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.