outsourcing cover design is not for me. I have 100% decided to stick to doing my own covers for the foreseeable future.

But night before last, I finally decided I have to go back to working on covers only when I’m closer to finishing a book. That’ll impose at least something of a deadline and I won’t be able to get hung up on all the little details that have led me to create 9 different versions of the same cover. Not tweaks. Entirely different versions. Nine. Yes the series needs a cohesive new look, but gah, that’s ridiculous. I have to be able to decide on these things. And I can’t decide when I have what feels like unlimited time—I need time pressure to force me to make decisions.

The fact is, I am very much still in the throes of this obsession. I’m waking up at night with ideas to try and today it’s going to be a challenge to set all that out of my thoughts.

I resisted yesterday, although I didn’t write as I’d planned to. Yesterday, I had to take some time to do my estimated 2016 taxes and make that first payment—something I started, I admit, as a way to avoid getting to work on writing, but it was something that had to be done and once I’d started it, I realized that. I spent about 4.5 hours on it, doing the worksheets, estimating an income that just can’t really be estimated because it’s so variable, and I was wrung out by the time I had made the quarterly payment.

Kind of amazing that I would do taxes to avoid doing something I like as much as I like writing. In the end, I decided to take the easy way out: I paid 100% of last year’s tax liability and decided to just save the rest until I file. I’ll probably owe a shit-ton of tax at that point, but I won’t owe penalties. My hope is to double my income this year, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m safe and won’t have paid in too much.

Finally, though, it’s time to focus.

Today I will work on multiple stories.

Tomorrow I’ll do the same.

I’m going to resist the trap of forcing myself to work only on the story I need to finish next. That method is how I become stuck and lose my forward momentum. Total word count is the goal. If my word count is going up, that means I’m getting my books written.

I won’t worry about finishing that book I’ve been struggling with (not like I’m expecting massive sales from it anyway, so what’s it matter when it gets done?).

I will write for one hour on each story that I have in progress in each of my series. That’s 6 stories, so 6 hours of writing.

I’ll write a few extra sessions on one particular story: I have 20 days to finish that one, with about 45,000 words left on it, meaning I need about 2,250 words every day for those 20 days. If it takes three sessions (~750 wph), then I’ll need to write for 8 hours; if it only takes two sessions (~1,125 wph), then I’ll only need to write for 7 hours. That last is what I’d prefer, but we’ll see.

I’ve only written for 7 hours in a day a few times; it’s not something I find success at often. But I’m hoping the switch between stories will keep me fresh and keep my interest going. We’ll see.

My long-term plan for 5 hours of writing a day hasn’t changed. I won’t be writing on every story, every day, but for now—until I catch up a bit and get excited about my books again, I do plan to do just that.

If I do as much writing as I want to do today, I could break my current one-day word count record and crack the 6,000 words in a day barrier. I’ve never written 6,000 words of fiction in one day before, not since I started keeping records. It’s also highly unlikely I ever did it before I kept records.

So, time to get to it. :D I’ll update later in a separate post. This one is already too long.

About yesterday, book covers, a sleepless night, and work

I started working on some book cover practice yesterday and got sucked in so I missed my last writing block.

I did a lot of thinking yesterday about some decisions I needed to make about covers. I’ve hired out the latest cover for one of my series. I’m so ambivalent about having done that that it’s driving me crazy. I committed, though, and I’m going to see it through.

The plan was to get the one cover, decide if I was ready to use it, then order the entire series redesigned. But the cover didn’t fit the book. It did, however, seem well-suited to the next one. So I had to decide if I wanted to commit to double the cost for two covers. In the end, I decided to go ahead. So I’ve actually commissioned two covers in that series at this point.

I probably shouldn’t have, because I’m still not sure I’m actually going to use the covers. But I want to use them. And how does that make sense, huh?

I think it’s because: (1) I like being in complete control of my publishing schedule. I can’t quite do that if I have someone else responsible for the covers; (2) I have certain expectations for how all of my covers work together and getting something from the designer means either I have to be very specific about my wants (maybe too specific to be easy to work with) or I’ll have to redo all my other covers to consolidate the branding. I’ve already run into a few issues, changed my mind about something, and now am not sure the designer is going to deliver something I’m going to be satisfied with.

In the end, I’ll just consider it a learning expense if that happens and I’ll use my own covers. (Let me be clear: the cover draft I’ve seen from the designer is great. That’s not the kind of satisfaction I’m talking about above.)

Just last night I was reminded of something I’ve said I believed (but maybe didn’t really believe, because I actually found myself surprised). I asked for and received some feedback on a few of my own covers (all variations for the same book) and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t the one that looked the most professional to me that got called the most eye-catching. That surprised me, to be honest. I thought one cover in particular was much stronger than the others, and one was much weaker, and yet the comments didn’t bear out my expectations.

And then I asked myself: why not?

I’ve said several times that once you get a certain level of decent with a cover, it doesn’t usually pay to keep trying to make it better, because it won’t really make much of a difference. I mean, yes, I do believe there are certain covers that just have something special that can attract a large quantity of people, but those are kind of like books: they happen by chance, they have a certain spark that can’t really be analyzed and recreated except on superficial levels. Then you hope for the best.

The only thing important after reaching “good enough to catch someone’s eye” is to signal to the right readers what’s waiting for them in the book.

So now I need to remember that—and use it to get past this horrible perfectionism that still ties me up when I’m working on a cover.

Finally, yes, I’m still off coffee and tea. But something’s got my brain working overtime, because I woke up at 2 am and couldn’t go back to sleep because of too much brain activity. Or maybe it’s the time change still screwing with me. Who knows? The end result is that I’m exhausted today and have a headache from a sleepless night, and I don’t really care why. I was miserable from 2 to 6.

Tuesday’s session log

Minutes Words Session WPH
40 515 515 773
40 766 251 377
40 1,157 391 587
40 1,654 497 746
160 Total minutes
1,654 Total words
620 Total WPH

My pace was down and I can’t really explain why, but I’m hoping I’ll do a bit better today. It’s 12:04 pm, though, and I haven’t even looked at my book this morning, so we’ll see.

Believe it or not, I’m making fewer typos than usual, despite the lack of sleep, and my words are flowing nice and fast.

It might be a good day to write, in spite of everything. :D

There is no magic pill

I’ve spent the whole day planning.

I’ve planned my calorie intake (11850 per week if that’s of interest to you).

I’ve planned my menu (just eat as much of the same thing every day this week as possible to save time).

I’ve planned to quit drinking coffee again and do it with as little agony as possible, because caffeine withdrawal SUCKS and since I had 4 or 5 cups of coffee today (can’t remember exactly) plus three cups of green tea and I’ve been having that much every day for over a week now, I know I’m going to suffer tomorrow no matter how much green tea I drink trying to offset the problem.*

I’ve planned how to catch up on my writing goal of 1,180,000 words in 12 months.

I’m tired of planning, but the truth is, I don’t feel well enough to do much more than plan. Mentally, my thoughts are a jumbled mess. Physically, I have a bellyache and a headache. I blame the coffee.

*Why? Why, oh, why am I stuck on this coffee question again? I had a moment today where I realized I just don’t feel well. I’ve had a lot of headaches this week, many more than is usual for me, and my stomach has stayed upset. All the energy I had when I first started drinking coffee again is already gone. I did great with my focus and concentration for a bit less than a week and now it’s just gone. I feel terrible physically. Worse than I did, for sure. I’m also right back where I started when it comes to my writing. And if I’m not going to get the benefits, why the hell am I drinking the stuff? As desperately as I want to find one, there is no magic pill.

Thinking out loud helps me think better

I started wondering at the purpose of this blog again this morning, just as I was about to write another “I’m not meeting my goals at the moment, but I’m going to do better” post and discovered it would be post number 721, and I actually came up with a couple of interesting (to me) answers today.

It comes down to this: I think better when I’m talking or writing. Or I shouldn’t say “think” better, more like, I think in a more organized way—writing things down, or talking them out, is a way for me to unravel the thoughts that knot up in my head. Because that happens a lot. I can get caught up in circular thinking and I lose track of what I’m thinking about even. Since I don’t always have people around to talk to—or I just don’t want to bother those people—I choose to write the thoughts down instead.

I like writing things down. I have lots of journals and notepads and Evernote, and when I get antsy, I start writing it out. I write down so much stuff that I often look back at it and wonder what’s the point, but I do it anyway, again and again. I cannot resist the urge to write stuff down. I don’t really want to resist that urge, tbh.

That still leaves unanswered the question of why I choose to blog those thoughts instead of just leave them in Evernote or in a tablet somewhere (where, tbh, tons and tons of those thoughts still end up despite me having the blog!). I don’t actually know the answer to that. I’ve tried to figure it out a dozen times or twenty, but I never seem to come up with an answer that satisfies me. I’ve tried several times to just limit myself to writing about my writing in Evernote or a journal, and yet, I always end up back here, ready to make all this stuff public.

Maybe it’s a form of accountability that I can’t get anywhere else and I just don’t know where to draw the line about what I share and what I don’t share in the effort to be accountable.

Could be. Could also be—simply—that I like imagining someone reading this stuff and commiserating with me and being hopeful that I’ll eventually reach one of my crazy-big goals. :D

Can’t do that with a private blog in Evernote. No one but me will ever read those things and I’m not enough of a narcissist to think they will. After I die, my journals and computers and files all will end up in the trash or a box in someone’s attic to molder and fade and become obsolete and unusable.

TBH, I don’t mind that. People get on with their lives even after someone dear to them dies and that’s just natural. But while I’m here, I’d prefer to write here, on the blog, and hope that maybe someone will get something—even just a moment’s entertainment—out of my words.

That feels real to me and I think I finally understand why I can’t just keep this all to myself in Evernote.

Sorry, but post number 722 is coming soon. :D

Getting started when I have other things to do today

Today, I have a lunch date to keep. I find that when I have things to do, I usually have a lot more trouble focusing. I’m also getting started late, because I spent two hours on a thing that I was sure would take me no more than half an hour to do.

Also, I’ve had a bit of a change in thinking. I think because of the why of the how I write, it might be smart to stop focusing on my words per hour completely. The reason is that I have to do a lot of organizing of my thoughts as I write, because of how disorganized they often are—it’s not often that stuff comes out in the order it needs to be in or that even makes sense, and pushing against that limit could be entirely futile because it’s how I think. It’s something I really haven’t thought too much about, but there’s probably an upper limit to my writing speed (WPH) because of that.

Trying to change how I think—not my thoughts, but actually how I think—might be a huge waste of time. And even if I could change that—and who knows how possible that is?—why try to shore up weaknesses when I can focus on my strengths? I have a decent amount of willpower when I can see the sense in using it. A more effective plan to reach my goals might be to put 100% of my focus and effort on time.

(NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. Can’t do this right now. I really have to stick with my current plan. If I try to change things up right now, I’ll never get to 22,630 words each week. I have to have something to strive for besides just forcing myself to reach a certain number of hours of writing each day.)

It’s funny how I end up in places I’ve already visited, but maybe knowing why I keep ending up there will help me make it stick this time. :)

The fact is, every day is a new day. I can change my mind if it turns out I’ve made a mistake. (YES. I can. And I just changed it.)

I’m still not convinced a schedule should be anything more than a suggestion, but I am thinking a daily time quota should be.

Anyway, it’s 10:20 now and I’m NOT going to let myself keep screwing up today’s start. I have a lot to do, and waiting until tonight to write my first words of the day is not the right plan—it never is, tbh.

So, let’s see how much writing I can get done before I have to stop this morning. Onward!

 

Looking forward: plans for 2016

I posted about my new plans for the year in another post and then decided I should highlight them in a post of their own.

Last night I sat down and reevaluated. I decided I absolutely didn’t want to give up on my big plans for the year, despite the month and a half I’ve fallen behind.

I want to challenge myself to do something amazing this year. So here’s what I ended up with.

I set aside the following time for writing, daily, including weekends: 8–11 am & 2–3 pm. It adds up to 28 hours a week.

I figured it based on some ridiculously grand plans I have for the year. But those plans aren’t so ridiculous at all, if I actually put in the damn writing time. The only reason they’re “ridiculously grand” is because I still haven’t shown that I can write more than 268,191 in a year. In fact, my average for 3.5 years is 252,190 because I appear to be quite regular on an annual basis with my irregular output!

But I want 2016 to be the year that changes. Therefore, the plans…

Novels: 6 x 60,000
Novels: 12 x 50,000
Short stories: 12 x 10,000
Novellas: 4 x 25,000

1,180,000 words / 12 months = 98,333 words / 4 hours a day = 3,233 @ 808 wph

Yes, that’s a higher WPH than my average. But there’s a benefit to squeezing the amount of work you need to do into a shorter amount of time. It’s been proven time and again that if most people have time to waste, they’ll waste it. I want to stop wasting so much time so I can write more.

Because there are two variables to the writing more equation: time and speed.

Spend more time and do it faster. Combine the two and you have two multipliers instead of one.

Yes, these are big plans. But I can do it if I get out of my own way.

This is a challenge and I’m going to give it a name—as soon as I think of one! :D