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What is slow?

I just read this article about slow writers, and their place in the current Amazon world. They make some valid points about certain authors who advocate for writing fast and not editing. I also advocate just getting that first draft out and on the page, and then turning it over and writing something else. That is because a person who writes often, and a lot, has more practice then someone who does not.

But I digress, the question today is “what is slow?”

I know the guys over at Self Publishing Podcast can crank out the wordage. They managed to publish quite a few books last year. I think they are slowing down this year to focus a little more on their brand and put a little more time into their writing, but even then they still crank out more words in a month then I do in three.

Dean Wesley Smith writes TONS of words every single day. He also advocates Heinlein’s Rules about writing fast and not editing (unless your editor tells you to.) He has some great reasons to do so. He also has good examples of published writers who do write incredibly fast. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and every other author on this list. From authors that wrote a short story every week (because no one can write 52 bad short stories) to those who wrote several novels a year.

Then there are others who wrote one single book and earned great acclaim. Withering Heights by Emily Bronte. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Gone with the Wind by Margret Michelle. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. All books that have made their way into the national culture, film, cartoons, spin offs, etc.

A huge difference between Ralph Ellison and Stephen King… One makes a living as an author. The other made his living in other things and also wrote a fantastic book that has inspired generations. Not to say that Stephen King hasn’t written some wonderful things, some of which might inspire others along their path. Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick and Isaac Asimov were all extremely prolific authors who made their living writing. Their works are now considered classics that will inspire and influence our culture for a very long time.

To me I suppose when I say I am slow it is because I am unsatisfied with how quickly I am writing. I know I can do more, spend more time at it, and get the ideas out of my head and on to the paper.

I think if you want to make a living at being a writer then you have to write enough to sustain that career. Every author who has come forward to say they are currently making a comfortable living off of their writing has said the same thing: they write almost every day, and they write a lot. You can not sustain a house, cell phone, car, water, and electricity off of one book in a lifetime… not unless that was a REALLY good book. And striking that really good book isn’t likely. It happens to one author every couple of years. Do you know how many authors there are out there right now?

There is something to be said for writers who are still learning their craft, honing their skills, and fine tuning their instruments. A pianist doesn’t go out to play in front of a crowd until he’s had years of practice. And those of us who started writing as children have an advantage. We had those years of honing our skills while others were out playing kick ball and hop scotch. You, the beginning writer, need to take that time to hone those skills and become more comfortable with your words. Take that time, get it right, and then decide what you want to do with those words. What level are you comfortable at.

There is also room for the part time author. The author who has a “day job” while they write. (That’s what I’m doing.) I am still an author. That is how I think of myself, and how I introduce myself, because that is what I am even if I don’t make my entire living off of it.

How slow is slow? That depends on your goals. For me I feel slow because I know I can do more, and I feel that I need to because I want more then anything to be writing full time. To get out of the rat race once and for all. I need to write faster, which for me just means less time gaming and more time on scrivener.

But you have to make your own decision. You have to find what your comfortable with, and decide if that fits the life style you eventually want. It might mean you are perfectly happy with exactly where you are. It might mean putting in extra hours every week to learn that skill, to get better on your instrument so that you can finally play for the crowd.

(Also listen to this great podcast with Neil Gaiman who comments on the subject of writing every day, finishing, and breaking through the wall.)

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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in On Writing

 

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Back tracking

zombie miniA while ago I started working on a short story called Zombie Swarm. I even came up with a cover that I really liked.

So why isn’t it out? Because as much as I liked the concept and several of the scenes of that story, it just wasn’t good enough.

The biggest problem was easy to fix. I added a few more characters. The whole situation wasn’t very convincing or suspenseful enough so it ended up falling a little flat. Most of the story takes place inside of once little lab, but with only two people working in a lab you don’t have a lot to work with. I added three more people and suddenly things started coming together. There were more issues between characters, more problems, and more strife. Then the creature they are dealing with, I didn’t have to change it much, but I did have to add a few more scenes to the original plot, and a lot more detail.

So it meant going back, completely reworking the original plot line, and rewriting it. I threw away the 6000 words I’d already written to start all over again. But I know I’m going to have a better story because I did that, even if it really REALLY sucked throwing away 6k words that I wrote. I’m also expecting the finished story to be twice as long, at least, so that’s a plus.

Don’t be afraid to throw it out and start all over again.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in On Writing, Writers Block

 

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Creative Blocks

So today I did my Vlog about frustrations of finishing, and publishing, SOMETHING. Anything. Well, especially my trilogy that I’ve been working on for all of 2014.

Well, it’s 2015, and I guess I needed a break. My boyfriend gave me a little pep talk (Crissy, you need to write, stop making excuses.) and I sat down to do so. But I couldn’t face my trilogy again. Not after all that time spent on it. So I switched to another project, the one that I was actually going to work on once this trilogy was finished. And what do you know, in 15 minutes I’d already written 500 words.

Sometimes you need to take a break. Sometimes you need to mope for a few minutes and get your frustrations out. And sometimes you just need to shelf the project for a little while and work on something else. So that’s what I’m doing. Mermaid’s Curse won’t be shelved forever, but it will probably be a week or two before I get back to it. A month at most. Till then I have to work on something. So I’m working on Eternal Tapestry book 1. (You know, the book that comes before Forgotten Ones. Can I never write anything in order?)

(BTW, I finished with 750 for the night since it’s already midnight and I have work tomorrow. But that’s way better then zero.)

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Stories, Writing Exercise

 

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End of the Year

It’s almost the new year. Christmas is coming and everything is coming to a close. It’s time to asses what I’ve done with my writing for this year.

Last year, 2013, I wrote a total of 211,727 words. 14% of which was this blog. That’s not bad.

This year I’ve already written 226,665 words. 125 of which was this blog. That means I wrote a lot more in my books, and less in this blog.

I finished writing, and published one short story this year. Footprints back in April, and another chapter of Absolon. I’m kind of disappointed in that because last year I published 17 short stories and three novellas. Yes, it’s true that I was working on most of them for part of 2012, and completed them during 2013 to publish. It’s also true that this year I have almost completed a trilogy of full length novels. One is about to go to an editor, and the other two should be three months apart.

It just feels like I didn’t accomplish anything with my writing. I know I’m being harder on myself then I should be. I wrote more then I did last year, and have three nearly completed NOVELS. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But not enough publishing going on here. This is why a writer can’t judge themselves solely on published works.

So… I’ve got two weeks till the end of the year, and I’d like to do something to close out the year with a little bit of a success. I’d like to finish with a good 250,000 words under my belt. That’s just 23,335 words to go. I think I can do that. It will be a lot of work, and I’ve got a few things going on, but it’s one hell of a challenge. (This is including blog writing too, so not as difficult as it sounds. Not like NaNoWriMo which is just the novel.)

Next year I want to actually PUBLISH the damn novels. All three of them. Plus a few short stories. I’d also like to up my word count to 300,000 for the year. That’s only a little over 800 a day. I CAN DO THIS! Heck, if I’m really good I’ll stretch it to 500k for the next year. Let’s see where this can go!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in On Writing

 

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Aaaaand DONE!

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileI finished writing 50,023 words for my book, “Mermaid’s Curse” at 8:35 am the morning of Nov 30th. I am kind of shocked that I was able to finish so early. Not only that, but I only had 1300 words to write that morning.

Every year that I’ve done NaNoWriMo before I’ve been faced with the last day rush to get words. 8000 one year, 10000 another. It got to the point where I just threw words at the page hoping to see what stuck later in editing, and most of it was terrible.

First drafts are suppose to be terrible. But it isn’t always good to feel like nothing you write has any value except words on a page either. When you’re so tired you are holding your eyes open with toothpicks, and your back and neck hurt from all the typing, all you want to do is curl into bed and sleep, that’s when your writing suffers the most.

So, this year I’m going to share what made a real difference. Why did this year feel different from every other year? And why doesn’t it feel like I am so exhausted and sick of writing that I can’t pick up the keyboard this month?

Practice and Reality

dataFor the last two years I’ve been trying to write every day. That hasn’t always worked. I could give you lots of excuses as to why this hasn’t always worked, and of course there are days when things came up, or I was sick, or there was a lot going on… But the truth is most of the days I failed to write I just didn’t feel like writing. I was lazy. I didn’t take my writing seriously enough.

In October, for the first time, I actually started realizing how important writing was to me. I wrote a bit about this earlier this month, and the two things that really seemed to help. This was my reality check. I had to decide this thing, this writing, was important to me. More important than the job I go to 5 days of the week. More important than video games, or board games, or long soaks in the tub. (not that I can give up or stop doing all of those things, just that I had to decide what was more important.)

Once I got the reality check I started practicing writing every day in earnest. That meant that when NaNoWriMo came along I was willing and able to take up my own challenge and slay some writers block demons. And do so with excitement because “This was my story, and I loved it, and I wanted to see it finished!”

Be prepared for distraction

Things will get in the way. My daughter made an unexpected trip home. There was Thanksgiving, and a day where I felt sick. I had a day when I was literally so exhausted I almost feel asleep at the keyboard.

These things are going to happen. Prepare for them. I did this by always striving for 2k a day from day one. I wrote 2k a day more than half of the month. That’s what allowed me to finish NaNoWriMo that morning without stressing over it. I only had 1300 words and two hours before work. No problem because I had already been putting in 2k a day most of the month. This morning it was just the pure excitement of “OMG I’M ALMOST DONE” that got me to do it so quickly.

Listen to your body

I had a few days where I couldn’t quite reach 2k for the day because I was so tired. Being tired does not help your writing. When I was exhausted I tended to write much slower, and the words I wrote were far more likely to be deleted the next day. The next morning I still had work, and I was still exhausted. When I got home that night I would get to write and find myself doing even worse than the day before.

About a week in I decided that I wasn’t going to play that merry game of chasing my tail anymore. Nope, time to listen to my body. My body said sleep, I was going to sleep, darn it, and forget about writing that day. Each time I got to about 400-500 words and started feeling my eyes start to droop I’d close the programs, turn off the PC, and go to bed. The next day I would almost always manage to get 2.5k words out in a few hours.

Small Steps

I also talked a bit here about how I would listen when my brain started to wander and then I’d go do something else. After a bit I’d come back and write some more.

I’ve learned that I can do about 500 words in thirty minutes. Then after a short break I could come back and do it all over again. Four thirty minute sessions got me the 2k words I wanted for the day.

They are small steps, each step carving out a little more of the story, sharing it. And adding it to the already piled up masses of FINISHED chapters.

Take Joy in Small Accomplishments

About a week and a half from the end of NaNoWriMo I started to have a few new challenges. I was getting to the point where I had lots of words, but nothing finished. The chapters were in pieces, with lots of connecting sentences that read “and they did this and this until this happened” before going on to the next scene that I had been able to write. I needed to finish those connecting pieces so that I had a complete chapter.

So I got out my scrivener file and I just sat down and started on page one. Working my way down the page I filled in all those little pieces, and after half an hour I had a finished chapter. I added a little asterisk to the title of that chapter and went onto the next chapter.

After a couple of days the asterisks started adding up. I am done with the first twelve chapters of Mermaid’s Curse 3, and the rest of them are mostly finished. Each time I added that asterisk that said “this is done, it just needs and edit” I felt buoyed and wanted to keep going. It was awesome.

Take joy in the small accomplishments, because they eventually add up.

I have about 15,000 words to go to complete this novel, and then I will have a completed trilogy to send off to the editor. I think I’m incredibly excited! NaNoWriMo was a success for me!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in NaNoWriMo, On Writing, Updates, Writers Block

 

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NaNoWriMo

I wrote about my strategy to pay attention to my bodies desires and write for a bit, get up and move around, then write some more. It was a fantastic plan, and I’ve been doing it regularly. The trouble is that things get in the way sometimes. I still have to write, of course, but those things make following my bodies natural rhythms difficult.

SLEEP

I haven’t been getting much. Plain and simple, I just am not right now. Part of this is that my boyfriend moved in, and our work schedules do not synced up very well. I tend to like writing at night after the house has settle down, usually from 10pm to 1am. He wakes up at 5:30am. This throws my sleep scheduled off a lot since I have difficulty going back to sleep afterward.

It’s okay for a while, but I’ve been finding myself taking naps after work lately just to make it through the night. The nice part is that his schedule will change soon and hopefully I’ll be getting more sleep.

Worse? Both of us have been working massive amounts of overtime at our respective jobs. This has left me less down time to just relax and have time to myself, especially since the one day a week I have off is devoted to dentist appointments, shopping, and other necessities of living. I’m tired. I’m writing anyway.

Family Obligations

A while ago I wrote about my daughter coming home and having to go pick her up from the bus. This was a huge sap on my writing schedule and I have been struggling to catch up ever since. I’ve written 2000 words on a lot of those days since then, but with the lack of sleep, and a few other things going on I just haven’t caught up. I’m currently 4k behind and it’s looking like I’m going to stay hovering at 3-4k behind till the very last day.

BUT!

dataagainNaNoWriMo, for me, is a learning experience each year. This year I’ve learned that writing 1500 words a day isn’t difficult, and I’m hoping to stay at that level even after NaNoWriMo is over. What really is amazing to me is that over the last twenty two days I’ve had four days of less then 1000 words. FOUR DAYS! That’s kind of amazing for me. And on those days I still wrote almost 500 words most days. That is extremely different for me and incredible in and of itself.

Before this month my average for writing was 3-500 words. That’s it. Some days less, some days more, but never enough to make me feel like writing could be a full time career. A writer needs to do one thing above all others: write. If you aren’t writing then how can you make a living writing? Does a swimmer swim? Does a musician play an instrument? If they aren’t doing that thing then how do they make the money?

So the fact that my writing has increased steadily, and that I now feel comfortable, almost elated to have so many words a day, is fantastic. I know that when I switch over to doing edits that word count is going to drop, but hopefully I can work on a project in the evenings and edit in the mornings. I’m not quite sure about that one yet, but I’ll have a perfect opportunity to find out after NaNoWriMo, and book three of my trilogy is complete.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in NaNoWriMo

 

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No you can not write!

keep-calm-because-stuff-happensWe make plans. Then something happens. That’s life.

Last night I got a surprise call from my daughter. “I’m coming home mom. They shut down school because of a big blizzard coming through and sent us home. Come pick me up at the bus station”… at 10 pm.

Bus was an hour late late. Drive was 45 min each way.

I did manage to write 500 words yesterday, but as of this moment I am 3866 words behind. That’s 15.5 pages.

Can I write that much in a day? Probably not. I’ve got things to do today. But I will be working really hard over the next few days to catch back up to the daily goal so that I don’t have to write 10k words in one day at the end of NaNoWriMo.

So what did we learn? If you’ve got to sit at the bus station waiting for your daughter for an hour maybe you should bring a way to write for a little bit, even if it’s on your phone. I wasn’t prepared to do that.

Also, stuff happens. No matter how much you plan, how well things are going, stuff is going to come up. It’s going to side track you and throw you off. But you just keep plowing threw.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in NaNoWriMo

 

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