1Q19 Update

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The first quarter of the new year is done, so it’s time to check on the ole productivity.

  • Words written = 11,070
  • Submissions = 26
  • Rejections = 32
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0

Not terrible, but not great. A fourth of my 2019 word goal of 60,000 would be 15,000. I fell short of that one, but I did better than I thought. I found it difficult to write this quarter.  Free time was not abundant, and when I had it, I felt unmotivated to write. I even had two business trips–my favorite writing opportunities–and still got very little writing done.

So what did get done? About 4000 of those words were the result of flash fiction stories. I finished three of roughly 1000 words and then another four that were some amount less than that. In addition, I added a little to the WIP novel (1600 words) and about 450 words to various existing stories I edited before sending out again. I also wrote the first 600 words in a story I’m collaborating on with a fellow novice speculative fiction writer.  I hope to have the opportunity to keep adding to the word total in that work.

The largest chunk of writing went toward finishing my long suffering novella. That was another 4200 words. I am pleased to report that project is now done! Well, the first draft is done. This was a weird one. Most of the novella is in final form already having finished it last summer. However, the consistent critique from my beta readers was it lacked a proper ending. So that’s what I’ve worked on adding intermittently for the last six months. I’ll have to see what my beta readers think now.

My goal was to finish the novella and then break it up into its three component short stories. That way I could include all three stories in the short story collection contest I plan on submitting to by the April 15th deadline. The rules for that contest limit any one story to 15,000 words. The problem is, even with breaking the novella into three stories, the third story now clocks in at 16,200 words. Whoops! Don’t worry, I have plenty of other stories to include in the collection. Besides, the newly written part needs editing anyway before it’s ready for submission.

I also was disappointed not to have an acceptance this quarter. Admittedly, I didn’t maximize my chances, having taken several stories out of circulation, so they’d be available to include in the contest collection. Still, I’d really like to get to where I’m receiving at least one acceptance a quarter. Those are huge motivators.

I did have one publication in Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters. Buy the issue here!  It’s a noir detective story with a sci-fi twist.

So that’s it. How’d your first quarter go? Let me know if the comments if you had any triumphs or failures.

Where to stop?

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I previously posted about different takes on when a writer stops writing for the day (or night).  Some writers keep going until meeting a specific word goal. Others try to finish a chapter or short story. Still others set a time limit and stop when the counter reaches zero.

For those that write toward a word goal or for a set time, I came across an interesting debate. Where do you stop when you reach the word goal or time limit? Do you finish the page? Do you finish the paragraph? Do you even finish the sentence?

Common sense seems to advocate at least finishing the sentence–if not paragraph–the writer is on when reaching his or her self-imposed limit. What if you forget the idea you’re working on? What if you can’t replicate the writing grove you’re in the next time?

I certainly followed this line of reasoning. When I had more time to write, my goal for a writing session was to finish a scene. If I finished that scene before my writing time ran out, I’d usually still quit, enjoying the sense of accomplishment and the unexpected free time. I also dreaded getting in the grove of writing the next scene and having to stop midway.

As my time to write decreased, I had to settle for stopping at the appointed time. Even so, I would finish the paragraph I was on. Then I listed to an interview with speculative fiction author Tim Powers on the Reading and Writing Podcast. He writes each day to a specific word goal and stops when he reaches that goal, regardless of whether he is in the middle of paragraph or in the middle of a sentence. He argues it is easier and more exciting to resume writing when you have to dive back into the middle rather than starting at the beginning of something new.

I was skeptical but put this nugget in the back of my mind. Lately, as my writing time each day diminished further, I almost had no choice but to give it a shot. I first ended a couple evening writing sessions at the end of a sentence, no matter if it was the end of a paragraph. Then, I took the leap and ended in the middle of a sentence. It was a line of dialogue, and I simply stopped three words in. The next evening I picked it right back up with little hesitation.  And I didn’t hate it.

It worked so well, I’ve continued with this technique. Sometimes that last paragraph or sentence can take another 2, 5, or 10 minutes. I’m already under pressure to finish and get ready for bed, which can’t help the writing process. So now I stop. Period. Though admittedly, the stopping point is not necessarily a period.

If you haven’t already, I recommend giving this approach a try. If you have or when you do, let me know in the comments what you think. Did it work for you, or was it a catastrophe?

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?

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