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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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!

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.

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.

NaNoWriMo day 10

data1I love this book!

Maybe it’s just that I love that my attitude toward writing has shifted so much, and that I finally, FINALLY, feel like I can do this.

So here is my data for the month so far. Notice day five with the almost 500 words. I was exhausted that day with lots of things going on, and at about 1am just decided sleep was better then forcing myself to keep going. So I went to bed. And the very next day I wrote almost 2500 words.

But the really awesome part? Day five when I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally, and I just didn’t want to look at the computer any more let alone keep my eyes open… My worst day this month so far was better then my best day most of the rest of the year.

For the last year I had been trying to get my daily word count to 500-1000. It ended up being between 300 and 500. But now? This month? It’s 1600 and holding strong. In fact if you get rid of that one 500 word day my daily average is 1800 words. And I am loving it!

Why the change?

I think two things have really helped me change. First of all, I read 2k to 10k last month. While I had heard her talk about many of the things that helped her get to 10k words a day, for some reason reading it made a couple things click. A big thing was the plotting. When you get stuck take out some paper (or in my case I just switch to red text on the PC) and jot down notes of what you want to happen in that chapter. I’ve been doing a lot more of that. But she also talked about having fun with your writing. Enjoying it. After all, if you find it boring and tedious so is your reader.

The second was an interview with Dean Wesly Smith on Rocking Self Publishing. He kept going on about how much he loved writing, and how it wasn’t work, it was play. Then he said one summer he had to dig ditches on a golf course in the blistering heat. That was work. Making up worlds isn’t work, digging ditches is.

I’ve dug ditches before. I fed farm animals, plowed fields, mucked out horse stalls, and everything else you can think of on a farm. I’ve changed lots of dirty diapers, and wiped the snot off little kids noses for years on end. That was work. All of that was work.

Writing? It’s fun. It’s still a lot of time and effort, but it’s fun effort. And it’s worth it. I love it.

That change in attitude right there is really what got my word count up. And I think I’ll keep it come next month and the end of NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Update

For my data loving friends, I’m about to get a little nerdy on you.

data

This is my daily word count for NaNoWriMo during 2012,2013 and the few days of this year. Notice a trend? I was always struggling to stay on top of things with a huge push at the end (6-8k words on the last day.)

I don’t want to have to write 8k words in one night just to finish NaNoWriMo on time. Not this year. So this year I’ve managed to stay up on my word count pretty well so far. Day 5 I only did 250 words, so ended a bit short (because family always comes before writing… I think…) but last night I got my stride and wrote 2400 words, just 500 short of yesterdays goal, and really easy to catch up with today.

What I’ve learned so far? Small chunks.

Before I was trying to sit at the computer and just crank it all out at once, which left me feeling tired, annoyed, aggravated, and bordering on the “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE” wagon. This time I am taking smaller chunks. I start earlier in the evening, write until I feel my attention start to wander, then get up and walk away from the computer. Cuddle with the boyfriend, whip up some dinner, clean something or watch a show on TV, then back to the grind.

I did this all day yesterday, my one day off, and noticed that those chunks of word counts started going up. First, 250 in thirty minutes. Then 500 in thirty minutes. Then 700 in forty-five minutes. The last chunk was about 1000 words, and may have been about an hour long. I’m not exactly sure because I wasn’t keeping track of individual writing sessions, just the completed writing session. I do know that I wrote more in one day than at any other time (except that last day of NaNo) but still felt refreshed and raring to go. I would have written more if my body hadn’t started crying for sleep.

I’ve heard Johnny B Truant talk about the 20/20 method where you set a timer and write for 20 minutes, then go do something else for 20 minutes, then come back and write for another 20 minutes. Timers and I just don’t get along, I barely know what day it is most of the time, so though I tried valiantly to do this method it just didn’t work for me.

What I did was similar, but focused more on my body, and what it wanted instead of some predetermined clock. By listening to my body I was able to get more words out, and actually wrote faster each time. Stepping away from the computer. Doing something else when my brain wanted to wander. It gave me that little reset that allowed me to keep going.

So the goal for today is at least 2050 words, which will get me back on coarse. But I’m not going to stop there. I’m going to do the same thing I did yesterday, listen to my body and my wandering mind, and see how far it will take me. For once I’d like to be OVER that bar instead of under it, or even just scraping by.

NaNoWriMo day 3

I can’t believe how well it’s going, and yet I don’t want to jinx it. It’s only day three, but I’m on target, and feeling good about this novel.

My secret? The best plot ever!

Plot it out!
I’ve always been more of a pantser then a plotter, but this time I did some really thorough beats. I was influenced by the guys over at SPP who showed how they did beats, and put out a TON of wordage every month. I want that wordage! So I beat out the story, since I already had a basic plot, and gave myself a more complete skeleton on which to work my writing magic. The results? Two hours. TWO HOURS of writing gives me my word count for the day. There is no fuss, no muss, and then I can spend the evening cuddling on the couch with my boyfriend. THAT makes plotting worth it.

EXCITEMENT!
I just finished Mermaid’s Curse 1 last week, so I had a bit of excitement left over from finishing that project. Then I finished a really fantastic plot for book three (kind of Lovecraft meets high fantasy) and I just loved it. The plot got me excited, and if I’m excited I’m more confidant that a reader will love it too.

Write what you love, people. Don’t just write whatever comes to mind. You love dinosaurs? Write about them. You love romance? Write that. You love tanks and battle fields? Write that! Whatever it is you absolutely love use that as part of your story and that love will come through.

Time
Time is a huge thing for me. In order to really get into the groove of writing I need an hour, at least, to get fully into it. That means no children waiting to distract me, no games, no email, no TV shows. Just me, the headphones, and some chillstep playing in the background on loop. I even listen to the same exact video on youtube every time I start writing because it just tells my body: okay, time to get down to business.

Time is sometimes the hardest thing to get when you’re writing. Some of our friends and family just don’t get why why are doing NaNo, or why we even care about writing in the first place. Some of our friends don’t even read (why are you friends with people who don’t read? kidding!). But we have to be firm, and unrepentant. This is important to us, for whatever reason, and it isn’t fair of them to try to take it away. How would they feel if we got in the way of their hobby/craft/work/etc?

In the zone!
This last one… The “zone” is not a muse waiting to give you her affection when she feels like it. No, the zone is a place you figure out how to get into, and then you do the same thing to get into it every time.

A runner who does marathons trains for months, if not years, until he finally slips into a ground eating rhythm that lets him run, and FINISH, a marathon. A singer trains their voice for years so that they can hold and sustain notes, sing at a consistent level, and perform in front of crowds for hours. Whatever the craft, these things take practice. It takes training the mind and body to do these things, and do them consistently. Why would writing be any different.

I found the things that made writing easier for me (writing at night, listening to chillstep, uninterrupted) and did them over and over and over while writing. It’s taken a year, but I finally feel like I could sit down and write just by setting aside that block of time, turning on my music, and going over yesterdays writing till something strikes.

It’s the consistent pattern, the butt in chair time, that make the zone, or the muse come to you instead of waiting for them to appear from thin air.

I really believe that if you can figure out what inspires you to write, and do them consistently over a long period of time, then you will be able to consistently write more and more.