July 8, 2018 Sunday writing

It’s 9:18 in the morning and I’m going to start today’s writing soon. I prefer to write every day, so Sunday is no day off for me. I’ve tried taking weekends off, but I just do not do well when I change up my routine. I’m much better at sticking to something if I don’t allow myself to ever skip a day.

My current philosophy: write every day!

So here I am, ready to write. I was trying to stick to 12–4 as my writing time, and I do plan to go back to that, but right now, I’m falling so far behind where I want to be with my current book in progress that I’m trying every day to start a little earlier than that.

The plan today: write in 60 minute sessions to limit breaks and distractions. I would like to write at least 4,000 words today but I’m not setting that as a goal. I’ll be satisfied if I just write as much as I can during the 6 sessions I have planned.

So really, my goal is to write for 6 hours today. And a subgoal of that is to focus on writing as fast as I can during those sessions.

9:22 – I’m going to grab breakfast, make coffee, feed the stray cat and her brood, and sit down to start my first timer. I hope this doesn’t take too long. I’d like to be writing before 10 am.

10:40 – I’m starting a little later than I wanted but the first timer session is ready to go!

I’ll probably do my updates in OneNote and post them here after the fact. I do happen to find the internet very distracting.

12:30 – Finished first session. 259 words.

12:51 – Ready to start session two. Try not to judge so hard and write more freely. The story isn’t going to fall apart if I have a little fun.

1:13 – I got distracted after all. I’m trying to find a new launcher for my phone and I spent a few minutes looking at those in Play and sending them to my phone. But I’m ignoring my phone for now and getting started with this second session instead.

3:32 – Stopped to pre-prep lunch/dinner and ended up working on my spreadsheets instead of finishing my second 60 minute session. I have 23 minutes left, but it looks like I won’t be getting back to it until after this meal.

Time is really getting away from me.

5:25 – I’m ready to get back to writing now. Time to finish that last 23 minutes, then start another session right away if I can.

6:02 – And there I went again. I spent some more time working on my spreadsheet, running various numbers. I think I’ve decided pretty definitively (sure sounds like it, huh?) that I’m going to try again to start averaging 2,000 words a day. Not just as an average though, but as a “more days than not” thing.

I have books I want to write, sooner rather than later, and I’m just not writing them as fast as I want to. I mean that. I want to write these books sooner than I’ll ever be able to write most of them if I don’t improve my daily average. Not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate an increase in income, but I really want to write these books and other books, and more books, and just… I want to be prolific as a writer. Don’t ask me why. I don’t really know, and even though I’ve thought of a thousand reasons why it might be, none of those reasons feel right to me. I just know I want to do this. I want to be prolific.

And there’s a reason 2,000 words a day feels prolific to me.

2,000 words a day gets me 730,000 words a year, and that’s 14 books of about 52,000 words each. Some could be shorter, some longer. The actual average for all my novels is 60,844 words. But even at 60,000 words for every book I were to write, 2,000 words a day would still allow me to write 12 books a year.

At 12 books a year, I would get through all the books I’d like to write in about 3 years.

That’s where I’d like to be.

2,000 words a day.

Now I’m going to have to make today the first of many 2,000 word days. Anything less will be a joke on me. :)

6:14 – Time to finish that second hour long session.

6:54 – Finished session two, finally. 332 words. 591 words total.

7:11 – Ready to start session three. But first, a quick game of solitaire.

7:18 – I won! Okay, time to get busy now. I’m really going to try to write more words this time. I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going for at least 1,000 words in this hour. It’ll be a freaking miracle if I reach it, but I want to try.

8:16 – A few small interruptions mean I have 10 minutes left on the timer even though it’s been an hour since I started this session. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating. It felt like I didn’t have a choice but to take a quick break. It’s also obvious that I’m going to come up far short of the 1,000 words I wanted for this session. However, at least I’ve been writing and I do have some words to show for it—and some forward progress in the story. Ugh. I need to get back to those 10 minutes. Okay, okay. I’m going.

10:55 – I did not get back to those 10 minutes. Honestly, I’m just going to have to remember today tomorrow, and try not to make the same mistakes. I started a little too late, I didn’t stay focused and ended up sitting at the computer much too long doing unimportant things unrelated to writing, and that tired me out before I needed to be tired out.

Anyway, I’m calling today done. I added 1,053 words to my novel today.

Taking another run at “The End”

It’s the day after the day after Thanksgiving and I’m disappointed to say that I really didn’t get much done yesterday when it comes to writing.

I’m taking another run at “The End” today. The last time I tried, I was still using timers. Today, I’m not planning on using any timers. Can I stay focused without them? I actually don’t know, but it’s important to me that I try to learn how.

The plan for today is simple.

500 words minimum.

Finish the book.

First up, as soon as I hit publish on this, I’m putting my Word doc front and center.

Second, I’m going to use willpower and stay off the internet until the book is done.

Third, today is the day I start trying to write more. I really want to get my daily average above 1,000 in 2018. I’ve been trying for years to improve, but the numbers just keep getting worse. The less often I write, the harder writing feels. Gotta fight that the only way I know how. I have to write more. It starts with a 500 words a day minimum and an effort to always push for a little more.

Fourth, I can no longer care about the quality of my work. I have to focus on having fun writing stories. Typing fast. Finishing fast. I can’t let another book take this long to finish. Each of these are part of my effort to bury my inner critic. That critic is killing my desire to write fiction, and since writing fiction is how I want to keep making a living, the critic has to go.

How do I train myself to write freely? Not sure! But I have to try. Otherwise, I’m going to give up writing. I can’t keep going the way I have been. I remember when writing was FUN.

That truly is the worst part. Being able to remember the fun of it makes it impossible to accept that I just have to do it, whether it’s fun or not. Because I don’t. I can choose another job if this one loses its appeal.

But I don’t want to. I want to write. I just want it to be fun again.

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. :)

Read another book and learned something about writing

I didn’t write anything yesterday, after a really late start to the day, reading half a book, then going off to do stuff that has to be done when you’re running a household. But reading that book yesterday and today—which I really enjoyed, by the way—taught me something I know but seem unable to learn.

When writing, you have to allow yourself to write what comes naturally.

I keep trying to find a way to explain this but it’s not coming to me easily, even though I know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s about phrases and sentences and letting the words come the way they want to come and avoiding the urge to go back and fix them, when the truth is, they don’t need to be fixed.

I’m not talking about letting myself write sub-par prose because it’s good enough. This is nothing like that. I’m talking about writing good prose. Strong prose. Stuff that upon reading it creates vivid images in my mind, but that when I write it feels like bad writing. It’s not bad writing. That’s what I saw in this book. So many of the phrases I’ve taken to rewriting worked great just as they were in that book. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those phrases would have come—do come—naturally to me, but then I change them for reasons that I’ve only now realized are problematic at best. It’s me trying to force a style on the words, a style the words don’t need. I had started to feel like maybe this was what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure. But I can see it clearly now after reading something that reminded me a lot of my own natural writing style.

This—this thing I’ve just realized, maybe not for the first time, probably not for the last either—is the main reason why I can’t stop writing slowly: I can’t write what comes to me naturally and leave it alone.

It’s just another way perfectionism has slipped into my writing and slowed me down.

I spend too much time parsing every word I write and trying to control every phrasing, every sentence, every paragraph break. This makes writing hard, and is it any wonder I don’t want to do it when I’m fighting myself the entire time I’m trying to write a story? Writing isn’t fun when you can’t let go.

After a few days of reading, it’s so easy to see this problem in my writing. The sad thing is that I know to watch out for this kind of thing, this second-guessing of myself as I write, and yet I still haven’t learned not to do it.

But at least for today, for now, I feel a little more free than I did yesterday, and I’m hopeful today’s writing will come easier because of it.

Now, it’s 5:11 pm and I have 1,557 words to write, and I’m going to do it. I’m not looking back at what I didn’t accomplish yesterday, but moving forward toward what I can accomplish today.

One hour sessions, starting now. I’ll post updates below.


Updates

Session 1: 60 minutes, 367 words

I’m just going to say right off, and hope I’m not wrong, that the reason for the slow writing in this session was that I just didn’t (still don’t) know where this scene is going. I actually felt I was writing pretty fast for a while, and I wasn’t second-guessing myself, but then I kind of hit a wall and my brain wasn’t ready to tell me where to go next. I can hope I’m right about that, anyway. Also, I did straight up delete 115 words. Still, that only improves the numbers marginally. I’d have liked to have written about two times faster than I did.

Session 2: 77 minutes, 260 words

After that, I gave up for the night. This scene is just kicking my butt and I don’t even know why.

Word count: 644 (added a few more words after I stopped counting the time)

I’m frustrated, but I’m not really sure what else I can do to get past this other than practice and push on.

Forget speed

Here’s a thing I’m becoming convinced is real: I can’t write faster when I’m thinking about writing faster. I think for some people, it definitely works. I think for me, it definitely doesn’t.

On that note, today I’ll be focusing on writing and getting my sessions and leave the worry about speed in the dust. Have a feeling it’ll at least make writing more fun today. :)

Session two better than session one, so… incremental improvement?

Session two’s attempt has also failed.

I wrote 358 words (537 wph). I did improve over session one though, so there was some incremental improvement.

But—oh, and there is a but—not only did I not write faster than my average (600 wph), I wasted a bunch of writing time when a shiny video caught my eye on YouTube and I watched a bunch of videos about traveler’s notebooks (which I don’t even have nor do I want!). I haven’t been on YouTube before last night in months. So I have to ask myself: Why now? Am I really so desperate to avoid writing that I’ve turned to YouTube to sabotage myself?

Frankly, I’m a little off-kilter anyway because looking at my notebook, I see that I ended session one at 10:58, yet I didn’t end session two until 12:40. Where’d that extra hour go?

UGH. I have no idea!

My plan was to finish three sessions before lunch, but now I’m starving and it’s 2:32 so I’m going to go ahead and stop for a moment.

When I come back, I’m going to do sessions three to six.

And… this ended up being my last session. I just flaked out, no real explanation why I couldn’t bring myself to finish the day.

Didn’t get there in session one

Session one for the morning is over. I did not write as freely or constantly as wanted to. I hesitated a lot. I backspaced more than I’d hoped. I second-guessed myself many times.

I wrote 313 words (470 wph). That’s not even my average pace (600 wph), so I have to admit  session one’s attempt was a failure.

On to session two, after I stretch my legs.

Practicing writing faster in 40 minute intervals

*And was derailed by a kid emergency. I’ll have to save this one for tomorrow. Ugh! Nothing serious though. Well, nothing serious for ME. Kiddo sure thinks differently. :)*

Tonight I’m working in 40 minute sessions. I have quite a bit of writing I wanted to do today and somehow I put it off until now. I’ve completed three of what I wanted to be nine sessions today. Nine was a stretch I could have hit but definitely won’t after starting this late.

I’ll be lucky to finish six now. Probably won’t, to be honest, because staying up late and messing up my sleep rhythms again would be dumb.

I’d rather not do dumb things. :)

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about me trying to practice writing faster. First thing I need to do is write more and stop less.

Currently, I stop, backup, and start over A LOT. I need to stop that. Or at least cut back on it significantly.

So I’m going to try to write as constantly as I can during this next session (which is probably going to be my last of the night) and see where that gets me. It’ll be a challenge to be sure.

Here’s wishing myself success! You can wish me success too, if you’d like. I need all the encouragement I can get. ;)

(You’ll notice I’m specifically not saying “luck” up there. Time to stop cultivating that mindset, I think! There’s a post in that explanation but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.)

Training myself to write faster—step 1

Here’s the thing: I write fiction pretty damn slowly. My average pace is about 500 words per hour and it seems to be getting worse. You’d think after nearly 20 books that I’d be getting faster, not slower, but that’s not what seems to be happening.

Now maybe it’s just this one book. Maybe it’s just the last few stories I’ve chosen to write. But I don’t think so. These stories haven’t been the kind of stories that push me into new places as a writer. So the only thing I’m left with is the worry that perfectionism has gotten hold of me again, and that I’m having trouble recognizing it in the moment.

I came across an article today that expressed really well how I’ve been feeling: Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain”.

What I particularly liked about the article was that it helped me see that I’ve started holding back in my story. I’ve kind of felt it a few times in this book and another that I worked on a few weeks ago, but I thought, nah, I’m just having second thoughts…

But truly, it isn’t second thoughts so much as fear. Honest to God, flat-out fear that a particular angle I’d taken on something in the book might offend someone.

I really need to think about that for a while, because that’s not the kind of writer I want to be and I’ve always told myself I don’t let other people in my head when I write. Turns out it might not be true.

Here’s the quote that gave me this realization:

Many writers hold back emotionally when writing. Why? They aren’t going fast and hard and so Spock takes over and he wants us to use a seatbelt and our blinkers. He isn’t the guy you want in charge if you’re going for the GUTS and breaking bones.

And another:

Spock Brain is a perfectionist and wants us to take our time, make sure we follow all the rules and put the commas in the right spot. He’s seriously uncomfortable with “suspending disbelief” and he tries to explain everything so others don’t get confused.

It probably helped enormously that I’m a die-hard Star Trek fan, and I’m particularly obsessed with ST:AOS and ST:TOS right now. So this article kind of hit me at the right time with the right message using the right metaphor. ;)

However or whyever—that article gave me something to mull over.

And that brings me to this: I’m going to start trying to train myself to write faster.

Step 1: Accept that I want to write faster and believe that it’s possible.

I know I can write faster if I just let myself.

It’s time to put Spock to bed for a while. I’ll just put Bones in there to keep him company while I use Kirk to get this book of mine moving again. ;)

4:52 pm and a 2,800 word goal

Today started off well enough. I finished organizing (cleaning out) my music directory. Doing that was a better use of my time than (re)organizing my email again, but that’s not possible any more because sometime last month I deleted all my email. I saved a few particular pieces of interest to a few relevant folders and I absolutely did delete thousands of emails. They’ll never be seen again. I kept only one backup, stored in an inaccessible location, with the intent to delete it at year’s end. I don’t doubt that I will too.

But that’s all beside the point. The point is that I need to write some real words today and I’m really getting tired of failing.

So I’m not going to fail anymore.

Missing a goal once in a while is no big deal and doesn’t feel anything like failure. Missing a goal every single time is not a good thing. There are repercussions to that kind of repetitive failure. I’m done with that. I just can’t be that person, that kind of writer, any longer.

So, despite the fact that it is now 4:59 pm, I’m going to sit my ass down and I’m going to write 2,800 words this evening.

To make it easy, I’m going to break it down into 21 minute sessions. I’ll do as many as it takes, but I’m planning for 10.

During at least one of those sessions, I want to reach the best word count per hour I’ve ever reached, and I’m going to reach it by having fun with this damn book. I love the characters. There’s no reason it should be so damn hard to have fun.

Now, I’m going to go trim my fingernails so I can get my first session started.

Session # Cumulative Words WPH
1 29 82.85714
2 54 77.14286
3 72 68.57143
4 82 58.57143
5 142 81.14286
6 251 119.5238
7 285 116.3265
8 0
9 0
10 0

Okay, so I’m calling it a night. It’s 12:29 am and I’m disappointed at my speeds tonight. I spent a lot of time redoing a chapter but I’m glad I did it, because I like what I’ve got now better than what I had.

I’m 3 sessions short of the 10 I wanted to do. I’m also short a ton of words. On the other hand, I totally don’t feel like a failure, because I literally did the best I could tonight. I took short breaks when I had to, and I focused hard when I wrote. I just can’t always predict what kind of writing day I’m going to have. This was one of those days.

So all in all, I’m satisfied. But one thing for sure: I’m going to do better tomorrow, because I’m going to start a lot earlier and I’m going to put in the extra sessions if I come up short on word counts like I did this evening.

But 12:33 pm is too late to keep going if I want to get some sleep tonight. The one thing I can count on is waking up at 7 in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. I need to go to bed before it gets any later.

See you here again tomorrow.