Timed reading while I’m working on my book

Today’s writing plan was simple: time myself as I read through what I already had written (chapters one through four) and then use my timer for some 45 minute writing sessions.

I use the timer when I’m doing my proofreading check at the end (for publishing).* I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about that here before. It really helps keep me focused on reading and not getting distracted the way I used to do when I did my final read through.** This is one of those coping mechanisms I’ve come up with over the years to deal with the fact that I don’t always find it easy to focus, even when it’s something I want to do.

Today was the first time I’ve tried the timed reading thing while going back to read through and fix things during actual story creation.

I liked it. I think I’ll do it again when I need to.

But there was a definite difference in speed. My proofread usually takes 15-20 minutes per chapter. This was much more time consuming! I ended up spending most of the day on this. Focusing is hard work (for me), no joke!

Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to go off and write for a few minutes, then pack it in for the night. I just don’t think I have it in me to do any 45 minute sessions. It’s 10:48 pm and I’ve been at it all day.

I do think I’ve cleared out all the deleted stuff in my head so that when I really get into the next scene I’m not going to be confused. I do hope so.

Maybe I’ll reread on my Kindle in bed tonight where I can’t touch it except to highlight errors and just try to settle it more firmly in my thoughts.

+=+=+

* I have a spreadsheet for this stage. I have a column with my chapter number and I sit down with that chapter, turn on my stopwatch timer, and read. I record the time. I move on to the next chapter. Breaks are optional.

** I used to just keep up with my percentage read based on my Kindle locations in the final manuscript (after sending it to my Kindle). I tried to read in long stretches of time, sometimes setting hour long goals for myself to read as much as I could in that time. Trust me when I say that I really like my current spreadsheet method much better. :)

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

The editing continues

I went back to the book last night and dug in. Considering how I felt when I started, it went well. Overall yesterday, I added 385 words to the book, corrected some issues and left myself in the middle of a mess. :D

It could be worse!

I’m starting early this morning (relatively speaking, after staying up until 2 am). I’ve had breakfast and I’ve gone back into my hosts file and blocked some particularly distracting sites because I’m actually excited to get started again and I do not want to squander that feeling by scrolling through news and forums posts for a hour or more.

I’ll scroll through my document instead. :)

In actuality, I’ll start by reading what I added last night—stuff to tie in the ending better, really, and just some redrafting of a few paragraphs and sections, because just changing the wording around isn’t the goal here. I mean, I could, but it’s a waste of time and wouldn’t help the issues, and could make things a lot worse.

My problems with these chapters aren’t just issues about how I wrote sentences. That stuff is irrelevant at this point. This is something else, something deeper. Right here, in these places, the story just doesn’t feel right to me.

Since I’m my own reader, if it doesn’t feel right to me, it ain’t right. Period.

If I let myself fall into the rabbit hole of making this about the sentences, I’d probably ruin the book. I’ve learned my lesson on that.

It’s very easy to steal all the life from the words by massaging them into “something better.”

I believe that wholeheartedly because it has happened to me a few times, the most notably being when I smoothed out the beginning of the first book in this same series. I read back through it right before I went to publish and realized it was just flat—flat and lifeless even though it was an exciting scene. Or it was supposed to be. It had been. So I pulled up the original beginning, unedited, and plopped it into place. Since the edit of that had been all about the sentences and words, there was nothing to fix to make it work with the rest of the book. I published it like that a few minutes later. (Maybe hours, lol, because I did still have to format the book and that was back when it took me longer than the five minutes it takes now.)

That is still my best selling book and the opening is absolutely fine. I was being hypercritical of myself and the way I sound on the page and I almost messed up the beginning of that book, all because I didn’t trust myself. That was my breakout book. It’s why I’m able to write full time.

This situation is different. I am trusting myself here. The problems with these chapters I’m working my way through aren’t the fevered imaginings of a hypercritical reader. I’ve gotten pretty good at shoving that aside when I’m reading during my edits—sure, I may cringe occasionally over a real clunker, but I tend to recognize that for what it is. Maybe not all the time, but right now, for this, definitely.

There are problems here that need fixed.

So that’s what I’m going to do, get in there and fix them.

I’ll post the log of my reading and editing times when I finish this thing. :)

Here’s where it stands right now.

Screenshot of editing times

I went back to a different book to compare these numbers and for that one my reading speed was very close to 10,000 words per hour. That just goes to show how slow this one is going.

And just for comparison, chapter 4 is not a short chapter. It was just a good one and I was finally getting into a groove with the reading. Then chapter 5 hit.

Ready to edit today

screenshot of sunlit paper Today I’ll be editing. I have fresh coffee, my document on my Kindle Fire (the oldest one I have), and some fresh sunlit paper and a pencil for notes. I have tablets and journals and pencils and pens everywhere, to be honest. :)

It’s time to edit this book and I want to do it while the story is fresh in my mind. I know that’s opposite of what a lot of authors recommend to other authors, but I have my own way of doing things, for reasons that make sense to me.

Of course, I dated the page yesterday, so that’ll have to be updated, but other than that, I’m ready to go.

With as much sun as is shining onto my face, I’ll have to watch out, but I want the warmth of the sun right now. I find it motivating when it comes time to focus on reading. :)

So here is the plan.

Every chapter will be timed. (I do this to stay focused.) If I need to stop for a break, it’ll come at the end of a chapter. This is helpful so I can get a feel of the momentum in a chapter and pay attention to pacing. If I’m stopping three times in a chapter, I just get to the end and have no idea how fast or slow it felt.

After 3 to 4 chapters, I’ll catch up typo edits and the like, and save all other notes (highlights really) until the end.

This is so I don’t run into an issue with the Kindle losing my highlights. It hasn’t ever happened, but if it does, I don’t want this to be the day. Until I started doing it this way, I regularly ended up with 30+ pages of highlights to deal with all at the end. The horror of losing all that and having to start over is what led me to change my ways.

I’ll be using the notes page to make notes of continuity stuff and things I want to check at the end. I’ll be jotting down eye/hair/clothes/names and a small chapter summary of one or two sentences, too. But I might save that for the end of the chapter so it doesn’t bog me down as I read. This is something new I’m adding to my process so I’m going to have to work out the details as I go.

Anyway, I think I’m ready. I will definitely post a screenshot from my spreadsheet later. :) It’ll be interesting to see it all laid out. The spreadsheet tracks the reading sessions, and using it and the timer has worked really well to keep me completely focused on reading.

It’s also cut the time it takes me to do the read through by a significant degree. It used to take a week at least. Now it takes a day (or two).

This is the kind of thing I’m hoping to find with my writing someday. A process that just works.

I haven’t given up looking. But for now, it’s time to focus on edits. :)

 

There’ll be no zero word day today

Zero word day? Or zero words day?

Eh, no one cares anyway.

Today I will write 500 words—maybe not net of deletions but I will write them. I happen to know that for a fact. I’ve already finished one session and am about to start another.

On the other hand, 500 words is going to be tough to get. My first session got me up to 33 words. Yeah. Not kidding there. I spent most of that first session editing out some stuff that was bogging down my scene. I’ve also realized I’m going to have to delete a large chunk of the rest of the scene, too.

These are the words I considered deleting a few days ago but didn’t delete. I probably should have done it right away. I have a feeling these words are why I’ve been stalled for four days and broke my 500 words a day streak.

Despite all the editing I seem to do, let me take a moment to say that I do believe Dean Wesley Smith has the right of it when it comes to rewriting. On the other hand, because of the way I put scenes together on the page, sometimes I have no choice but to edit stuff.

I don’t like to rewrite (which is to me just taking a sentence and trying to recompose it using different words and which usually does take your natural voice right out of your work) and I try not to do it. But I do fight myself a lot and end up doing it more than I should.

But I’m not talking about rewriting when I’m talking about editing. When I talk about editing, I mean I’m working with my text, trying to figure out where I’m going and how to get there.

Since I don’t do that in my head as often as I do it on the page, there have to be additions and deletions on the page.

Generally, when I start doing this, it means I’m stuck. Call it writer’s block, call it project block, it’s all the same to me. I can’t go forward, so I just start messing with the book, trying to figure stuff out.

I should trust the process more often and stop avoiding it. I have a feeling I would get through these little phases so much quicker that way.

Some people would probably just say this is part of the writing. And it is. But I can’t seem to stop calling it editing.

There are other reasons I get stuck editing, too, but it’s all kind of hard to explain. I’ve written a lot of books this way, so something about it must work for me, even if it’s not very efficient.

Progress and a brilliant idea I should have had sooner

I did run out of time yesterday and didn’t make it through all the chapters of my book.

Well, sort of. I stopped the editing at chapter 12, but then I sent the file to my tablet and read through the rest of it and realized most of it’s solid. Just a few bits I want to change, one because of an inconsistency and a few paragraphs that tripped me up when I was reading them. They could use some smoothing out for sure for various reasons.

Unfortunately, I didn’t highlight those spots during that late night read through so I still have to read through those chapters again today and find the things I thought needed changing. I was just too tired last night and it seemed like a good idea at the time to focus on the reading. I don’t agree so much to that today, but too late now. :o

I think those rough patches come from not writing fast enough. Too many rewrites and edits makes it very easy to screw up the flow of a story. When I bog down, that happens to me. I mean, I’m doing it because I can’t figure out what’s wrong usually, so I have to, but I know it’s not usually helping the story. I seem to get the best results when I’m able to just ignore what’s there and write fresh, then delete the old. :D

That’s probably why this kind of edit takes me so long. I’m really doing a lot more redrafting of the book than actually editing what’s there.

As for the brilliant idea I mentioned in the title of this post, I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it before. I have to revisit my previous books quite a lot to find stuff, and I had the notion to create a master series doc yesterday. It took me about three minutes to put together using Word’s “Insert > Object > Text from File” menu item. Then I used another half hour or so cleaning it up so it wasn’t cluttered with various styles. (The oldest books used different style sets than my newer books and I just quickly applied the new styles and deleted the old from the document. Less chance of corruption later, I hope.)

Anyway, it’s a huge file, but Word handled it fine. So now I can open one file when I need to search the books for something and I can get results for ALL the books. Since small corrections won’t affect that, I won’t ever have to do anything else to this doc except add the newest books when I publish them. :D

When I start the next book on my other series, I’ll do the same for it. So much easier than opening and searching multiple books trying to find that one bit of info I need. ;)

Anyway, here are the numbers: 6.467 hours of timed writing (plus all the times I forgot to turn the timer back on, because that kept happening) and 151 words net from edits, redrafting, and deletions.

It was a highly-focused day of writing, for sure.

Now on to today. I need to get these final changes made, and then I’m going to put some real effort into writing the rest of this book as fast as I can. Onward!

11:23 pm and too few words again today

I’ve managed only 2 of my 12 sessions today (20 minutes each). Part of the blame goes to my panic at realizing I had ruined the opening of my book by overworking it. I had to pull up backup copy 9 to get the old opening back. I’m currently at backup copy 20, and backup copy 9 was made on 6/11 (today is 6/24).

This all came to my attention last night when I sent my document to my Fire and read through what I’d written. My first thought was uh oh. So I pulled up the old version that I just happened to have sent to my Fire a while back and read the opening of it.

The old version was much better than the new. Miles better. Leagues better.

I was not happy to realize this.

I got up this morning knowing I’d have to fix it.  I’ve obsessed over things I didn’t need to obsess over today in an effort to avoid thinking about this.

I did a “compare documents” in Word to see just how bad it was. It was bad. More red than black, and ouch, I didn’t really need to see that.

It’s 11:59 pm and I should really go to bed, but I think I’m going to try to do a few more sessions so I don’t have this hanging over my head tomorrow. Then again… it’s late and I just want to put this day behind me, so maybe I won’t.

As for tomorrow, I think I’m going to forbid the internet until I’ve done at least half my minimum sessions. That’s only 6 and at 20 minutes each, comes to only 2 hours. I can surely hold out that long!

Now, time to get out of my own way and write this damn book without agonizing over every word. :D

DAILY ACCOUNTABILITY

Session 1 (20 min): -25 words (meaning I deleted more than I wrote)
Session 2 (20 min): 8 words

Uh oh! (challenge update)

Here is my first challenge update.

I’m way behind already.

After 1 hour and 49 minutes, I’m only up by 149 words.

Getting through the last of the material I wrote a few weeks ago is taking too long. Perfectionism? Probably. I’m going to try to get through the rest of it faster.

As of right now I still have the computer WIFI off. I’m writing this on my phone. It’s easier to do all new posts on my phone than edit a really long one so I expect all updates to this challenge will be separate posts today.

Be back later. :)

Hopefully with better numbers!

Revising is not a good idea; how to fuck up a story

I had to make a few changes to my book. I try not to do much when I go back to already written material, but in this case, I had an issue I couldn’t work out and when the solution came to me, it meant adding a few things. I don’t know what it is about how I write, but it’s almost impossible for me to write something and just plop it into the middle of an already written scene. It just never seems to fit in and I have to work to make a place for it.

So I did that with the fix and probably tweaked a bit more than I should have.

Yep, I know I did. How do I know?

Because I got through chapter 13 last night, and when I reached 15, I had some stuff that totally didn’t make sense anymore because I’d gone back and put stuff in related to it thinking I’d skipped that issue altogether and yet there it was, fully fleshed out in a later chapter.

Ugh.

This is where I just leave it, fix chapter 15 so it won’t matter and KEEP GOING.

Like I said, I try not to get caught up in making the kinds of changes that count as revising. I cycle through my document as I go, building and growing the story, and most of the time I do end up cycling from the beginning at least once, but it’s best if I do it when the story is fresh—not when I’m trying to get the story back into my head.

When the story isn’t fresh, I’m much more likely to make mistakes like this and end up in revision territory, and I do not like revision. I can’t keep the various versions of a story straight—all the bits and pieces float around and I get confused about which ones are really there and which ones I’ve deleted. It’s best I stay as far from that as possible, because that’s the kind of stuff that makes me hate writing. And feel blocked and have to move on to another story for a while or just not write.

So anyway, yes, I’m still working on getting through this story to arrive at all fresh blank empty pages, but I’m a lot closer now than I was. To be honest, if I don’t finish it today, I’m going to—

You know what? It doesn’t matter, because I’m going to get through it today. I’m going to do it and that’s that.

Still making progress, but still much too slow

I’m making progress on this book, still, but it’s still too slow. I mean, really, way too slow. Yesterday, I ended with a net gain of 274 words. Today I’ll spend as much time on the book as possible, so we’ll see where I end up.

As of this moment, I’m on chapter 9 and it should be nothing but a basic read through fixing typos until I hit a specific scene where I need to add in some stuff that goes along with the fix I made several chapters back. Then at chapter 17 stuff gets kind of messy. I have several scenes written that went in one direction before I doubled back to 17 and took off in another. We’ll see if they eventually join up. I’m hoping. I really like them.

It boils down to just needing to make sure I actually get the time in that I want to spend on the book today. That has been my biggest issue the last few days, not writing too slowly. (Just a little of that. :D) Mostly it’s just a factor of time. I need to get started, stay focused on it, and do that for most of the day.

I really believe I can do it. The only thing stopping me is me.

Too bad I’m not still drinking coffee. It’d come in really handy right about now.