Procrastination

1/24/19

Some call it writer’s block, but I just call it procrastination. It seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. The Writer’s Path recently had an interesting post about writers block, and The Green Room had a post about procrastination yesterday. Is it a winter thing? I’d think being stuck indoors would lead to more writing when compared to the distractions caused by nicer weather. Maybe my own experience is indicative of this phenomenon.

After getting 17,000 words down in my WIP novel for NaNoWriMo in November, I did very little in December. I sent the usual batch of submissions as rejections came in for the various short stories I have out, but I did next to no writing, especially in the WIP novel. I maybe added 1000 words there the entire month.

So what gives? Honestly, I felt a little burned out after writing every day for a month in November. I’d never done that before. I’ve read, and I believe it, that writing is like any other endurance activity. The more you do it, the more you build up your ability to do it. However, too much can still burn you out. I’m an avid runner, but I don’t run every day. I never have. I’ve never wanted to run so much I get sick of it or risk injury.

I opened the file for my novel in mid-January and saw I hadn’t worked on it since December 19, over three weeks at that point. I needed motivation. I’d continued to plot the storylines during my runs, but that hadn’t driven me to put anything on the screen yet.

On one of those runs, I came up with the idea for a flash fiction piece. I immediate hammered that story out in the hopes the process would reignite the fire. It was to no avail, though that piece turned out fine and will start making the submission rounds soon after a quick edit.

Then a snow day hit on a Sunday, the day I reserve for my long run. With a snow storm forecasted, I decided to move my run up to Saturday afternoon, thus freeing up my Sunday morning. I took advantage. While the family slept, I got up and wrote.

It still took me awhile to get back into the story. I had to reread the last chapter to remember where I was and to fix some things in that chapter. I only ended up with about 300 new words before the family got up, but it felt good to get those down. Now I’m feeling better about continuing. I’ve since added some more totally about another 1000 in the novel. At that rate I’ll finish in four years. I’ll reserve figuring out how to increase that productivity for a later post.

The longer I was away from the WIP, the more likely I was to stay away. I’d find any excuse to do something else rather than work on the novel, even if the distraction was writing related. While I think a short break was needed after NaNoWriMo, the break I took was too long. It just made things harder.

What has been your experience with burnout, procrastination, or writer’s block? Are they all the same for you, or do they manifest themselves differently? How did you combat them?

4Q18 and 2018 Review

1/3/19

The fourth quarter of 2018 is done, and below are my stats.

  • Words written = 19,369
  • Submissions = 34
  • Rejections = 27
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 1

You can read this quarter’s published piece for free at Page & Spine Fiction Showcase. As my wife pointed out, the magazine’s name is slightly ironic given that it’s an e-zine and given further that my piece is a nonfiction essay.

Going back to my numbers for 4Q18, they aren’t bad, at least for me. That’s the most words I’ve ever written in a quarter, but I’ve had more submissions and rejections before (in the 40s for both). I’ve never won an award though. That award was third place in the nonfiction category of the Virginia Writers Club’s 2018 Golden Nib contest. I’ve only written two nonfiction pieces, and both have either been published or won an award. I’m going to have to think about what that means a little more.

Here are my stats for all of 2018.

  • Words written = 60,269
  • Submissions = 127
  • Rejections = 107
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 1

Those 60,269 words break down as follows:

  • 16 completed short stories
  • 2 completed children’s picture book manuscripts
  • 2 completed nonfiction essays
  • 1 incomplete novella
  • 1 incomplete short story (drafted but not edited)
  • 1 incomplete novel

The 18,369 words I wrote in the novel during NaNoWriMo really helped the quarter and the year. I didn’t finish much else during the quarter, only one flash fiction story and one Drabble, an exactly one hundred word story. Both of those are already out making the submission rounds, so that’s something.

What should be my goals for the coming year? Last year I set a goal of 50,000 words. Based on the numbers above, I know I can achieve that plus 10,000 more. I’ll go with 60,000 words this year. Though I reached that in 2018, I’m a little concerned I won’t be as productive this year. My writing time decreased as 2018 progressed, except during November for NaNoWriMo, so I need to figure out how I can squeeze more writing time into the day.

I’d like to set a goal for the number of submissions and rejections, like Aeryn Rudel does over at Rejectomancy. I didn’t in 2018, mainly because I didn’t know it was a thing, but I reached his goals of 100 submissions and 100 rejections nonetheless. Now if only I could reach his number of acceptances (19)!

What the heck? Let’s go with 100 submissions and 100 rejections and see what I get at the end of 2019.

I know continuing to write the WIP novel will slow down both those numbers. No new stories reduces the pool that contributes to the submissions and rejections. I’m okay with that. I’d really like to finish the WIP in 2019, whether it turns out to be a novel or novella. I’d also like to finish the incomplete novella and short story and work on more children picture book manuscripts. None of those should be a problem.

Let me know in the comments what your writing goals are for 2019. A novel or two? A certain number of stories, submissions, or rejections? A few moments to yourself to figure out where that WIP needs to go?

Post #51 – Prologues and Epilogues

12/13/18

I’ve read conflicting views on whether a novel needs either or both a prologue and an epilogue.  One sci-fi author I’ve read says every one of his novels has a prologue.  Others say if the start to the story is strong enough, no prologue is necessary.  The same likely could be said about the need for an epilogue. If an ending is written well enough, there is no need.

ProWritingAid had a recent piece on Does Your Story Need an Epilogue? This piece laid out when it is advantageous to include an epilogue, such as there are loose story lines needing wrapping up or new elements are introduced (usually after a time jump) that set up the next book.

A prologue that stays with me until this day is that found at the start of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I hope the consensus is Martin’s writing is good enough to stand on its own without a prologue. Regardless, I think the prologue to A Game of Thrones is perfect. It not only sets up that book but the entire series. Does the book need the prologue in any way? Not really. It does introduce the ultimate villains, but Martin does that later just as well. I think the prologue is perfect because it sets the tone for everything that follows. I’ve always thought the tag line for the series should be: Everyone You Love Dies.

Being a short story author (until NaNoWriMo this year), I never needed a prologue or an epilogue. Then I started writing the first chapter in my novel. I had grand ideas for what to include and thought the chapter would run a couple thousand words. When I finished it, the chapter totaled 595 words; and it didn’t feel like a true chapter. It did feel like a prologue and a good one for introducing a central element of the novel. We’ll see how I feel about it once the first draft is done, but for now, my WIP has a prologue.

When I get to the end, I’ll let you know if there is an epilogue. I hear readers and publishers these days want a series, and an epilogue can help set up the next book. If need be, I have ideas for at least one more book in the universe of my WIP. I just need to finish the WIP to know whether I need an epilogue to bridge the gap. No pressure.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on prologues and epilogues. Always necessary? Story dependent? Or never in this lifetime or the next?

Photo credit: Ramdlon via Pixabay

Post #50 – 2018 NaNoWriMo Recap

12/6/18

Last week, I finished my first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t do too bad, for me. My grand total was 15,616 words written. That’s easily the most I’ve ever written in a month. The least amount of words I wrote in any one day was 110, and the most was 1249. I averaged 520 words a day.

I wrote something every day of the month. That was my biggest achievement. Though I didn’t even get to half of the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal, I’d never written every day for an entire month before.

I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into NaNoWriMo. I knew I wouldn’t make 50,000 words, but I didn’t have a feeling for what progress I could make. I’ve never tried to hammer out that many words on a single project. I’m still not sure I can, but I intend to keep trying. I plan to continue working on my novel, though not every day. It has a ways to go.

I enjoyed the sense of community created by the NaNoWriMo website and community, though I could have participated more. There were numerous write-ins in my area, not to mention the virtual ones online. My writers club even hosted a write-in, but otherwise my only involvement was watching my friend’s (Michelle McBeth) word count surpass, then double, then triple mine. Like me, she has two small distractions at home, so I’m impressed she found the time. She also has done this before, several times. This is her fifth novel. Congrats to her for winning NaNoWriMo 2018! Check out her work here and grab a copy of one of her novels.

At least with my 15,616 word total, I already reached my word goal for the fourth quarter. Everything else written in December will be gravy. That takes the pressure off, especially since I had a light October. I may even forgo trying to write for most of the month and focus more on reading. I’m feeling the need for a recharge. I always can use my morning runs to plot more scenes in the novel and then use the holidays to write when I may have more free time.

Let me know in the comments if you completed NaNoWriMo. If you didn’t, did you reach your goals? Do you plan to continue adding to your WIP?

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pickabay

Post #48 – Writing Every Day

11/22/18

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hopefully you are at home with family and friends either recovering from an early afternoon feast or about to dig in.  How’s that conversation with Uncle Ned going?  How many glasses deep are you into the cranberry prosecco?  (It’s available at my local Trader Joes’s, and it’s delicious.)  Has everyone fallen asleep watching the game?

If you at least answered “yes” to the last one, then this post is for you.  Now is the time to write.  Everything I read says to be a better writer you must write (and read, but who has time for both?).  I can’t recall the number of times I’ve read I should write every day.  There’s even recommendations on how to write every day.

I would like to write every day, but if I want to do anything else, that is not realistic.  For example, this month, for NaNoWriMo, I committed to writing every day.  So far I’ve succeeded but at a cost.  I’ve pretty much given up my morning work out.  I try to squeeze that in at lunch but am not always successful. I also usually don’t get enough sleep because I’m trying to get things done in the evening in order to wake and just write.

I’ve done the majority of my writing in the hour before my kids wake up. I usually complete about 400-500 words a day. It’s slow going but progress nonetheless. The problem is it’s progress at the expense of my health. While not working out and sleeping is fine for some, it’s not for me. Once NaNoWriMo is done, I plan to return to my usual routine.

So where does that leave me–going back to doing at least one writing related activity a night. Some nights that will be actual writing. Some nights that will be submitting stories to markets. Some nights it will be researching new markets for story submissions. Other nights it will be learning about the craft of writing. Oh and some nights I might read, as crazy as that sounds.

Current, the NaNoWriMo website says at my current pace I’ll complete 50,000 words by the first week of February. However, my goal is 80,000 to have a fighting chance at a marketable book. When I started this month, I thought I would finish all 80,000 words by February. Now I’m thinking I’ll be lucky if I finish by Summer 2019.

If I go back to my old routine, I no longer know what a manageable goal is. 11,000 words a month? That’d mean another six months. This year I’ve averaged a little more than that over each quarter, so 11,000 words a month may be aggressive. Plus I’d still like to work on new short stories and continue to submit those I’ve completed to various markets (and submit them elsewhere as the rejections roll in).

I still have over a month to figure out my 2019 writing goals. That’s plenty of time, right?

Let me know in the comments if you successfully write every day and what you give up to do so.

Photo credit: tigerlily713 via Pixabay