Changing sleep habits—an experiment in productivity

A couple of days ago I decided to try to figure out what was going on in my life at the time of some of my most productive writing streaks—what types of schedules or timed sessions or just overall attitude I had—so I can try a few things to help me make the rest of this year as productive as I need it to be.

This time, I was looking at both my daily log, my entries in my journal, and my calendar entries.

And something came to my attention.

Back in 2016 during the time I can clearly see where my productivity dipped and I fell into a funk that lasted far too long, my sleep habits also changed dramatically.

I have a tendency to track my sleep in my calendar. I put in the times I want to sleep and then adjust the entry the next day to keep a record of the times I actually slept.

Until the middle of 2016, I’d been getting up at 6:30 most days, and even though some days I definitely didn’t get enough sleep, as a general rule I tried to go to sleep by 10:30. Meaning I got enough sleep most of the time, in the earlier part of the night. I’ve always though I slept better in the early part of the night, and fight to sleep once the sun is shining outside, so this stood out for me.

I haven’t ever really considered that my sleep patterns themselves might have led to a lot of my problems during the last few years. And now I’m considering it.

So I started an experiment night before last, wherein I get into bed and go to sleep hours earlier than I’ve been doing, and I make it a priority to get a full night’s sleep.

Yesterday I felt great, all day, all the way up until I went to bed. I never had a dip in energy and I didn’t feel that afternoon dragging feeling I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. I wrote 1,817 words yesterday, pretty effortlessly.

So I went to bed early again last night, and although I don’t know how today is going to work out yet, I feel good. So we shall see if this turns out to be the thing that changed and sent me into a downward spiral of a lack of motivation and energy that has persisted far too long. (Even though it is better now than it was.) :D

I plan to run this experiment for a week at minimum, meaning I can’t let myself slip up and stay up late during that time. I’m hopeful it will show me something useful. :)

Day 50 of no more zero word days

Today is day 50 of my challenge not to have any more zero word days. During that time I’ve written 41,200 words, and today isn’t over, so that number could get better, although admittedly not by huge amounts. It’s only one day after all. :)

But I really don’t see this streak ending, as long as I’m able to write, because there’s something about knowing that if I have a zero word day (two to be exact), I’ll cross that line from 998 zero word days to 1,000 of them. I really don’t want to cross that line.

That’s what you call intrinsic motivation, and it’s pretty strong in this case!

Just as a reminder, this is fiction only. I could write tons of stuff every day and not keep my streak alive, because fiction (fiction I intend to publish one day, at that) is the only thing I count for this streak.

The other big thing I have going for me this time is that I’m not limiting myself to working on what I need to work on. I work on whatever story I want to work on each time I sit down to write, as long as I suspect it will be something publishable.

That’s a hard limit for me. Even though I love reading fan fiction, I don’t love writing it any more than I love writing wholly original stories, so there’s no point to even thinking about going back to writing fan fiction now that I can publish and earn a living. :D There are story ideas I come up with for my favorite shows, but I pretty much just let them write themselves in my head and move on. I don’t bother trying to make them into cohesive stories.

Now, if I could ever crack the egg that is my slow pace and start writing enough every day that I don’t feel behind on my stories all the time, I might be tempted to write fan fiction again. Who knows? But as of right now, there’s just no way to ever find the time. I have so many stories I want to write and I take far too long to finish them.

Anyway, that’s the update for the active streaks. I’m reading fiction every day too, still, but I’m not tracking it, even though I am unfortunately still reading far, far too much fiction! :D As someone who loves reading more than writing, this is a thing I have to keep a close eye on!

 

 

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.

A creative writing craft resource: Writing Commons

I came across what looks like an interesting resource for newer writers, or anyone who wants a refresher in some basic craft lessons while I was searching for something else.

I originally sent the link to my college student kid because college writing is always a chore and lessons to help with that seem like a good resource to share. Then I realized the resource also included creative writing resources.

https://writingcommons.org/chapters/creative-writing

I haven’t examined every article at this site, and I don’t necessarily recommend anything there, but it looks like a really good resource for someone who wants to explore learning craft. There are some interesting articles about writing short stories and about the technical aspects of writing like point of view and plot and characterization.

I’ll probably check it out in more detail myself later, because I am the first to admit I will never learn enough about writing, and it doesn’t matter that I’ve been writing fiction for almost 30 years at this point. There’s always something new to learn—or something old to remember. :)

Also, just to clarify, I estimate I started writing fiction at 14 so I’m not that old. :D Yet!

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.

Looking for a comments alternative for WordPress

Basically, the only reason I don’t want to move from WordPress to static HTML (after years of thinking WordPress would make it easier to post and give me options away from my computer but in reality almost never finding that to be true for me) is that I like having comments enabled.

The fact is, I rarely get comments. Out of 1,305 posts, I’ve gotten 27 comments here and since I respond to most comments, only half those aren’t me. In fact, I filtered and searched and 14 of the 27 were me.

So yeah, there’s not a really good reason to want comments enabled but I do.

I’ve tried Disqus in the past on other static sites and it worked, but it was a hassle. (I apparently think lots of things are hassles, but what can I say? I do.) And there are ads. But it is an option.

I’d like a better option. So if you know of an alternative—a way to get comments that isn’t a hassle for a static HTML website, I’m listening. :-)

On the other hand, I’m also seriously considering going plain old HTML anyway. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at an HTML5 site because I really stopped making sites before it was standard.

And finally, I’m keeping an eye on ClassicPress, but before I do anything with that, I’m going to need a little time. It seems there’s some bad blood there between the CP and the WP people or something because I’ve already found one person who’s writing code to help plugin authors break their plugins if they’re being used in ClassicPress. So, sounds like sabotage is a possibility? (Which really did just give me an idea for a murder mystery. Holy shit. I need to get out on the web more.)

Look, unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams

Here’s the thing. When I set out to make writing my source of income, I knew what I was getting into. I’d been married to someone who did contract work for a while cutting lumber and I have a dad who did that for a while, too, and who worked as a mason for some-odd years. I also had an uncle who had spent years working in construction, with all its seasonal variations and ups and downs.

Writing is like that.

Cash flow is a thing.

Income variability is a thing. A big thing. I mean, it’s real and it’s ugly sometimes. It means that the good years have to be averaged with the bad years and you have to live on the average income or less, not the income of the good years.

If you don’t, when the bad years come, you’ll go broke and you’ll have to go get a job doing something that will put money in the bank. When that happens, whether or not you can continue to produce good fiction at a pace that will get you writing full-time again becomes a thing. Maybe you won’t be able to juggle the new job and the writing. It was hard the first time, remember?

That’s what it’s like to be a writer. The income is all over the place. The few (and they are few!) who can turn writing into a regular, reliable source of income are miracle workers. You can’t let yourself be fooled by them into thinking that cash flow is going to be steady and that you’re trading the paycheck of a regular employee-type job for a regular paycheck from self-publishing fiction.

Unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams.

I know there are some productive people out there saying that you can make steady money with writing, but I’m just going to say this: they’re not the norm and they’re probably talking about a shorter time frame than most other writers are imagining. And they’re probably in a position that is going to change, but just hasn’t, yet. How long have they been at it? A one or two or even three year history isn’t enough time to know these things.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2012. I have seven years of history behind me as a self-published author earning a living with fiction, and I can tell you that the things I talk about above are true. I’ve had some bad years, all related to my own production issues, but someday I’m sure I’ll have bad years related to market changes too. All of those kinds of bad years come around eventually. I’ve also seen a lot of authors over the last couple of years, who seemed bulletproof, start to recognize that even they are going to have these bad years too. That’s how I know these things are true for writers other than me.

Sometimes it’s not the book. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. So many authors want to say that luck has nothing to do with success or failure, but it’s just not true. I’m not even sorry to say it. There is so much out of a person’s control in the world that it is absolutely foolish not to prepare for the effects of luck, good and bad. If you’re doing everything you can to make it, it’s okay to hope for luck to come along and help you out. It’s also okay to blame luck for the fact that you can’t seem to get anywhere, as long as you’re being honest with yourself about your skills and effort. (If you can’t be honest with yourself, then blaming luck is a crutch and it’s only going to hurt you, so try not to do that, okay?)

Then there’s the topic of what you write. You can write what you want and hope it works or you can write what other people tell you to write or you can study what readers seem to want and write that. If you choose anything other than writing what you want, you really have to decide if you’re actually fulfilling your dream or just making work for yourself on your way to fulfilling your dream.

I chose to write for myself. I don’t want to be a writer if I can’t write what I want. If you can’t make it full-time writing what you want, then you need a job. But you get to choose what the job is a lot of the time. I choose not to have it be writing. If I can’t make it full-time writing what I want at some point in the future, writing what I don’t want to write sure isn’t going to be the job I turn to to pay my bills.

At the end of that road is the death of a dream and I’m not taking it.

If you like writing so much that you want to write and you don’t care what you write, then you’re one of the lucky ones. :)

If it turns out not to be true, that’s when you’re going to be in trouble. Because you’re probably going to be stuck writing those things you don’t want to be writing, over and over and over again.

It’s a pretty simple choice, and a lot of authors really fuck it up: Do you want to write because you have stories to tell or do you want to write because you want to be self-employed and you happen to really like writing?

I’m the former, no doubt about it. I have stories to tell and which ones I tell matters to me. I have a little of the latter in me, in that I am happy to be self-employed, but honestly, if I’m not writing the stories I want to be writing, I do not like writing. Not even a little.

:)

Feeling a little less alone today on this journey to improvement

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the similarities to my own issues mentioned above?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new plan for 2,400 words a day

I don’t think I went into this in my last post, but I have recently made a small change to my 2,000 words a day plan.

I’m aiming for 2,400 words a day instead.

Not because I want to actually average 2,400 words a day, because that has not changed. A 2,000 words a day average is still my overarching goal. But writing 2,400 a day means I won’t have to think so much about getting ahead or playing catch up if I miss a day here and there. That’s the big reason for this and I think it will work well in the long-term.

Even though I have yet to have one 2,400 word day since I started my plan.

I haven’t had a 2,000 word day either since my last on 8/20, so yeah. :D

But I have a plan!

It almost worked yesterday, too, but in the end, I let too much come between me and the writing.

Plus, the writing is actually not going great because I had to go back to chapter nine and do something I hate doing (restart a scene that’s already part of the book), because I wrote the chapter in the wrong view point. I recognized it when I just kept going back to the start of that chapter trying to figure out why I had no interest in that scene and why I couldn’t seem to move forward and why it felt so flat. I tried a couple of different openings for the scene, and in one, it just came out in another character’s view point, and I just knew then that I had solved the problem. :D

Sometimes these things are just hard to see because we’re so tied to what’s already there.

Today, I hope my plan will get me to the 2,400 words I want.

15 minute sessions, in blocks of 4. Same set up as I mentioned in the timed sessions are back post.

It worked well yesterday to keep me writing and focused, and I’m excited to use it again today.

2,400 words at a 400 WPH (words per hour) pace is 6 hours of timed writing. That’s a lot, but that’s at the slow end of the scale.

At a more peppy 600 WPH pace, these 2,400 words will take me 4 hours of timed writing. Doable, and not an insane work load, by far, even knowing I take 1.5 to 2 hours just to get 1 hour of writing done.

If things are going really well, and it does happen, at a speedy 800 WPH pace, 2,400 words take only 3 hours. I will be pushing for this as often as I can, to give me more time for reading/studying/learning/cover design practice and publishing stuff. :D

We’ll see how this plays out during my writing sessions today, but I am hopeful.

I really need a breakthrough with this thing, because I’m serious about making this 2,400 words a day work. I have so many books to write and I want them all written yesterday! This is the next best realistic option for me.

Done with timers; wrote more last night but can’t use any of it

So last night I had this idea that maybe what was bothering me about this story was the way I handled the climax. I took my notebook up to bed with me and made a few notes, and then before I knew it, I’d written two pages of new material (and it’s a big notebook with narrow lines).

This is the notebook I’m talking about. I love this notebook. However, I’ve since realized that for long-term preservation of my notebooks, I’m going to have to abandon the metal spirals because of the potential for rust. Ah, well. I have three more in aqua and two in charcoal. I won’t leave them unused. I just won’t buy more.

Of course, the plan this morning was to get it entered and add the word count to yesterday’s total.

Only when I looked back at the scene I’d written in the climax where I would need to insert this (and go in a somewhat different direction) I realized I have a decent scene there and that the new material just wasn’t going to work.

On the other hand, I like the new material, so as far as I’m concerned it still happens in the book, just without the intervention of my main character. It’s part of the hidden story and I’m going to use it in the next book. Probably as the opening. In fact, just typing that has made me feel certain that, yes, the stuff I wrote last night (at least a chunk of it) will be the beginning of my next book in this series. :-)

(Hidden story is the part of the story that isn’t revealed in the story but that must occur within the time frame of the story for the other things to occur—not to be confused with backstory, which occurs before the start of the story.)

Hidden story in this book could easily become backstory in the next book, but since I’m thinking this little bit of hidden story is going to become the opening scene of the next book, it won’t be hidden story or backstory. It’ll just be part of the story. :-)

So, now I just need to get to work on today’s writing and finish this story.

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).

Update #1

My internet was giving me troubles this morning so I had to delay finishing this post, but that’s okay, because I spent the time writing.

I’ve written 405 words this morning and I need another 95 before I can stop for lunch. I’ll be back with an update when I have them. :-)

Update #2

Time for lunch! My word count is now 559 words.

Update #3

And I’m at 545. Yes, I’m going backwards. Except I’m not because I’m closing in on my ending. Consider it the cost of nearing the end. I clean up as I go.

Update #4

623 words were it for the day, but it is the official restart of my 500 words a day streak—if I can do it again today! Life happened, and I had a big chunk of time between 5:40ish and midnight that I didn’t get back to writing. I did a little more until I went to bed oh so late and was really sad that I didn’t push for more writing so I could finish. But I didn’t finish. Now it’s time to get started with today’s writing, so moving on.

Pushing for a finish today; must write faster!

I haven’t finished my current book in progress despite having been trying to finish it for a couple of weeks now. Today I’m pushing for a finish, although I know it’s going to be tricky. I don’t have a clue where the story is going to come together, only a vague notion that something is going to have to happen before I can end it because I need my main character to play a more active role in the ending here and so far he just hasn’t stepped up. He’s gonna have to step up. That’s all there is to it.

I need at least one solid chapter to finish up the climax and maybe half another. Then I need some wrap up scenes, so that’ll be another chapter at least.

My chapters range anywhere from 2,000 to 2,800 words, rarely more, but sometimes, so I can’t rule that out. That means 4,800 words minimum to end this thing, even though I wanted my word count for this book to max out at 65,000 words. It hasn’t. The book is now the third longest book in the series. It’s questionable at this point if it’ll remain only the third longest because I’m getting uncomfortably close to the length of the second longest.

So…practice time. I’m going for 800 words per hour, writing in 15 minute bursts. That’s a goal of 200 words for each session of 15 minutes.

That is a push, but practice time it is.

In other news, I’ve reinstituted some personal rules to help me stay away from time sucking activities online. LeechBlock is set to block me from most of the internet from 7 am to noon and 2 pm to midnight.

I’m doing this because I’m just spending too much time on places like K boards.

Which, in another note, I’ve decided might be the wrong table for me to sit at.

Most of the authors there take self-publishing much too seriously for me. I realize publishing is my income source and that I do need to treat the business aspects of it as a business, but the rest of it is for me to do as I please. I don’t treat the publishing part as a traditional business and I don’t want to. I much prefer to be the artisan and do my own thing until I have a product ready to sell. But then when I have the product ready I really prefer to be the person at the flea market or the little corner shop and not really the mass marketing Walmart. I’ll be honest, that’s a terrible analogy, but it’s all I can come up with at 9:12 a.m. in the morning when I just know that I need to stop visiting that site as much as I do and I keep going back and forth and I continue to visit and I continue to read the forum day after day to excess and I continue to find many of the people’s attitudes there quite infuriating at times. And nothing throws me off my game more than being angry does. I think it’s normal to want to be accepted, even looked up to, by your peers, but when your beliefs are so far outside the norm in the group, it’s not going to work out that way unless you start conforming. That price is too high for some of us. It comes to this: Kboards is not good for my mental equilibrium. Know thyself, as they say.

And my final note today: this was written on my phone using the default Google speech-to-text so if it is somewhat unreadable I’m sorry. But the one thing I’m not going to do is override the LeechBlock settings and allow myself to get online and post on my blog before I’ve had a chance to do my writing today.

Now, time to get up and get this day started. It’s my birthday. :)

Not going to give up without a fight

I’m trying to come up with my goal for today. I think I’m done with the catch-up attempt for hours because I’m further behind now than I was when I started yesterday. On the other hand, this morning, I’ve already written for 13 minutes and put down 87 words of stuff. It’s a start.

I’m actually very concerned that I haven’t gained any speed or momentum after what feels like a significant time investment over the last few weeks. I’ve spent 47.93 hours writing in the last 19 days and my cumulative word count for all that time is 3,982 words.

3,982 ÷ 47.93 = 83 words an hour. I type at about 60 words a minute. Typing isn’t writing, I know, but has my brain really slowed down to the point that I can’t write at even 10 words a minute?

I’m in uncharted territory, because I can’t recall ever spending so much focused time writing and ending up with so little progress. It’s obvious something is going on with my writing that I don’t understand because my word counts have dwindled to half what they used to be just three years ago and I’ve lost a significant portion of the excitement I used to feel when I write.

I kind of feel like I’m making progress on the last of that, but the first—obviously—hasn’t improved or it wouldn’t be 33 days since my last day of 1,000+ words.

The fact is I’m trying. I don’t know what kind of hole it is I’m trying to dig myself out of but I am trying.

I want this career, and I’m not going to give up on myself without a fight.

So off I go again today, trying to make progress, or recapture some momentum, or something, anything that will prove the creative part of my brain hasn’t up and died on me.

As for today’s goal? I think I’ll just start with the basics. 1,557 words. When I reach that, I’ll evaluate how much time beyond three hours I’m going to aim for.

Progress will be in my next post. It’s easier than revisiting an already long-enough post and scrolling down every time I want to add a line. :)

It’s catch-up day redux! Goal: 6.7 hours of writing

Since I didn’t succeed yesterday in catching up, I’ve decided to give it one more go. Today I will try to accumulate 6.7 hours of writing. That’ll give me today’s three hours, plus catch me up with Saturday’s and Sunday’s three hours each.

Whew. I’m only doing this because I need some way to decide how much time to spend writing while I try to finish this book ASAP. My three hour daily goal isn’t likely to be enough unless I start writing five to six times faster than I’ve been writing. Catching up gives me a reason to write for longer. In other words, my brain likes to know the reasons for things, so I’m giving it a reason. ;)

I’ll report progress as I go the same way I did yesterday. I actually liked that format a lot. :)

Progress—

2:53 pm: finished a 3 minute and 13 minute session, wrote 157 words.

Unknown: ended a 5 minute session to research some stuff from previous books in my series, wrote 1 word. Must’ve rewrote something, obviously. :)

Spent way too much time reading through my series doc to find stuff about one particular topic. And then the power went out. I kept reading. :D

5:49 pm: ended a power outage (it’s been a stormy day).

Internet wouldn’t work so I ended up getting distracted by troubleshooting the problem with my modem and router. Finally restarted my computer and problem fixed itself. UGH! Anyway, back to writing. :-|

8:03 pm: finished a 5 followed by a 16 minute session, wrote 99 words.

9:52 pm: ended a session of 32 minutes, wrote 275 words.

11:12 pm: ended a 54 minute session, wrote -12 words.

I keep fixing things that would be better left alone. UGH.

11:53 pm: stopped after a session of 18 minutes, wrote 263 words.

Gave up for the night in frustration. Scene was making me want to pull my hair out.

Final tally: 2.35 hours and 782 words. So far off the mark that I don’t even know what to say. Tomorrow I will write early and forget this late night crap. >:{

It’s catch-up day! Goal: 7.484 hours of writing

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying to write for three hours today, catch up yesterday’s three hours, and finish Saturday’s three hours. That means I’m trying to accumulate 7.484 hours of timed writing today.

Progress—

1:18 pm: finished a session of 61 minutes, wrote 135 words.

3:13 pm: ended a short session of 4 minutes, wrote 36 words.

5:31 pm: ended a 54 minute session, wrote 233 words.

6:54 pm: finished a session of 31 minutes, wrote 107 words.

Speed today is at OUCH levels.

12:13 am: finished another 61 minute session, wrote 157 words.

12:28 am: finished a session of 16 minutes, wrote 71 words.

Okay. I’m calling it.

I wrote for 3.783 hours and 739 words. A lot disappointed but maybe tomorrow will be better.

 

Self-discipline is a skill: skills take practice and practice takes time

I did not reach any of my goals yesterday. (1557 words, 3 hours writing, finish editing chapters 15 and 16.) I wrote for 2.633 hours and added 122 words to chapter 15.

I didn’t take drastic measures with those chapters as I said I would because things were actually going well with the story. I just couldn’t concentrate, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it. I even turned to a cup of coffee, which didn’t help at all. >:{

Today I am going to finish going through chapter 15 and 16 and I’m going to do it before I stop for lunch.

After lunch, I’m going to write.

Today also begins a fresh start on my 1,557 words a day goal. I’ll also be requiring at least three hours a day of writing from myself. I will require this every day, with few exceptions. I’m doing this because I’m starting to believe self-discipline is something you need to practice regularly, and without it, you’re never going to get the most out of yourself long-term.

I accept that I’ll fall short on the word counts sometimes, because I haven’t changed my writing process and I do end up with days where I delete more than I write. This isn’t about perfection. But by requiring three hours a day from myself, I make it much more likely that on my good days, I might make up some of those lost words. And on days where three hours just doesn’t cut it, I can keep pushing for those 1,557 words.

My biggest hope is that over time I’ll fall into a routine that maximizes the number of words I write in the most reasonable amount of time by consistently staying involved in my story worlds. I’ll stop losing momentum to month-long breaks and I’ll lose less time to massive read-throughs and edits like the one I’m stuck in the middle of now, because I’ll be working on my stories every day. Even if I can’t maintain the three hours and 1,557 words a day pace working on just one story, I can work on other stories. I already know I have that capability.

I’m going at this to build stamina for writing. What I write isn’t as important as the writing itself. Plus, I don’t want to hamstring myself by limiting what I can write. Some days there will be stories I won’t feel capable of or ready to write. Those days need a back up plan. That back up plan is to write something else.

Three hours a day is twenty-one hours a week, and that’s not that much time at all to devote to what is undoubtedly my life’s work.

Progress and a brilliant idea I should have had sooner

I did run out of time yesterday and didn’t make it through all the chapters of my book.

Well, sort of. I stopped the editing at chapter 12, but then I sent the file to my tablet and read through the rest of it and realized most of it’s solid. Just a few bits I want to change, one because of an inconsistency and a few paragraphs that tripped me up when I was reading them. They could use some smoothing out for sure for various reasons.

Unfortunately, I didn’t highlight those spots during that late night read through so I still have to read through those chapters again today and find the things I thought needed changing. I was just too tired last night and it seemed like a good idea at the time to focus on the reading. I don’t agree so much to that today, but too late now. :o

I think those rough patches come from not writing fast enough. Too many rewrites and edits makes it very easy to screw up the flow of a story. When I bog down, that happens to me. I mean, I’m doing it because I can’t figure out what’s wrong usually, so I have to, but I know it’s not usually helping the story. I seem to get the best results when I’m able to just ignore what’s there and write fresh, then delete the old. :D

That’s probably why this kind of edit takes me so long. I’m really doing a lot more redrafting of the book than actually editing what’s there.

As for the brilliant idea I mentioned in the title of this post, I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it before. I have to revisit my previous books quite a lot to find stuff, and I had the notion to create a master series doc yesterday. It took me about three minutes to put together using Word’s “Insert > Object > Text from File” menu item. Then I used another half hour or so cleaning it up so it wasn’t cluttered with various styles. (The oldest books used different style sets than my newer books and I just quickly applied the new styles and deleted the old from the document. Less chance of corruption later, I hope.)

Anyway, it’s a huge file, but Word handled it fine. So now I can open one file when I need to search the books for something and I can get results for ALL the books. Since small corrections won’t affect that, I won’t ever have to do anything else to this doc except add the newest books when I publish them. :D

When I start the next book on my other series, I’ll do the same for it. So much easier than opening and searching multiple books trying to find that one bit of info I need. ;)

Anyway, here are the numbers: 6.467 hours of timed writing (plus all the times I forgot to turn the timer back on, because that kept happening) and 151 words net from edits, redrafting, and deletions.

It was a highly-focused day of writing, for sure.

Now on to today. I need to get these final changes made, and then I’m going to put some real effort into writing the rest of this book as fast as I can. Onward!

8-10-17 Thursday

Getting lazy on titles today. :)

The plan is 3 hours and 1,557 words. I’m going to read for a few minutes and then get started. Somehow it’s already 12:58 pm and I have no idea how that happened.


Okay, I’ve procrastinated like nobody’s business today, so I’m going to have to nail this word count today in record time or it’s not going to get done. Needless to say (I’m saying it anyway), it needs to get done.


Holy crap.

Would you believe I’m still procrastinating? :o

All is not lost. I did actually work on my timeline for this book (it’s a mess) and brainstorm a bit. That counts, right? It did get me 138 words.

Sadly, they’re mostly just notes-to-self so I don’t forget some of the stuff I figured out and they’ll be deleted as soon as I don’t need them anymore.


Updates

54 minutes, 141 words.

Total words: 279.

Well, not great, but it’s something, right?

Will have to do better tomorrow.

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.

Practicing longer session lengths today

Writing longer is a problem I need to tackle. So today I am writing in one hour blocks. Practice is the key to improvement, right? So practice I will!

Also, I might reach a higher wph with a shorter session but I have a real problem doing a great many sessions. At least with the one hour blocks, even if I just finish one, I’m almost guaranteed to have a few more words than I’ll get from fifteen minutes. ;)

On that note, though, I am planning to do three of them, for three hours of timed writing today, minimum. As long as I reach 519 wph, I’ll reach 1,557 words. I have stuff to do today that isn’t writing, so I also want to finish those three hours relatively early. Relative, because it’s already 11:20 and I’m just about to have breakfast.

Yes, I did stay up too late, and I don’t have any writing to show for it. Kind of sad, huh?


Update

Well, I didn’t write. I started reading a book and it was good, and I just never got started writing. Then I had things to do and came home tired. I would have gone to bed early but the spider infestation made itself known again (another spider tried to crawl up my bed—the third one in four days!) and I started vacuuming ceilings at 10:30 and finished at about midnight. Really shouldn’t have procrastinated that the night before. :o After that I had to take a shower because I was ridiculously hot and sweaty. Got in bed at 1 a.m. All I can say is that if they’re using old webs to travel the skies, the spiders are going to have to build some new ones. Maybe I’ll get a few days of peace out of that. This is the problem with living in the middle of the woods on a mountain. Ortho can’t save you, unfortunately. Spiders are everywhere. I hate spiders.