June 1–15 progress report

Today I’m writing. I’ve written something every day for seventeen days now, in fact. Some days, of course, were longer than others when it comes to how much time I spent writing. On the whole, though, I’ve stuck to my 12–4 schedule and created a bit of a routine for myself.

The fact is, I need to start finishing books again. I’ve had way too much time off on the whole over the last couple of years and it’s time for me to start pushing myself again to do more.

I can’t really explain why I hit such a bump in my productivity. I have children, and they’re definitely in a transitional phase since they’re both in the 18-20 year old range now (and were in the 16-18 year old range when I started to fail a bit at keeping myself writing). Their transitional phase translates into a transitional phase for me, and I’ve just now accepted that despite the societal expectations I grew up with, my kids aren’t leaving home any time soon. So my own transitional phase isn’t quite the one I was expecting, and I need to find a way to work through it.

At this point, it’s like having adult roommates who don’t pay rent. I’m sure of only one thing: I don’t like it. On the other hand, I’m not exactly rushing to kick the kiddos out on their tushes. :D I do love them and want what’s best for them. Neither are in a position to take on the real world just yet, no matter how ready I am for them to do it.

Too bad, so sad for me. :D I will cope though, and I seem to be getting my writing mojo back. Not that I have any way of knowing for sure that their transition to adulthood has been my problem, but hey, I need a scapegoat and the kiddos make for a good one.

The biggest issue, really, has just been the changing routines. No school days to count on. College has different expectations for them and their schedules, and work too, for college students tend to have the kind of work that has variable schedules.

All this means that my schedule feels in limbo more often than not. But no more. That’s the reason I set my 12–4 schedule and why I’ve been sticking to it. I just really need some routine in my days. If I can hang to it for long enough, I’m hoping it will counteract all the unpredictability I’ve been dealing with for a few years now.

Now, on to the writing update.

June 1–15: 7,175 words.

Playlists help me focus when I’m writing

This is my current music playlist, using Amazon’s Prime Music (except for one song on there that I purchased from Amazon a while back).

I’ll probably end up purchasing several of these songs eventually.

My favorite find of the bunch is Best Shot by Jimmie Allen. Love it, really.

I never pick songs for their words when I set up these playlists, I pick for mood. And repeatability—because I put the playlist on repeat and keep it going until I’m either sick of it, or the book is done. :-)

I usually just plug my headphones into my computer and play through the browser at music.amazon.com. When I’m playing offline (my music only), I use Windows Media Player, because it’s easy. I like it best, but I do like to take advantage of Prime sometimes. And other times, I use my phone, but my playlists there have to be recreated because my phone uses Google Music as a player and it’s kind of awkward setting up my offline playlists.

I use the computer to play my music because it’s the easiest to start and stop and mess around with while I’m writing, and most often I purchase the songs that keep my attention, and then end up making my playlist offline so I can play music when I’m on battery and not waste the battery streaming over WIFI.

Music is an important part of how I do this writing thing. :-)

 

Not so bad? WTF

I was reading this blog post on book stuffing this morning (and it’s a good one) and came to the screenshots that included comments someone had made in the Chance Carter Diamond Group.

Mind blown.

Why? Because I don’t understand who would look at that list of instructions on how to do the KU Flip and actually think anyone is worth that kind of time investment.

I understand there are people out in the world who feel entitled to steal other people’s time while providing nothing of real value in return, just so they can make a few extra dollars off each one. I do.

But I don’t understand why people value themselves so little that they would actually let it happen. It’s worth it for a free book? A chance at a prize? You’ve got to be kidding me.

And then to think that this character—this person—is already making thousands every month and these readers are giving up time—something that you never, ever get back—to give this person another $12-15 for a KU read? Ugh. Fuck that.

Inherently selfish people have no trouble taking advantage of givers. These poor givers are giving and giving, and this dude is just taking and taking and taking.

The only way this makes sense to me is if it’s all just a big pyramid scheme and the used are hoping to become the users at some point and recoup their investment. But that’s not what I’m hearing. These are readers, who’ve been drawn in by this person’s persona, and who choose to let themselves be used in this way.

I’m sad that I don’t really believe in karma in this life. Maybe in the next.

The break is over

I’ve managed to sit down at my computer for 10 days in a row. My word counts aren’t anything to get excited about, other than in a general “whoa, I’m writing again” way, but I’m happy at this point to take what I can get. My net word count is 465 words.

I’ve had good days (638 words, 628 words) and bad days (-1117 words) but it’s a net positive, something I’m pretty happy about considering the effort I’ve had to put in to get this story moving.

Since I’m just getting started today, I expect my net word count for this 10 day period to rise. I finally settled on an opening for this story. It took 3 tries, but yesterday I went back to my original, shuffled the order of the two scenes I had, and voila! Things started to fall into place.

And that’s where things stand at the moment.

Time for me to go write. The break is over.

I scheduled writing time and finally got started writing again

After months of having trouble getting started writing again after finishing my last book, I went to bed one night with the plan to sit down the next day from 12–4 and write.

Nothing else had been working to get me started again and this really was a last ditch effort to just put in some time at the computer. I admit, the first day, I spent the majority of my time doing writing related things and very little writing. In fact, that’s still what’s happening after nearly two weeks, but I’ve maintained the schedule and have finally got an opening for my new book written and hope that I’m finally putting that terrible creative dry spell behind me.

 

I’ve been binge reading and I’ve discovered something in Calibre that might help my writing

I can’t even number the number of stories I’ve read in the last two months since I published my last book. Most of those have been fan fiction stories, I’ll say, and I tried to stick with longer stories, although I did read a lot of short stories too. :) I like all lengths, but I do love reading yummy long stories in my favorite fandoms!

So, the equivalent of a lot of books there.

In fact, since I download fan fiction exclusively from Ao3 in EPUB format, these stories are books. The keepers stay in Calibre, and the disposable stories get deleted after reading. That’s something I just started recently, mostly because I only want to keep rereadable stories. So even if I truly loved a story but if it’s something that I don’t see myself rereading for pleasure (and that happened–I don’t tend to reread stories with ambiguous or unhappy endings even if they really touched me) I delete them.

Same for original novels.

I do not reread stories that don’t leave me feeling good. I enjoy them, sometimes, and don’t often I regret having read them, but I don’t seek them out to reread, mostly because rereading is meant purely for pleasure and to uplift my mood. I mean, rereading is generally something I do when I need to feel joy but not the anxiety of not knowing what’s coming. :)

During this time, I installed a plug-in in Calibre to tell me the word count of all these stories and novels so I could tag stuff that’s especially short (<10,000 words) or especially long (>100,000 words). Fiction from Ao3 already includes a word count in the meta included at the beginning of the story and I happen know the word counts for all my own books and stories (which are also in my Calibre library for easy transfer to my devices), and this led me to note that the plug-in has reliable numbers (just a tiny bit high, tiny bit, but close enough).

And wow did it open my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed. So many books that I thought were longer were not that long after all. In fact, it has led me to rethink the length I go for in a novel. Lately I’ve been far exceeding my 50,000 word target for my own novels, but I was okay with that because I thought most people wrote longer books and that I was actually writing shorter than average books.

I’m going to work on not doing that any more, because so many of the books in my library that I would have assumed were longer came in between 30,000 and 60,000 words. I just do not need to be writing longer books.

And although sometimes I can’t help myself, I know that I really prefer writing shorter books.

Time to get back to what I love. I’m a little sold on the fact that maybe one reason I’ve been unhappy writing lately is because so many of my books have gone long—much longer than I wanted when I started them.

Long equals a longer time spent writing one book and more chance of boredom interfering with my desire to keep going.

When writing becomes a chore, I’m just not able to overcome my resistance to continuing. Breaks mean I have to spend too much time getting back into the story when I finally do manage, and there’s just a whole lot of baggage associated with all this.

So, shorter books. :D

Less work, more fun with paperback formatting

I’m working on a paperback today. I plan to get back to writing today (was supposed to do that days and days ago, but you know how that goes!) but first I want to finish up the interior formatting for the last release I did.

It’s a little tricky because it’s the longest book I’ve done to date, and I chose a 5 x 8 size for this series a long time ago and don’t want to change that. I also don’t want to go too small on the fonts, so I suffer with higher prices for the books and don’t worry about it. :-)

The paperbacks are more for me anyway just because I like having them.

On that note, I’m playing around with some stuff and have finally figured something out that’s been hindering me from having a basic template file that I can paste my manuscript into for an even easier paperback creation.

If you use section breaks in your manuscript (I do), you must delete them before you copy and paste the text into the template.

If you don’t delete the section breaks, your page layout formatting carries over into the template, messing everything up. I’ve tried this many times over the years and never could understand why it happened. I should have tried searching a little more diligently for the answer but I had fallen into the habit of formatting my paperback from scratch every time instead. I mean, I always tried at least once to copy and paste the text, but I had always given up after that and got on with the formatting.

That’s no longer necessary, because once I deleted the section breaks, the formatting didn’t carry over and my template held onto its page layout formatting for the whole document. Excellent news for me! :-)

Also excellent news is that I don’t actually need those section breaks since I gave up uploading Word docs to vendors (except for Smashwords) a long time ago. I make an EPUB in Jutoh, which testing shows puts page breaks where I want them anyway.

So one less step in my formatting process for the next book/story.

I’m going to test Smashwords on this too, with my next book. I do not yet know for certain that my page breaks will appear where I want them even without me putting them in manually, but I’ll find out. (Apparently the TOC is supposed to tell Smashwords where to insert page breaks but I don’t know for certain it’ll happen for all the formats Smashwords generates.)

If the page breaks don’t appear, I can add the “page break before” option to the heading 1 style in Word and manually insert the one other page break I need (between the title page and the copyright page, which I do not put at the end of the book because I don’t like it there).

Finally, I’m also playing around with Libre Writer for this paperback. Already I’ve discovered one thing it does that Word does not that I like very much. Libre Writer has a book layout view, much like Adobe Reader does. Word does not.

What makes this so awesome is that I can see the spreads (left and right pages side by side) as they’ll appear in the book. Word doesn’t give me that view and it can be a pain sometimes to notice where the blank pages are supposed to be but maybe aren’t.

Anyway, back to the fun stuff. :-) I’ll have an interior for this paperback before lunch if all goes well. :-) (I might still be tweaking it at that point, for margins and then hyphenation issues, but that’s just because I’m picky.)

Fresh starts!

I’m still working on coming up with a plan for 2018.

I have some ideas though, and they start with a target number of hours spent writing every day. Five hours is the number I’m leaning towards. Every day, I think.

(5 x 7 = 35, so it’s not a crazy amount of time, by any means. The way my brain works 5 hours a day 7 days a week is much better than 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Much, much better.)

This matters because I still haven’t figured out how to get myself to stick to writing daily and how to stop falling into a funk after I finish a book. I don’t want to go so long between releases. Nine months was too long. My current book is paying for that publishing gap.

In the past, the longest gap I’ve had between releases has been five months. Most of the time, that’s closer to four months. Now, I’m not talking about novels, or even books in my best selling series’. But I’ve tended to release something within a four to five month window.

Not this time.

Big mistake. My current release is struggling, to be blunt. Even though fans seem to be enjoying it, I’m not selling as many copies as I would like, not by a long shot.

So, time for another book.

Looking at the bright side, maybe this pressure is what I need to push me right back to writing. I had already planned to ramp up my writing, because I feel like I’ve finally pulled out of whatever state I was in this year that led to me writing so few words compared to previous years (barely more than half the number of words of my next lowest year’s word count: 125,712 versus 217,641).

That’s a significant drop, no two ways about it.

I debated requiring something of myself before I call it a night, but it’s been a tough day, to be honest. I think I’m going to get some extra sleep, get up at a decent hour, and start fresh tomorrow on this plan to write for five hours a day.

See you back here then.

Edits are almost finished for this one

It’s been an odd couple of days.

I spent a good deal of time on Thursday away, so I didn’t make as much progress that day as I wanted.

Then yesterday, I spent more time editing than reading, by a large degree, and I ended the night feeling like I was still stuck in some hypercritical state of mind.

After inputting all my edits for the day into the document, I loaded up my most recent version of the file onto my old Kindle Fire and took it to bed with me to read the next few chapters but was too tired to even look at it.

Then today came.

I woke up and immediately read three chapters before I even got out of bed. And found myself in the right frame of mind for this process—finally!

The number of corrections marked went way down between yesterday and today (not for actual typos, etc, those are about the same, I think). I think getting started so early caught me while I was more likely to read as a reader than a writer.

And it stuck.

Today’s progress was fantastic. I finished chapters 23–42 (43,792 words). I still have to input edits for all those chapters, but it’s only a few pages of highlights—nowhere near the level of edits I had to input for the first half of the book.

And I do think it was my frame of mind that made the difference today, not the quality of the material.

(I’m not counting chapters 5–7, because the stuff I fixed in those chapters has made a huge difference to the rest of the book. The fact that the rest of the book is better for it instead of needing tweaks to make it work shows that the fixing I did was necessary, not optional.)

I have to say, I am thrilled that I got so much done today, especially since I’ve felt a bit sick all week, and my kids are both sick now. :-)

Here’s the latest:

Screenshot of editing time log spreadsheet
The reading time for chapters 1 and 23–26 are guesses.

I deleted the editing time left estimate because it just wasn’t working for me. (I had added it to the sheet for this book as a test.) It’s been so far off the mark the entire time that there’s just no point to it. I like the fact that the reading time estimate is fairly accurate. The editing estimate was not.

I think I’ll be doing a black line compare as soon as I finish inputting the changes, to help me pinpoint areas that need a second read through, since I did so much more than correct a word here and there for some parts of this book.

I don’t want to get trapped reading the whole book again, but I can’t remember where a lot of those specific lines were. More typos or errors could have snuck in.

I also have a few items marked for continuity checks, since when I got to them, they felt off but I couldn’t remember for sure if it was an issue. (The hazard that comes of spreading the read-through out over several days.)

If I had it in me, I would read the whole book again, right now, but gah, I just don’t think my nerves could handle it. I want to be done, so bad.

Then I have my copy edit checklist, full of words I literally check one by one for mistaken usage. It’s/its. There/they’re/their. Phase/faze. Many more. Yes, it’s tedious. No, I actually don’t usually find many, if any, of these errors, but I like knowing I double-checked.

Then there are some specific errors I noticed in this specific book: tried for tired (I’ll check the opposite too), breath for breathe, anyone that (anyone who), two character names I somehow mixed up a couple of times, the were for they were, this for his.

Just a list of stuff that I messed up at least once, and could have easily overlooked, so I’ll check.

I might do a post when this is all done detailing out how I so this big self-edit. It’s a process, truly.

Now, off to finish this thing. I’m watching the Psych movie as my reward for finishing. As a huge Psych fan, I can’t wait. ;-)

(Affiliate link. My disclaimer: I’m just as likely to link to crap I hate and tell you I hate it, as I am to link to stuff I love that I tell you I love. I don’t care if I make money off recommendations or not, I don’t recommend shit that I don’t like.) :D