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.

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?

Progress….

Quick announcement: I will have a short story free every weekend for a while, so if you follow me on Amazon, or here, or join my newsletter, you can get information about the free short stories. I will be trying to get a few new, never before seen, short stories out soon as well, so look for those.

Now on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

I decided to catch up on some files today and see what I’ve been doing. It’s the middle of the year, and the third month into my “writing for a living” adventure, so it seems fitting. I think I’m doing more check ins since going full time, but this helps me gauge how well I’m doing with the word count and keep things in perspective.

Sorry but this is going to have a bunch of numbers. There will also be a summery at the end.

Since 2012 I have published 33 short stories, 6 novellas and 5 full length novels. (Novella is 10-49k, shorts are less, novels more.) That’s just over half a million words published. Of course many of the short stories are in anthologies so I only have 24 books out, but… that’s a lot of stories that I’ve completed. It’s hard to see how many things I’ve completed since I am often working on a single book for months at a time with no end, so it’s good to remember that I can, and have, completed stories.

This year has also had it’s busy moments with moving twice (in Feb and May) slowing me down a bit. But I’m still getting a steady stream of words out, and so far this year I’ve written 79,000 words. April has been my best month to date with 22.6k words written, and of course Feb, the month we moved to Texas, was the worst. Considering we packed for two weeks straight then drove for five days I’m glad I got any work done at all in Feb.

For a little bit of comparison, in 2017 and 2018 I wrote a total of just over 100k words each year. That’s all twelve months, including my attempt at NaNoWriMo which I failed both years. This year, and it’s only the first week of June, I’m already at 80k, and I should hit the 100k mark by end of month. Most of that writing has been since March so I’m on track.

My average daily word count has gone up from 300 to 900 words a day. It fluctuates, of course, but I try to get at least 500 on the days when we’re busy with things, like moving. So far it’s worked. The goal is to get to 2k a day by the end of this month. Eventually I’d like to get to 5k a day, but that’s going to take some stretching of the muscles.

These averages are written words on days that I write. I try not to skip days, but there are always days when you’re inundated with other things, like doctor appointments, travel, sickness, or the like. That is why I want to keep getting that average word count up, because I know days off happen and I want to offset them. I’ve set a monthly goal of 20k words at the moment, but I want it up to 30k soon. I’ve got to keep stretching. Keep working harder.

I haven’t done a lot of marketing. Right now my boyfriend and I agree that I just need to complete novels. Marketing can be so much easier if you have that back log of books to go through. Plus my strongest suit is in writing, not marketing, so if I have a lot to work out I will feel like I can take some time off writing to figure out the marketing bits with less issue.

I’ve also been posting a lot of artwork over on Redbubble as stickers, mugs, and things like that, as well as posting a bit more on instagram. Drawing has always been a way for me to relax and have fun, so I will be continuing to do that. I even have a coloring book out.

Summery: I’ve written a lot over the last few years, but this year has been a great increase and I’m working to get even more done. Also look for those free short stories on the weekends going forward, and a few new ones to be added.

Covers, all the covers!

 

I am expecting edits back soon for the first book in the new novels, and I’m tweeking the covers a little, but I have a finished draft.

I am so excited for this series. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, and I’m really happy with how it’s come out. I’m sure that the edits will make things shine! Plus book three is already half finished so I’m pretty confident it will be out in December.

Steel Soul: Jupiter and Cas log into the nerve gear for the first time and take on their first quest, rescuing the mayor. But things aren’t quite what they seem!

Steel Heart: The roads aren’t safe, and there’s more than in-game death at stake.

Steel Line: The Hub… and that’s the only hint you’re getting for that one till December. 😉

For the covers, the figures were all designed by Abi Grey. I did the backgrounds and typography.

Really, I can’t wait to get them out there. It’s going to be a lot of work once I get the edits back, but so worth it.

The Search for Independence: part 1

I haven’t written a blog post in a while because I didn’t really know what to say. Things are moving along on their slow way to finishing, and a lot is happening, but they are kind of up in the air at the moment.

This last couple of weeks I’ve realized that the best option for my health is to either work at a small location with few people at it, or work from home, so I’ve been looking into working from home more and more. I’ve found a lot of options, and resources, and I’m trying to find what will work best for me. I am going to be taking a multi stream income approach for the best results.

First, my books of course. I have three scheduled for the editor, one currently at the editor, and two more I am working to complete. The release will be Costume Shop by end of this month, Steel Soul in October, and Steel Heart in November. I’m hoping to have Steel Line (book three of the Steel Series, my litRPG) or Dragon’s Heart (book two of my Half Blood Sorceress series) out in December and January. That’s five books in five months! Sign up for the newsletter here to hear when they come out.

On the art front I’ve uploaded more images to redbubble for stickers, t-shirts, and the like. I’ve also got some ideas for Halloween and Christmas themed fabric for spoonflower. I’ll be doing those soon. I’m also working on drawing something every day, even if it’s just working on a larger project, and I’ve been showing the work over on Instagram. I’m considering doing some sort of comic or story line for the art, I’ll have to see if I can come up with a good story for it that can fit into a series of little strips. Right now I’m focusing on finishing a coloring book, and getting that up on amazon/etc.

And of course I have my etsy where there are pins, key chains, and other physical things I’ve made. That includes the little enamel pins you see here.

Then the last arm of my working plan….freelancing. This is the tougher one since I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve been doing some research and finding various places where I can submit to write for blogs and magazines, and it’s been an interesting learning experience. Most of them require you to do a lot of prep and fill in the questions before you can even do actual work. And learning about it is difficult too because there isn’t a guide or anything, you basically have to piece information together from other sources until you figure it out. I guess that’s why only those with perseverance make it in the freelance world. I don’t have a lot of perseverance, but I do have self preservation, and if I want to stop working in an office where I keep having asthma attacks because people wear perfume…. here’s an option. I just have to make it work.

There is one more thing, and that’s recording. I have a twitch, and two youtube channels (one for art/writing, the other for gaming) that I haven’t been using that much. I stopped using YouTube because they took away my monitization, and I wasn’t doing a lot with it anyway. Twitch I haven’t been able to do as much because I’ve been sick. I’d like to get back into making videos, probably once or twice a week. I think trying to do them every day was too much and it just got overwhelming so I stopped. I also want to stream on twitch. I really enjoy playing some of the more story driven games, like The Turing Test, and talking about the different story situations. The Turing Test has been really interesting because it deals with AI, and what separates people from machines, and when a computer becomes creative. It really made me think about Googles Deep Dream simulation, and where tech is going.

I’d also like to stream some of the artwork I’m doing, maybe some of the larger projects. I’ve done a few streams like that, but the goal is two a week. One game, one art/writing. Scheduling doesn’t quite work yet, but I’m trying to figure that out. Every time I set a schedule something comes up on those days.

The other thing I’d like to do is start tracking this progress, showing what I’m doing and where I’m succeeding and failing. I think I’ll call it “Road To Independence” and put up a video every week with my trials and tribulations, as well as my successes, so expect that. It might mean fewer games, and more working on writing/art/marketing…but if that means eventual independence I’m all for that.