A little word count challenge for today to get me to 50,000 words for May

I have five days left in May. I’m 5,286 words from reaching 50,000 for the month. That’ll be a record set, because I’ve never written 50,000 words of fiction two months in a row.

So of course, I really want to get those words. Restarting would mean two months of writing to get close again.

I’m also still hopeful I can bring up May’s average to 2,000 words a day, although every day that passes this close to the end makes it quite a bit harder.

But there’s hope!

If I can go ahead and reach 50,000 today, I would have the first record set and out of the way, and I would be a lot closer to that 2,000 words per day average I want for May. :-)

So today I’m giving myself a challenge to write 5,286 words, which will put me at 50,000 words for May.

Writing 5,286 words in one day is a stretch for me even when the writing is going really well.

But it’s a challenge, and I’m going to try, and that’s all I can ask from myself. Besides, anything over 2,000 will help. :)

I’ll post results sometime later.

In other news, yesterday marked 60 days in a row of finding time to write every day. I credit the new rule about sweets for that. Without a doubt, it has made a huge difference for my recent word counts and daily writing efforts. (And I’ve lost weight instead of gained, which is really nice—morning sweets were obviously more of an issue for me than I had even realized.

Update: I didn’t do it this day, but I did get my 50,000 in May!

Revisiting what worked to get me started writing again

My hiatus after my last book is stretching out into a third month now and I’m not too happy about that, so I’ve decided to revisit something that worked in the past to get me started writing again: a temporary schedule.

The one thing that I won’t be doing is revisiting the timers. I am confident in saying that I really am done with timing my writing. It didn’t make a difference in my output in the long-run and it stole some of the joy of writing from me. My monthly word counts might have fallen over the last couple of months, but that is pretty clearly because of the funk that came on after finishing and publishing my last book.

This is the getting started again phase and I’m obviously still having troubles with that.

One day I’ll conquer it. Until then, I’ll keep trying whatever it takes to get me writing again.

11 am to 5 pm is going to be my daily writing time for a while. And if I like it and can stick with it, maybe for a little longer than a while.*

I’ve just about decided that perfectionism is the reason I hate schedules. I made a note about this in my catch-all journal. Let me see if I can dig it up.

Found it! I’m just going to quote the whole bit I typed into OneNote so I can finish this post quickly (I’m practicing that too). I highlighted the part that really resonated with me the most when I read back through it.

Type up my thoughts from last night about discipline and a plan and how I don’t have to let perfection hold me back from having a plan.

Maybe, just maybe, I have to stop believing that anything anyone else has to say about how to work has nothing to do with me and no bearing on my life.

What do I want for myself? And stop thinking an inability to be perfect at whatever it is means it can’t or won’t work.

When I imagine myself going through my ideal day, the routine is very schedule-like. I get up, get coffee, do stuff, sit down and write, then do other stuff. I can picture it all really clearly. Having a writing day all broken up and spread out is not the ideal.

My days are calm and split into parts. Reading and writing and leisure and TV and some other work. Maybe a project or two sometimes but always this core routine. So that’s what I should do—for me, my way. Whatever time(s) of day I like best.

This was the point at which I decided 11 am to 5 pm was best for me. I’ve been having sleep cycle issues and getting up later and later, and 11 am keeps me from stressing about what time I get up in an effort to “stick to the schedule”.

This schedule is a little more ambitious than the one I used last time because it blocks out six hours a day for writing time, although I’m not expecting myself to actually write nonstop for the duration, just do as much writing and thinking about writing as I can around necessary, and hopefully short, breaks.

The most important thing I realized was that sometimes I just get stressed because I can’t stick to the schedule, but the reality is that there’s not ever going to be a schedule I can stick with better than any other. It’s all about accepting that I won’t stick to it some days but that some days I really will—and those are the days that will add up over time and keep me working and keep my word counts going up and keep me from having excessively long stretches where I fall into the habit of not writing.

*Update

I’ve since adjusted this to 11 am to 3 pm and some days I do move it later in the day instead of strictly enforcing the start time as 11 am. This works because I can’t stand the idea of missing the time just because I’ve decided I have to start at 11 and end at 3. That feels too much like a straitjacket and very detrimental to my long-term success with the schedule. But I do try not to change things every day and I do try to start at 11 as often as I can.

Easing away from OneNote to Joplin for notes

I went from Evernote to OneNote and now I’m considering a move to Joplin. I’m taking the move slowly, but the more I use Joplin, the more I like it.

1. I’m testing it out still and getting a feel for the program.
2. I need to know it’s reliable.
3. I’m syncing between my laptop, phone, and a tablet, and haven’t come across any issues yet, but that definitely needs thorough testing before I commit.

Joplin has the ability to sync notes from device to device in several ways, and notes are written, edited, and stored in Markdown. It’s more like Evernote than OneNote in how it’s organized. There are notebooks, tags, and notes instead of notebooks, sections, and pages. But that’s not a problem to deal with. Notebooks can be nested, so sub-notebooks feel like sections to me.

The layout is a little busy when all the sidebars are open, but it’s really well proportioned on my desktop and the sidebars can be toggled on and off and you can even choose to show only the editor window or the note window. I didn’t get a screenshot of that layout, but it’s an option.

Joplin’s syncing process sounds more complicated to set up than it actually is, and it turns out Markdown is pretty sweet. I like writing blog posts and notes in text only, because the files are simple and small and go anywhere and can be read and edited on every device I have.

Markdown is easy, and that’s pretty sweet too. Apparently some of the text formatting shortcuts in WordPress’s classic visual editor are based on Markdown.

Joplin doesn’t have an entire domain devoted to it yet, don’t know if it will ever have, to be honest, but it doesn’t need it because all the syncing you do for your notes is through your own accounts or cloud setup. I use the default Dropbox, because my notes repository isn’t huge and probably won’t be even if I add in all the notes I have in OneNote. I don’t attach files often, because I prefer to have them stored independently.

Joplin is open source and the associated forum and project seems to have plenty of development going on. There’s also a decent amount of documentation for the program. It looks and works great on my phone and tablet, too.

All in all, I really like it, and I think this might be the open source alternative to OneNote and Evernote I’ve been hoping for.

ETA: I forgot to mention a very important feature of Joplin and that’s that it will export an entire notebook of notes into individual .md text files (Markdown text files). (A text editor like Notetab or Notepad++ can open them just fine, although Windows Notepad doesn’t recognize the line breaks.) There’s also the option to export individual notes as PDFs.

All Joplin needs for me to be even happier is an option to export entire notebooks to PDF for archiving, and an export option to create HTML, .doc(x) or .odt files and I would be very happy indeed.

Update: Not so fast, a Joplin versus OneNote update

Should I update to WordPress 5.0?

I am torn this morning about whether or not I want to update WordPress to version 5.0. I did the update on a smaller site I have (it has about 3 posts) and it went well. No issues to speak of. I also created a post with the new block editor (which I had already tried it out a little when it was called the Gutenberg plug-in). The post turned out fine.

My problem comes in with the actual editor. It’s a bit of a hassle for me. All the little boxes and blocks flaring to life as my cursor scrolls over them. I like seeing the WYSIWYG version and working in the “Visual” editor while being able to quickly flip to the “Text” editor (really, the code editor), and make whatever changes are needed there.

The new block editor is kind of a mess really. As far as I can tell, you can edit the HTML of each block but you can’t edit it as a whole. So lots of extra steps to move one bit of code to another place in the post compared to how it’s currently done.

Screenshot of options showing how to change from visual editor to code editor

NOPE. I just realized I am wrong about this. (I went to the little site that I updated and checked.)

I can select the code editor and see the entire post as code but the way to get to it is separated from the way to get to the HTML editor for each block.

So a bit of a hassle but not as bad as I feared.

Anyway, I’m just not sure I’m ready to change. Being wrong about the HTML editor doesn’t really change how busy the new block editor feels. And then I do have some sites where I use a custom theme I made myself from scratch. It’s held up really well through the upgrades but I’m kind of scared to try it on this one, because of the new structure.

I’m conflicted and I think my best option in this case is to wait until I’m not. I have a book to write and I’ve only written about 300 words today.

Dealing with issues that might come up because of an update going bad isn’t how I need to spend my day. I have too many websites to update to think nothing will go wrong (and I’ve had that happen often enough for me to know it’s a possibility). I hope it’ll be a seamless update for every one of them; I’ll be planning for it not to be!

Update: Well, I am not that happy with WordPress 5.0. I finally updated on a site with more posts and wrote one that used images and the first thing I found was that dragging and dropping an image once it was settled as a block within a paragraph block, it wasn’t coming out short of deleting and recreating it or going into the code editor and sorting through the junk (oh lord is there a lot of junk in there now) and then cutting and pasting it where I want it. [Yeah, I figured this one out, and let me just say that it was a PITA. I had to go search out the answer online. Make the image center aligned so it became its own block again, then move it above the paragraph you want it to merge into before you choose left or right alignment again. My god. Everything takes more steps in WP5. Even deleting a damn paragraph break takes extra keystrokes before two paragraph blocks will merge into one.]

I kind of think I’m not ever updating on any of my sites that matter to me. In fact, I’m now thinking I might just go back to static sites. Plain old HTML is looking pretty attractive right now. WordPress 5.0, not so much.

Looks like I’ll be stuck with the Classic Editor plug-in on the sites I did update until I make up my mind. One thing I can say for sure: I won’t be using WP5’s block editor as is. It wastes way too much of my time. I don’t write in damn blocks. I write, merge, delete, add, merge, delete, write, add, and shift text all over the place before I’m settled with a post. All those little blocks are meant for short-form writers. They sure as hell aren’t meant for me.

Update (the second): I have installed the 5.0 update (because I like keeping things updated for security reasons), but I did install the Classic Editor plug-in, and I’m going to stick with it. I’ve tried multiple additional posts with the block editor on a few sites as I updated them, and I just have to say that the new block editor is hideously inefficient. I tried to imagine what it would be like once I got used to it, but the sad truth is that it’s just a hassle. The blocks are unwieldy when I just want to do a few paragraphs, a quote, an image, and a quick publish. I won’t be using it. I guess someday I’m going to have to consider going back to static HTML or handwrite my own PHP site. But that worry is for another day!

Time to restart the reading log for 2018

It’s time to restart the reading log. This time for 2018. :-)

I’m not worried that I haven’t been reading enough fiction this year. Far from it. I spent a lot of time in the first half of this year reading fan fiction. A lot of fan fiction. I can’t tell you how much, but I was so focused on reading that I was reading 2-4 stories a day, a great many of which were novel length.

I delete fan fiction stories and books from my library as soon as I’ve read them if they’re not keepers.

Since January 1, I’ve added 277 stories to my library that I’ve read and gone on to keep because I might want to read them again some day. If that’s anywhere near a representative sample and I keep even one out of every three stories that I read… well, that’s a lot of reading. If I only kept one of out five (more likely) or eight (definitely possible), well then, the numbers start to get ridiculous. Considering how obsessively I was reading, it’s entirely possible the numbers are ridiculous.

All that said, there are a lot of original books I want to read, books I’ve been collecting all year, and it’s time I got started reading them. Putting a number to my progress will remind me not to let time get away from me now that I’m obsessing over my writing again.

I had originally posted all this to the top of the reading log page, but after a little thinking, I decided that I wanted to keep the reading log page focused on the actual reading log and not explanatory text. :)

Update on 1/12/19: During my year end clean up of a paper calendar I was keeping notes on, I found several lists of stories I read then deleted, along with notes about why. I added the ones I found to my personal reading log, but since you don’t care how many stories I actually read I’ll just say I definitely read more than the 277 stories mentioned above. :D

New text justification bug in GIMP is bugging me

I think I’ve found a bug in GIMP’s text justification feature. I thought about reporting the bug, but I do not have an account and don’t want an account and don’t have a spare email address where I’d enjoy getting spammed even if I did. The create a new account page warns of that possibility and I chose to take that warning seriously. (Updates below.)

So I’m just putting it out here because I’m frustrated. I spent all day yesterday trying to fix an issue with an installed font that I used for a book cover that turns out isn’t usable in Word for my title page headings because of some bug. If I’d known at the time, I’d have never used the font in GIMP for the book cover.

Lesson learned: when using a new font I haven’t used in Word before, test it in Word. Save the file. Reopen. Is the font still there? If it isn’t, delete the font, because I don’t want to run into this problem again.

I’ve been buying more font licenses lately,  but I still have a pretty big selection of fonts from fontsquirrel and Google fonts on my system that had the right kind of licenses for what I do and I guess I should have expected to run into a problem like this eventually, but I didn’t. I honestly thought fonts just worked or they didn’t. I didn’t realize they could actually be buggy with only certain software. :o

But back to the GIMP bug. Here’s what’s happened. (Update: Definitely a bug. I’ve figured out why it’s happening and I am sure it’s a bug.)

Yesterday I noticed that some of my back cover copy was getting cut off on the right side when I justified the text. I scaled it down a bit from 12 pt to 11.7 pt and it fixed it. This was with Adobe Garamond Pro. Today I have a different book cover in the works and I’m using Adobe Caslon Pro. I tried the same trick when I noticed it was also getting cut off on the right side but scaling it down hasn’t worked to fix this one. I’ve tried every pixel/point size I can in the range I’d be comfortable having this text and it just won’t stop cutting off the very right edge of the fonts.

It’s very frustrating! I definitely haven’t noticed this previously and I updated a few weeks ago to the 2.8.20 version of GIMP. I’d go back to the older version but I truly don’t know if it would fix it, because I’m so behind on putting out my paperback books and I haven’t created one in more than a year until I started doing these.

I don’t know what version of GIMP this issue started in or if it’s been there all along and I just didn’t notice because I wasn’t using these fonts. :(

Maybe I should be doing my paperback covers in Scribus or Inkscape but I do a lot of tweaking of stuff and I don’t want to learn another program with a steep learning curve.

So I guess I’m going to be using a different font for this book cover’s back cover copy.

UGH!

FYI: I’d still recommend GIMP but this kind of thing does make me rethink whether or not it’s worth it to keep putting off converting to Photoshop. I just HATE subscription services. I’ll almost certainly deal and just find a way to work around this problem, but I have to ask myself why I’m being so damn stubborn about it. I do not know.

Update: I figured out why GIMP is cutting off a bit of the right edge of the fonts. It has to do with fonts that have edges that are supposed to fall outside of the margin, in the same way some punctuation is supposed to fall outside of the margins. For example, in my specific case for this text block I was trying to use, the first letter of the paragraph is a “J”. The scoop that makes the bottom of the letter should hang over the edge just a teeny tiny bit (it does in Word and in Scribus and in Photoshop elements. It doesn’t in GIMP. In GIMP, that little effect causes the entire block of text to shift a minute amount to the right, making all the edges of those final letters susceptible to being trimmed by that same minute amount because they’re falling outside the bounds of the text box. And because this is happening no matter the size of the text or the text box, there’s no way to counter it, other than using a different font.

For me, what it meant was that I created my cover in GIMP as usual, saved as a tiff file, opened it in Photoshop Elements 14 (which I had honestly nearly forgotten I had), and added the text for the back cover there. Saved as a PDF, and realized at that point that Elements saves the text as embedded instead of flattened, and decided I’d try that out.

(Scribus did the same. I did get it to work, finally, but it was a PITA, and I don’t like using it. That was when I remembered I had bought Elements last year when it was on sale and that it was on my computer, ready to be used if I wanted to.)

If embedding the fonts produces crisper text on the cover, I might do all future books this way even though it adds another program/step to my workflow.

On the other hand, I don’t know if Createspace will even accept this, because I’ve never submitted a completely non-flattened PDF before. I flatten everything in GIMP, text and all.

But the reason I decided to give this a shot was because I read a paragraph of a page today on the Createspace website that says to make sure your fonts are embedded in the pdf file for the cover. So obviously it’s an expected thing, right?

We shall see.