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.

New rule: midnight cutoff for word counts

I make rules for myself all the time. Most of them don’t stick around. I don’t drink coffee, but I had a cup today and a cup yesterday and a cup the day before. Which begs the question: how many cups of coffee can you drink and still claim you don’t drink coffee?

Anyway.

I’ve made myself a new rule, and it’s going to come across as self-serving because it’s 20 minutes past midnight and the rule is to stop writing for the day at midnight. I mean, I can keep writing if I want, but from now on, words written before midnight go on one day and words written after midnight go on the next.

The purpose of this rule is to help me get my sleep routine back into a reasonable shape. I’m tired of staying up until 2 a.m. and then not being able to sleep until 10 a.m. to get a solid 8 hours of sleep. I’m lucky to sleep until 8 and toss and turn until 9-ish.

In other words, I’m tired of being tired.

If I don’t allow myself to count tomorrow’s words today, I won’t have any motivation at all to stay up trying to catch up for lost time (which I was trying to do right before I made this rule, hence my calling its creation self-serving).

But yeah. It’s after midnight and there’s no point feeling guilt over the words I didn’t write today, because today is over and any words I write now won’t get counted.

I will finish the book tomorrow. Or try to anyway.

Goodnight!

Practice pays off

I’m already seeing improvements in my pace. I’m crediting practice for this, but it’s really a combination of practice and having a better visual picture of exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with that practice.

Minutes Words Session WPH
15 107 107 428
15 220 113 452
15 428 208 832
60 1217 789 789
60 2412 1,195 1,195

Seeing how few words that really is has helped me in a way that just seeing/hearing the numbers hasn’t. I’ve done the math with my typing speed plenty of times to try to prove to myself that I can write faster, but it’s never really helped things along.

You’ll note, I had to give up the 15 minute sessions for a little while because I was finding the breaks distracting. Now I’m about to go back to the short sessions because I’m finding the hour long sessions too tiring. :)

None of that matters to my practice though. I’m just focusing on keeping myself moving forward as best I can. I’ve had a plot development that scares me a little bit but I’m hoping this book will wrap up soon enough despite that.

Onward!

Practicing for pace improvements

Practice is good. I don’t think most people will dispute that. But sometimes I need to be able to visualize what improvement I’m working toward, so I highlighted 200 words of text in my current book in progress and took a screenshot of it.

Here it is.

The blue highlight is 200 words of text in a standard 8.5×11 inch Word document with 1 inch margins in Times New Roman 12 point font.

The screenshot is of a two page spread, giving me the most complete visualization of 200 words I think I’ve ever had.

Here’s the thing: I want to consistently write at a pace of 800+ words per hour. It would allow me to write a reasonable number of words in a reasonable number of hours. I can type 60 words per minute without straining myself.

With that goal in mind, 200 words is what I would expect of 15 minutes of writing and that’s what you see in that screenshot, a visualization of what I’m taking aim at in every 15 minute session I do today.

Seeing it here, in this image, has really made me wonder at the nature of what’s holding me back when I write. I just can’t believe my brain creates story at such a slow pace that I struggle to create this much manuscript in half an hour most days. It’s difficult to understand.

Unless I blame it on perfectionism. Then it makes all kinds of sense.

For the particular selection of text I highlighted for this screenshot, it took me more than half an hour to get right. I know what text is there, nothing was particularly difficult to come up with, and I know it would take me about three to four minutes to type at my average 60 words per minute typing speed.

Tying is not writing, that’s true. But I think much faster than I type so I’m not sure how that flies as an excuse for slow writing.

So today I practice—in fact, I started practicing last night but was too tired to really give it the attention it needed.

I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

An unproductive weekend

First, I love my kids, make no mistake about that. But this weekend highlighted just how disruptive it is to my routine when change is in the air. My daughter came home from college this weekend for the first time in three weeks. I had got into a certain routine and her presence pretty much destroyed that routine.

Not that I wish in any way that she had not come home. But I do need to start planning better for this kind of thing because this was the weekend that I really, really needed to finish my latest book.

Spoiler alert. It didn’t happen.

I wrote 81 words Saturday during 0.967 hours of timed writing. Ouch on two fronts.  Since I mostly did edits, it makes sense, but it’s still ugly.

Sunday (today)? 71 words after 22 minutes of writing.

So here I am at 9:06 pm trying to figure out if it’s feasible in any universe for me to write 4,264+ words before I crash tonight.

I’m going to say no.

That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on recovering at least a little. My daughter went back to college today and the house is relatively quiet again, and I’m going to write for the next several hours.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: I wrote 429 words. Although I tried to make it to 1,000, at 1:24 am I just had no willpower left at all and I gave up.

Interesting results on something new

More words, fewer hours on Friday over Thursday, so that’s good. Yesterday (Friday) wasn’t as good a day as I’d hoped for, but it was my best day in 222 consecutive days. Prior to that, on the 223rd day, I had reached what is my current record word count for a day, 5,816 words, on the day I finished my last book.

Yesterday’s final tally: 2,652 words, 4.55 hours, 583 wph (a little more than the chart shows below because I had one last gasp before I quit and didn’t record it).

Time

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

10-11

37

427

427

692

11-12

12-1

1-2

33

449

22

40

2-3

8

445

-4

-30

3-4

4-5

31

753

308

596

5-6

48

1484

731

914

6-7

32

1967

483

906

7-8

38

2509

542

856

8-9

9-10

10-11

11-12

12-1

41

2557

48

70

Something happened around 8 pm that got me off track in a major way. It went something like this.

I have some micron pens I received as a gift and I really love the blue. I use it for my journaling and session notes and lots of other stuff. I dropped it a few days ago and it took a hard hit on the point, and then day before yesterday I realized it wouldn’t write at an angle very well anymore (while the other pens did). So I was using my purple pen yesterday and right around 8, I dropped the lid down into the couch. It disappeared. I spent half an hour trying to find that pen cap and ended up moving the sofa multiple times, vacuuming everywhere I could reach in and under it, and finally discovered the cap had slid into a nook inside the couch where some joints came together.

Well, that pushed me to move to the dining room table with my writing, and once there I decided I was going to switch back to my blue pen. But it wasn’t writing well so I messed with it a little bit and, yeah, I messed it up. I managed to mash the nib or whatever you call it until it split and now it writes a very flat, sometimes split stroke onto the page. That frustrated me and I started searching for stuff about pens and waterproofing and whether archival safe pens are really necessary for journals, because my favorite pens are the blue and purple Pilot V5 Precise but they are not waterproof in any way. (I tested it a while back. Ugly fading and smearing was the result.) I know archival safe stuff isn’t necessary, but I do want to keep these journals until I die so I want to write with something that holds up a while.

But back to the story. I ran across an interesting website about pencils and suddenly the idea of pencil journaling started to seem appealing to me. I wrote on a napkin, ran it under some water and sure enough, no bleeding or smearing at all. I even rubbed the watery napkin and the pencil marks stayed in place in a way I could read them.

So… I dug out a box of pencils and some other pencils I had and spent half an hour or more sharpening pencils. I have some mechanical pencils I love but they don’t make the pencil scratch sound when I write with them, so I’m keeping the wood pencils on hand too. Honestly, I miss the bright colors in my journal, but since blue was my favorite and it took a week to get those pens delivered (with only one blue in the pack), I’m just going to try pencil for a while.

But that’s what happened to those four hours last night that should have been spent writing. Sigh. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever change.

Well, on to today. I have a book to finish.

Something new

It’s interesting, because I thought I’d tried just about everything to get myself writing faster and more regularly, but obviously I haven’t tried everything, because I tried something yesterday that’s working out pretty well (between yesterday and today) and I really don’t remember having tried it before (or at least in this way).

Here’s what I did (and am doing again today): I simply listed out the hours of the day (10–11, 11–12, etc.) and am running the timer during that time, accumulating as much time as I can, without any specific session lengths, with the goal of reaching 500 words for each hour in the day.

Yesterday I ended up with this:

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

50

246

246

295

30

439

193

386

25

207

-232

-557

20

199

-8

-24

33

240

41

75

38

571

331

523

39

1138

567

872

31

1557

419

811

27

1894

337

749

22

2224

330

900

16

2270

46

173

12

2342

72

360

WPH

410

Hours

5.716667

Which really did not seem bad to me at all. If I hadn’t had such a slow start finishing/editing chapter 23, I would have done a lot better on my word count.

Today I’m doing the same thing as yesterday. I’ve had some interruptions and delays that I’m hoping won’t affect my day too much, in the end, but it remains to be seen how things are going to work out today. Overall, though, I’m really liking this structure around my writing. It’s loose in some ways but strict in others (I can’t change the fact that 11–12 and 12–1 have already passed and I got no writing done), and I like it.

Gotta go now, because I have a personal deadline I need to meet. I’ll post results for this informal little experiment in a follow-up post sometime later. :)

No time to spare

Here’s what I’m aiming for each day: 1,000 words minimum, with an eye toward 2,893 words. Of course, more would be fantastic, but 1,000 is the minimum daily word count I want to hit every day I possibly can.

I have four minutes to finish this post. Since I want to start writing at 11:15 I’d better make this quick.

Today I’m trying for multiple 60 minute sessions. If I have to stop in the middle, I’ll just pause and resume.

The goal is 7 of them at a minimum pace of 700 wph for a total word count of 4,900 words. This is so I can finish this book in two days, assuming I can keep it under a maximum length goal. (Lots of assumptions there. I can do these numbers, but I can’t always do these numbers. Let’s see if I can make today the former and not the latter.)

Session 1: 60 minutes, 301 words
Session 2:
Session 3:
Session 4:
Session 5:
Session 6:
Session 7:

Okay, this isn’t working. It’s 5:21 and I’ve only managed to complete one 60 minute session.

I’m just going to wing it with some 15 minute sessions. I’m feeling pretty desperate to stop a stall out before it becomes a problem I can’t recover from today. Time is seriously running short and I need some appreciable words before I get too tired to write them.

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

What does it take to be a productive writer? A journal!

I read an article today that caused me to rethink the differences between my really productive Sunday and my less productive Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (and Thursday, so far). It was the title of the piece that drew me in—interstitial is just that kind of word.

Replace Your To-Do List With Interstitial Journaling To Increase Productivity: A new journaling tactic that immediately kills procrastination and boosts creative insights” promised not to be just another article on productivity journaling (boring) but something more and I decided I really had to know what the author of the piece had to say.

(Note: you do appear to need a Medium account to read the complete article.)

I wasn’t disappointed, even though I saw right away that this was exactly the kind of journaling I already do on my more productive days. In fact (from the article):

During your day, journal every time you transition from one work project to another. Write a few sentences in your journal about what you just did, and then a few more sentences about what you’re about to do.

The author talks about this as journaling in the “interstitial moments” between projects. For me, I journal when I take breaks between sessions. The example the author showed of this kind of journaling is very close to what I do in my private journal (even down to putting in the time) and I’ve also done it some here on the blog, although not lately.

It’s also very similar to what I did Sunday, and what I didn’t do Monday through Wednesday (or even Thursday, so far).

Since I journal in so many different places, it’s been hard for me to go back and check just how many of my more productive days involved this kind of journaling and how many didn’t, but my gut tells me this has been a significant determinant of whether or not I’ve ended up having a successful writing day.

The problem I have measuring this gut feeling is that I currently log all this stuff in any of three active paper journals (not counting my cheap spiral notebooks), this blog, and my OneNote journals. Some days I write in OneNote (today) and some days I write in my hardback journal, or my 5×8 softbound journal, or my BlueSky spiral notebook (that I adore). And some days I just post to the blog and do no other journaling at all.

I might have a hard time writing a lot of fiction, but let me tell you, I write a shit ton of everything else. ;)

In the “journal everything” section of the article, I saw so much of my own journaling habits that it was a little spooky. I also suspect that many of those days were the days when I successfully overcame procrastination.

From one of my own private journal entries (November 4, 2015):

9:49 am: Started my break. Although my numbers started out low, they’ve improved a bit and the goal of having a record breaking day doesn’t look out of reach so I’m going to keep aiming in that direction.

I’ve been yawning so I hope that doesn’t turn into a problem. But I need do only two more sessions before lunch so it’s not that bad! I can nap then if I really need it.

12:02 pm: 2,021 words

I’m disappointed I’m not further along but I did hit a bit of a wall when it comes to energy earlier. I got through it though. Now I need to have a quick lunch and get back to writing. I think the story is going well and I’m looking forward to where it might go.

My pace is only 622 wph this morning, and I’m 5 minutes short of 4 full 50 minute sessions. That means that I wrote for 3.25 hours out of about 4.25 hours. That’s an average of 20 minutes between every session. Not bad. Better than I have been doing at any rate! Improvement is good. :)

Caught up with Pulp Speeders, now getting to lunch! 12:27 pm.

1:28 pm. And of course, lunch took longer than I expected. My battery isn’t changed yet either. I think I’ll take a short nap. If I can. Just a quick little eye rest. :D

1:53 pm. My quick little eye rest didn’t turn into a nap, but I do feel better and ready to get started again.

3:48pm. 2,498 words

Of course, none of that ended up here on the blog as my only November 4, 2015 entry proves.

I’ll be honest, this article came at an opportune time. I’ve been wishy-washy today about whether or not I wanted to go back to using timers to keep me focused on writing, but I kind of really don’t want to do that, not yet at any rate. This journaling could be the key to keeping me productive during the transition, and could also explain some of my former productivity.

Even the month I posted nothing here and maintained my most consistent writing pace ever (February 2013), I wrote in my private journals. I’d love to go back and read them, but they’re the ones I deleted in late 2014 and I still could kick myself for doing that. I have a note to myself at the top of my OneNote journals notebook. It says simply: REMEMBER – Do not delete journals again!

Funny, but I dare not get rid of that reminder. I also moved to expensive paper journals for the same reason. I’m much less tempted to tear out pages and throw them away when the cost is $9+ for the journal versus the $0.25 I paid for the cheap spiral notebooks I used to use. :D

Know thyself, as they say.

The thing is, this is something I’ve been doing for a long time, but not every day and not deliberately. I think it’s time I give it a deliberate place in my writing day.

Since today hasn’t been great (so far), it’s the perfect time to put this into practice and see if it leads to me writing more words tonight. Because I really need to write, and the 315 words I have so far are nowhere near where I’d imagined this day ending up when I got started this morning.

So thanks, Tony Stubblebine! Your article has made a difference in someone’s life today. :D