Seriously, it’s time to end this thing

Alright, it’s time to put an end to my misery. I have to finish this book. Today.

Toward that end—:D—I’ve set a loose schedule and some time goals. (Time spent is really the only thing I can totally control when it comes to my writing. I’ve tried to make time quotas work in the past and they haven’t but I don’t think that changes the fundamental truth that if I want to create a daily habit of writing, I’m going to have to focus on time.)

From 11:00 – 3:15, I’m going to try to get in 3 sessions of 1.25 hours each.

I’m already late getting started because of the kittens (they think my deck is a litter box and I’m trying to break them of that habit as quickly as I can) and this post (I shouldn’t be writing it now but here I am), and there isn’t enough break time built in to make the time up easily, but I’m still going to push for it even if that means going past 3:15. If the book isn’t done by then, and I don’t really think it will be…

From 4:15 – 7:00, I’m going to try to get in 2 sessions of 1.25 hours each.

First note: As of right now, I’m planning all my future sessions to be 1.25 hours each, except on days where I might just need to write and be in a hurry and don’t keep up with time at all. I don’t want to feel locked in to the idea that I can’t write or work on my stories just because I don’t have 1.25 hours available. Those days should be rare, because I’m trying to get into a routine and this is the equivalent of my job and the work has to be done. If I can’t squeeze in a few 1.25 hour blocks of time a day for writing, then I have bigger problems. A person has to make a living somehow.

Second note: I did some reading and rereading of a few things and I’ve become convinced that pushing myself past the 4–5 hour range for time spent writing is a mistake. I deal with low motivation regularly after what I consider really good writing days, and there’s a simple explanation: burnout and need for extra rest after pushing too hard.

If I were used to longer periods of focus, it might be different, but I don’t think so. K. Anders Ericsson has some really good papers on deliberate practice and high performance. (Some other related links.) Considering the fact that I’m still under the two million words written mark for fiction (probably), I still feeling like I’m doing high-level practice every time I sit down to write. I’m not sure the good writers ever quit practicing, though, so it’s not something I expect to change. I will always be trying to get better.

One quote:

Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends, and the amount of practice never consistently exceeds five hours per day.

And from one of the linked papers:

Across many domains of expertise, a remarkably consistent pattern emerges: The best individuals start practice at earlier ages and maintain a higher level of daily practice. Moreover, estimates indicate that at any given age the best individuals in quite different domains, such as sports and music, spend similar amounts of time on deliberate practice. In virtually all domains, there is evidence that the most important activity—practice, thinking, or writing—requires considerable effort and is scheduled for a fixed period during the day. For those exceptional individuals who sustain this regular activity for months and years, its duration is limited to 2-4 h a day, which is a fraction of their time awake.

Going from my daily average word count and the fact that I average 400-600 words an hour during timed writing sessions, I average about 2 hours a day of writing time. Then I read and study and think. Publishing activities drive up the time I spend working even more. I’m going to stop feeling so damn guilty for not putting in even more time. If I ever make it up to 4 hours of writing a day, consistently, I am determined that I’ll be damn happy about it.

Anyway, I just wasted a huge chunk of time on this post and I must go write. This book is going to end today, one way or another. And yes, 5 x 1.25 = 6.25 hours. I’m pushing myself, but I’m tired of dallying with this book. I want it done.

Struggling to finish this book

I’m struggling with the schedule I made for myself, mostly because it’s really a schedule meant for my daily writing of 1,000–3,000 words. At the moment, I don’t even have a real goal, because all my focus is on finishing my book. The more often I repeat “finish the book” though, the more I seem to avoid writing anything at all.

I’m also struggling because I have significant difficulties keeping up with the passage of time in my head. Explicit start and end times for my daily activities don’t work well for me—and they never have, even when I worked for other people. It’s just not something I’m good at. I got things done and was considered a very productive employee, although I’m really not sure how that happened. Deadlines and the fact that I cared what other people thought of me, I think. I should feel that way about the people reading my books too, I guess, but for some reason I never have. Maybe it’s because I’ve always considered myself to be writing for myself, first and foremost, and for other people as an afterthought.

Anyway, it all comes down to me needing to do something just a little different tomorrow, because what I’ve been trying to do today and in the days before hasn’t been working.

Why can’t I break the Kboards habit?

I’ve gotten myself worked up into a state again, one that isn’t conducive to being creative, and I have no one to blame but myself. I know not to visit Kboards when I’m already having trouble writing—in fact, I know not to visit  at all—but I do it anyway because… because… I don’t even know why.

I keep thinking I need more writer friends but then I read (and occasionally participate in) threads and discover that I really don’t like half the people there. There are nice people at Kboards, really, but they get drowned out by the others, the ones that cannot stand, in any way, for fellow self-publishers to go their own way or walk their own path.

Since I experiment and choose to do things my own way, I don’t usually find helpful business advice there. I visit for the camaraderie—and yet rarely find it. It’s a well-moderated board, but even the most innocuous threads turn divisive and you end up with one or two “successful” authors gently (and then not so gently) scolding  everyone for not doing things the right away—their way. And then their minions or people who just want to be like them jump in and it becomes an echo chamber determined to drown out dissenting voices. Anyone who’s found success on a different path is labeled an outlier and told their advice isn’t valid.

To which I say, massive success in publishing is rare and elusive, and anyone who has found such massive success is probably an outlier and should not be listened to. In all likelihood, they have no idea underneath it all what it was that brought them success other than the fact that they probably work hard and know how to write a good book. (I say probably because half the world will tell you that there are a lot of bestsellers that aren’t good to a lot of people and there is a certain percentage of people in life who do just get lucky and never have to work hard at all.)

I don’t begrudge anyone their success as long as it came honestly, but man, it would be nice if people didn’t wield their sales numbers like a razor-sharp sword and try to skewer everyone on the ladder below them.

Which brings me full circle really. I want to break the Kboards habit. I just don’t know how. I’ve tried blocking the site, even going so far as to block it in my hosts file, and I still find myself undoing all my hard work and going back. It makes me sick every time I do it. Especially when I end up in this same state of mind because of it. I don’t like conflict, but Kboards is a black-hole of conflict. It’s really not the place for me.

Update: Alright, I did it. I edited my hosts file and blocked Kboards completely. I had no choice. Mind the Time tells me that just today using Firefox I’ve spent 43 minutes there—and I probably spent twice as much time as that scanning threads on my phone. >:-{

10/18 update: I’m still visiting on my phone and tablets but I haven’t undone the hosts block on my computer. If I could just figure out something similar for my phone, that would be a huge help.

Update to the update: I use Firefox on my phone with the uBlock Origin add-on. I filtered kboards.com and it will no longer come up in Firefox. I could use Chrome to get around it but since I don’t like Chrome I probably won’t. :-)

I wrote -96 words yesterday

How is it even possible to write negative words? In case you’re new here, let me explain my tracking sheet.

I put in my current doc’s word count, and it tells me how many words I’ve written today. As you can see, today’s total is zero at the moment. (The 3,333 below today’s count is the goal and it is a formula that will tell me how many words I have to go to get to that goal.)

Starting at row 10 is the list of all my works in progress and below that all my completed works, with word counts noted. That’s where I update my word counts to get an updated cumulative word count. The previous total number is manually adjusted each day so that the spreadsheet will calculate an accurate number of words for today. This lets me work on as many stories as I want in one day and still have a central place to track that word count.

I’m sure some people would like to have individual spreadsheets for each book or story, but I really don’t want or need that much granular detail. I tried adding another step into my tracking process for a while, but keeping up with one more sheet was just too much of a time waster for me.

Anyway, my point is that I have negative words because I obviously deleted more than I added, so at the end of the day my word count in the doc for my current book was lower than it was at the beginning of the day. For my sheet to be accurate, I have to record my doc’s actual word count. I like it that way even if it does leave me in the hole some days.

Sadly, -96 words is nowhere near the 1,500 word goal I set myself last night. I fell down hard on that. My only excuse is, well, an excuse. I’ll take a pass on making it.

Goal: 1,500 words before bed

So I put off writing today because I had family home and couldn’t seem to get started while people were here. I’ve had two hours since but still haven’t been able to get started so I thought I’d post this in hopes it would jiggle loose my motivation and get me focused. :-)

Right now the goal is to get 1,500 words before bed. I started this post at 9 PM but somehow it’s now 9:45 PM so I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect 1,500 words. On the other hand, I need them, so maybe I’ll just have to do it anyway.

Let’s say 750 wph with a timer set for 2 hours. That could still put me in bed around midnight if I don’t get distracted again. I can do midnight. I’ll be back as soon as I need a break to update with my progress.

A new goal for 2017: turn my worst year into my best year

The end of the year is approaching and I’ve decided to pursue a goal. My goal is to make this year—on track to be my worst year of production since I began tracking—into my best year, by 10,000 words.

The math.

Best year 268,191
This year 104,676
Difference + 10,000 words 173,515
Words to write every day to get there 2,169

It is without a doubt beyond my current skill level to write 2,169 words every day. On the other hand, it’s a short-term goal, because this is mid-October and this will all be over on December 31. So it’s possible I could average a high enough word count to do this.

Since it’s possible, I’m going to try.

The fact is, I believe I can do it. The problem is, I haven’t ever done it before. But—and there is a but!—I have record of the following numbers.

February 2003: I averaged 1,836 words a day for the month.

November 2015: I averaged 1,761 words a day for the month.

April 2016: I averaged 1,908 words a day for the month.

To make this year my best year by 10,000 words, I only need to average 2,169 words a day for 81 days. Then I can flake out and go back to 500 word days and it won’t matter at all for this particular goal.

Writing 2,169 words a day isn’t something I’m going to stew over every day since I’m already trying to write 3,000 words a day. My daily minimum remains 1,000 words. But now I have something to explain my desire to write more each day and that’s going to be helpful when my contrary self rears up and demands to know why I’m pushing myself so hard to write more.

There you go contrary-self. I have reasons. :-)

Journal writing is still writing

The journaling experiment isn’t working out as I’d hoped. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that when I don’t want to write, I don’t even want to journal, so making myself journal about not writing to get me to write is as hard as making myself just start writing.

I should have guessed the outcome of this experiment. Journal writing is writing, first and foremost, and when I’m having trouble getting started writing, I’m generally having trouble getting started with anything. I turn to OCD-like behaviors to draw me in and keep me from thinking about the fact that I’m not doing what I want or need to be doing, and it works. It soothes that part of me that can’t focus or concentrate on writing.

Not that I understand any of that, but it’s true. That’s what happens.

LeechBlock is great; LeechBlock doesn’t work

So. I added up my word counts for the time period that began after I added LeechBlock to my browser, and lo and behold, I had my worst week in a month or thereabouts.

I turned LeechBlock off yesterday. Yesterday I wrote just over 1,000 words, and then I did the same today.

I’ve decided that it’s not the internet that’s the problem, it’s me.

Shoulda seen that coming.

Pushing for a finish today; must write faster!

I haven’t finished my current book in progress despite having been trying to finish it for a couple of weeks now. Today I’m pushing for a finish, although I know it’s going to be tricky. I don’t have a clue where the story is going to come together, only a vague notion that something is going to have to happen before I can end it because I need my main character to play a more active role in the ending here and so far he just hasn’t stepped up. He’s gonna have to step up. That’s all there is to it.

I need at least one solid chapter to finish up the climax and maybe half another. Then I need some wrap up scenes, so that’ll be another chapter at least.

My chapters range anywhere from 2,000 to 2,800 words, rarely more, but sometimes, so I can’t rule that out. That means 4,800 words minimum to end this thing, even though I wanted my word count for this book to max out at 65,000 words. It hasn’t. The book is now the third longest book in the series. It’s questionable at this point if it’ll remain only the third longest because I’m getting uncomfortably close to the length of the second longest.

So…practice time. I’m going for 800 words per hour, writing in 15 minute bursts. That’s a goal of 200 words for each session of 15 minutes.

That is a push, but practice time it is.

In other news, I’ve reinstituted some personal rules to help me stay away from time sucking activities online. LeechBlock is set to block me from most of the internet from 7 am to noon and 2 pm to midnight.

I’m doing this because I’m just spending too much time on places like K boards.

Which, in another note, I’ve decided might be the wrong table for me to sit at.

Most of the authors there take self-publishing much too seriously for me. I realize publishing is my income source and that I do need to treat the business aspects of it as a business, but the rest of it is for me to do as I please. I don’t treat the publishing part as a traditional business and I don’t want to. I much prefer to be the artisan and do my own thing until I have a product ready to sell. But then when I have the product ready I really prefer to be the person at the flea market or the little corner shop and not really the mass marketing Walmart. I’ll be honest, that’s a terrible analogy, but it’s all I can come up with at 9:12 a.m. in the morning when I just know that I need to stop visiting that site as much as I do and I keep going back and forth and I continue to visit and I continue to read the forum day after day to excess and I continue to find many of the people’s attitudes there quite infuriating at times. And nothing throws me off my game more than being angry does. I think it’s normal to want to be accepted, even looked up to, by your peers, but when your beliefs are so far outside the norm in the group, it’s not going to work out that way unless you start conforming. That price is too high for some of us. It comes to this: Kboards is not good for my mental equilibrium. Know thyself, as they say.

And my final note today: this was written on my phone using the default Google speech-to-text so if it is somewhat unreadable I’m sorry. But the one thing I’m not going to do is override the LeechBlock settings and allow myself to get online and post on my blog before I’ve had a chance to do my writing today.

Now, time to get up and get this day started. It’s my birthday. :)

Fiction Writers’ Social revisited

I’ve updated my Fiction Writers’ Social Google+ private community.*

It’s a community for fiction writers. To be exact: A conflict-free zone of friendly chit-chat and interaction, before, during, and after the day’s writing is done. Here’s to a fun, lively place to share news, chit-chat with fellow authors about life in general, and talk shop. All members should be respectful of others, tolerant of different mindsets, and friendly.

If you’re interested in joining, leave a comment on this post or get in contact with me. I’ll send you an invite.

Keep in mind that you need to be friendly and at least mildly active in the community to get anything out of it. This is a social group so any kind of active self-promotion is a no-no.

It’s also a new community, so yeah, I’m the only current member as of this writing. :D

*By updated I mean I retired the old community which never really got off the ground (the members weren’t very active) and which was linked to my personal identity. I started a new community of the same name that’s associated with Lynn and Perpetualized.