NaNoWriMo: I Cheated

Okay, cheating at a self imposed deadline is basically cheating yourself. In most cases I would say cheating yourself is a bad idea, in this case it was an accomplishment I had to complete.

Five minutes till midnight on the 30th I was 1100 words short on my NaNo project. I managed to write TEN THOUSAND words that day. That is a feat that usually takes me two weeks, and I did it in one day. When midnight came I decided to give myself an hour to finish, and declare myself a winner.

I put in my numbers, and continued writing. At 1:03 am I hit 50,011 words.

Each year when I do NaNoWriMo I set out with one goal, learn something new about my writing, or myself. Win or loose the actual challenge I have always learned something. This year was no different. This year I had no excuses to “lose” the challenge, so figuring out the secret to winning made all the difference. And it was such a simple thing, and yet so difficult, to figure out.

Time management.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with time management. For most of my life my time was dictated by a job, or school for my children or myself. Things like doctors appointments, shopping trips, and even sleep revolve around the schedule dictated by someone else. When I was free of all that I thought “now I have time to write,” but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

There are so many things to distract us. Sometimes we get bogged down in those things, turn on the tv and sink into episode after episode of whatever we’re interested in, or loose hours in a game. It’s easy. It’s fun. It makes us happy. And when you don’t have that daily thing like a day job to set your schedule to it’s so much easier just to say “I’ll get to that later.”

So this year during NaNoWriMo I learned that I have to find some balance to my schedule. It doesn’t have to be strict, and it can change when necessary, but I had to find something that worked for me so I could prioritize the important things.

The first thing I did, which worked fantastic to get me through the end of NaNoWriMo, was download Toggl. With this app I was able to track what I was doing, for how long, and actually get a good look at how much time I was wasting. Once I logged things into the app I could click a button to easily toggle tracking for specific things. Items can be lumped in to projects so you can easily see where time is spent. For me house care includes cooking, cleaning, and taking care of things for the home. Admin includes marketing, blog posts, and research. Writing is….writing. And me time is all the gaming, reading, and everything else I do just for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last three days I only tracked 24 hours. It’s going to take some time to get used to using it, but the app is going to help me increase my productivity by allowing me to see where all my time is going. It takes away all the excuses and shows you exactly what you’re using your time for.

I want to track everything for a few weeks to get a base line of where my time goes, but once I have that base line I expect I will only track work and household related time.

Of course this has a second consequence… I had been using the excuse that I was “working up” to 2k words a day. I learned that when I am writing well I write 33 words a minute, that’s about 1k every half hour. Of course editing, and certain tough chapters, will be slower, but the more I think about it the more I realize I should be writing a whole lot more every week. I will have to see how far I can get if I work harder to put in the time.

Expect more updates as I get this time management thing under control, and hopefully that means new books as well. After all, I just wrote 50k words in one of them.

NaNoWriMo Prep

National Novel Wring Month, or more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, is in just a couple week.

Ah, November, the month of wracking your brain, keyboards clacking, and endless words. A month in which insane people get together on forums, and coffee shops, and write 50,000 words of a story. How I love it!

I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for many years now. I have “won” all of them except for the last two. And this year I want to get back on the horse, so I’m changing things up a bit.

I know that I find it easier to write if I know what I’m writing. Thankfully I have a new outline of 3400 words. Most of my outlines usually end up about 10% of the actual book length, but I know where I need to fill in the story a bit more so I’m fairly confidant this story can get to 50k easily.

Last year I had an outline for a story but failed, and it wasn’t because the outline wasn’t good. I still think I’d like to revisit that story at some point, but it was a story in a new world that I hadn’t developed, or found a voice for. That made it nearly impossible for me to write. I kept rewriting sections, deleting parts, or stalling out because I had a setting, world, and plot, but the characters weren’t developed. I didn’t know who they were, and I couldn’t find their voice.

This year I’m working on book 4 in a series that is already established. I know the characters, their weaknesses, their desires, and the trouble their going to find. This will help me keep going for most, if not all of the month.

The lovely thing about starting a new story…. I can write so much in the first few weeks of it, getting ideas out of my head, and finding a rhythm easily. It’s after that lovely burst of creativity fades that I finally come up for air and the dreaded internal editor rears its ugly head. I fight the foul demon off again, and make a mad dash for the finish line, only to be tripped up by him moments from the crossing. This time I will scrape the internal editor off my bruised muse, shove it back in a bottle, and keep going. I intend to win.

I’ve also been making a discovery about my writing habits. For the longest time I wrote in the evenings after the children went to bed, when I had a few moments to myself. Now that I don’t have children I find that I tend to get lost in youtube, or a book, or something else if I let myself. I used to hate writing in the morning before my brain was fully awake, but I’m starting to realize that is now the best time for me to start. Because if I start, and I just get a hundred words out before my coffee, then it’s easier to keep going.

This is a massive change, and really hard for me to do. I used to sit down with a warm coffee of coffee, and something for breakfast with something cheerful to watch on youtube. It was my way of waking up fully, and greeting the day.

Now I’m shoving that all aside. Actively trying to avoid anything other than words for the first moments of the day. It is a habit built over decades, and it will take a while to break it, but I’m confidant I can.

I will be writing more blog posts next month so that I can keep up on my writing and share what is happening on that front. Look forward to that.

8 in the morning

It’s 8 in the morning. The sun is rising above the tree tops, and the squirrels have started to play across the roof. I can hear them scampering across the ceiling, or dropping pine cones from above. There is one cheeky fellow that likes to sit on the tree right outside my window and make noise. It’s a weird growly noise that I did not know could come from a squirrel. I almost thought it was in pain the first time I heard it, but now. It jumped from the roof to the tree and back again, angrily swishing its tail and me as it scampered back and forth.

Who needs coffee when you have squirrels?

I have been awake for twenty-four hours now. Sleep is starting to poke me, wondering when I’ll give in, but not yet being insistent about it. This is not unusual for me. I have no schedule, therefore I enjoy the darker hours when the nights are cooler. Texas is a hot place, after all, and I have not acclimatized. I don’t know that I will at this rate.

I should be writing. That’s why I’m sitting here at my desk with the pc in front of me. I am denying myself the video games I want to play while the page of words sits open on my desktop.

I tried to read them, and something balks. Some part of me that knows there’s something wrong with the story, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I want so much to finish it, but I want it to be good. I want it to be enjoyed. And maybe that’s why it’s taking me a little longer to finish this one then it should. I don’t want to fail.

But we all fail, right? The plumber who goes from house to house fixing drains and repairing sinks has failed at times. He didn’t let the glue set long enough, or he forgot his wrench, or he didn’t swerve in time to miss that thing in the road that gave him a flat tire. But his mistakes could cost a family water damage in their home, or repairs on his car. For me….it’s words on a page.

The first time I entered NaNoWriMo we talked about that. Getting the words on the page, turning off the internal editor and just writing. Even if it’s bad. Even if you know you have to rewrite it. Because even if you have to rewrite it that’s faster than not writing at all.

Lately I’ve been forgetting that. I wrote a few pieces that just seemed to flow, and the words came naturally. I didn’t have major pieces to rewrite. I didn’t write whole chapters knowing there was something wrong with them and I would have to go back and redo everything. But it’s better to write something than nothing at all.

So here I am, turning off that editor, and going to go write garbage. And maybe, probably, it will be better than I think it is. But first, the first draft.

Stars and Cards

I’ve published TWO things this weekend!

First, Stars End. A collection of science fiction short stories that you can read in bite size pieces.

The four short stories contained inside explore what life might mean in a distant future when space travel and longevity are things humanity take for granted.

Second, I’ve been working on Vertigo, a card based litRPG, for a while. I decided I wanted to publish it on Royal Road and Wattpad as a free title. So you can find the first to chapters there right now.

New chapters will be uploaded every weekend.

This is an experiment to see if it encourages me to write more. I’m hoping that writing in such a public way will force me to stay accountable to myself.

It also makes me happy that my daughter drew the figure on the cover. I gave her a basic idea of what to draw and she went with it.

I already have several chapters of Vertigo ready to go, I’m just editing and cleaning them up before posting every week. That doesn’t mean the other writing stops, it just means fora day or two a week I am devoted to one chapter from Vertigo. But it’s been fun, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Short or Long?

Sometimes when you’re working on novels you can get to a point where progress seems so far away, and sometimes you can get disheartened. Even want to quite, or procrastinate.

There was a talk Adam Savage gave once where he said at some point in every project he feels like he has no business making. A man who creates amazing replicas, props, and cosplays that the world loves. A man who does one day builds that many would struggle to do in a month. Someone who has working on major motion pictures, and The Mythbusters. And he feels like he has no business making.

And that’s how I feel writing a novel. I am sure that many creatives feel like that, like they are an importer and shouldn’t even bother trying to create whatever it is you are creating. I get so far into a novel, hit that wall, and it feels insurmountable. But I keep going, a little at a time, pushing to get to the end because I know once I reach it I will have something awesome.

I’ve picked up little tricks here and there to help me get through it. One of them is writing short stories when I’m really stuck. At the moment I have been editing a few of the finished short stories I have, and trying to finish four other short stories. Since they are shorter I can usually finish one much faster than a novel, and that little boost keeps me going for the larger projects. Plus the stories I am working on currently are science fiction, while the novel I am working on is fantasy. This allows me a change of scenery, so to speak, and take a breather before going back to the novel.

Speaking of the short stories, I think I’m about ready to publish some of them. Another pass of the editors wand, and they should work well as an anthology. Oh, and a cover. The other four short stories I am still completing I already have a cover for, I just have to finish three of the shorts.

But the novel is still my priority. I’ve been working at a (mostly) steady pace trying to get through the second half of the book. I’ve hit a few snags with the plot, but I think I’ll be able to untangle them. Plot holes, they are my nemesis! Funny, it used to be fight scenes. Now I have a system for the fight scenes and I have more trouble with the time line. I think that’s because the story is taking place over the course of a year and I want it to reflect that.

My daily word count goal dipped a little in august, so I’m working hard to get them back up to what I consider a good pace. I still want to hit 1000 words a day by the end of the year, which means pushing harder and making fewer excuses. But I’m working on it.

By the way, here is a really good video about why many of us procrastinate, and some great ways to fight against it.

Now… off to write about dragons.

One Million Words!

I just broke a million words written. At least officially.

They say to be a good writer you need to write a lot, and read a lot. Somewhere along the line someone said “You need to write a million words before you start to get good.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but since I heard that it has been my goal. To write 1 million words worth of stories.

Of course I’ve been writing since I could form sentences, so I am sure that I’ve written well over a million words in my lifetime, but I haven’t been tracking them the entire time. I also didn’t think it was fair to count the words that I end up throwing away due to grammar/spelling/etc issues. I count them in my daily word count goals, but not when it came to the big number, the million words written.

In the million words I count the stories that I have finished and published, as well as the current projects I’m working on. I have another section just for ideas, dead stories, and anything that probably won’t get written any time soon.

I found that keeping track of what stories I am working on, how far along they are, and which ones are finished and waiting to be published has helped me keep on track a lot. Before I started doing this I had trouble finishing anything. It’s too easy to chase the shiny new thing instead of finishing the project in front of you.

Of the million words I have in active and published projects I have published just over half a million words. That means my next goal is to publish the other half a million. That could be six novels, or a whole lot of short stories, but I think I can get there. The question is how fast. Let’s see, shall we?

Hello Seattle!

I’m out and about in the world again.
Yesterday morning we boarded a plane from Houston to Seattle. It started off with almost being late. Not us, the plane. We were there, in the waiting area, looking at the plane at the entryway waiting for us to board, but apparently it was having some technical issues. First they announced a delay, then they came back and said the plane was being decommissioned for the day and they are looking for a new plane for us. Then finally they said “never mind, the plane is fine, we’ll be using this one, we just had a lot of paperwork to do so load up everyone.”
Ya, that was interesting.
Both Gregg and I were really tired since we hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, so we dozed in and out on the flight. It was only 4 hours, which is a fantastic length for a flight. Much longer than that and I start getting antsy to just get up and move.
Also on the flight I had my trusty writing laptop. By that I mean my kindle fire and a blue toothed keyboard so that I could write on the go. It’s fantastic in this sort of situation because it doesn’t take up much room, and there isn’t much else I can do on the Fire without internet, and there isn’t any internet at 10,000 feet in the air.
I had been working on The Half Blood Sorceress book 2 for the past two months, but I ran into some plotting issues with timelines, so work on that has been slowed down a bit. For this trip I decided I needed something I could just write and enjoy since I would be gone for a week, and writing all week. And that’s what I did. I choose a random file on my tablet and just got to work.
It’s amazing how much writing you can get done when there is absolutely no pressure. This is a stand alone story, it is pretty straight forward, and it has some fun characters. It’s just fun to write. So even though I was a little tired, and on a cramped plane flying over the middle of the USA. I had no distractions since I couldn’t see out the window. Just writing, and the soft snores of my boyfriend as he tried to get a little rest.
Speaking of my boyfriend, Bjorn. If you follow Guild Wars at all you may have watched the stream where they announced heir new expansion. If you did then you would have seen Bjorn at the end of the stream, all dressed to the 9’s in his Norn cosplay. That is why we came to Seattle, though I tagged along because I missed our family.

He is almost done with it all, packing up his cosplay as I write this, while I get a little writing in at the hotel. Once we are done with all of that then it is off to spend some time with my kids, his parents, and a lot of friends we left back in Seattle.
I’ve missed Seattle. It’s a lovely town, and the weather is so much nicer (read that cooler) than Texas. Don’t get me wrong, Texas has its perks too, but Seattle is the home of my heart. Mostly because it is overcast most of the time, and I don’t feel like my eyes are bleeding every time I step out of the door.
On that note, I’m going to go enjoy the last hour alone in the hotel room before Bjorn gets back from the cosplay show. Then it’s off to family and friends. I hope your weekend is going just as awesome!