Word Count Update #4: But I Don’t Want To Write Today!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack again?  Seriously, are y’all still reading this?  All right.  Let’s muck about in my brain and get our feet dirty.

  • Day twenty-two.  A crazy day at the day job paired with trying to get the blog out sucked up my day.  Re-edited #2 a thousand times, took 42 photos to get a few decent shots, re-edited a couple of thousands times more, then took a deep breath and hit “publish.”  It made me sick to my stomach, but I kept going with my day.  I call this day a Failure on word count, but an author win!
  • Day twenty-three.  Wrote a blog about the Bechdel-Wallace test with 560 words.  Word count goal WIN!  Had some fun conversations with other writers on Facebook.  I was reminded of a blog I wrote a year ago, about the merits of outlining.  A good day to be a writer.
  • Day twenty-four.   Wow, my motivation has completely left me.  I know I need to write something–ANYTHING–but can’t find the urge.  Not on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, articles I’ve saved…  I think we have a Fail.
  • Day twenty-five.  Urg.  Emotional stuff has me in the doldrums.  No motivation to write, unless it’s some super-secret-my-eyes-only journaling.  (Ended up venting about 600 words, so goal Win.  I figure it’s a form of communication, even if it’s only with myself.)
  • Day twenty-six.  A blog written about how cool my writing friends are.  Seriously, y’all rock!  Anyway, goal Win, with 502 words.
  • Day twenty-seven.  Urg.  Today’s chosen blog topic only netted 321 words, so I’m short and too tired to think of another.  I may have done enough additional writing on some of the other blogs, but it’s too hard to count words during revision.  Technically it’s a goal Fail, but only in the strictest sense.  I definitely wrote today.
  • Day twenty-eight.  Caring for an elderly and failing pet has left me without anything in my head but worry.  No writing.  Fail.

Officially it’s three wins to four fails, but two of those fails were only technical.  In essence I spent five days of this week feeling like a writer, and that feels pretty damn good.

For the month that is ten wins and eighteen fails, but on a lot of those fail days I was still making progress. I also have a nice stable of blogs to post once they get some revision.  My motivation is now good, and taking the time to write is becoming easier.    I’m hoping to do better in the next few weeks.  If you missed the purpose of this little experiment here’s the original post, and updates #1, #2, #3.

Committing to writing isn’t easy.  Successful writers are the ones who don’t quit forever.  You may stumble, or stop completely for a while, but if the words keep pushing their way out, try to give them an outlet.  Give yourself permission to tell your stories; you are the only one who can.

If you are one of my writing friends who doesn’t have this particular problem I’ll try to start posting more interesting content.  Meanwhile, give yourself a nice pat on the back, have a treat, and keep an eye out for the rest of us to catch up.  (It is so hard to not say something really, really snarky to y’all.  Bless your hearts.)

I didn’t plan on extending this update series past week #4, but I hope it gave you a chance to snicker at a writer in “action”.  Frankly, it’s going to be more of the same slog; good days, bad days, and in-between days.  I don’t think I can keep these updates going without it sounding like incessant whining about being a writer, and that’s not fair because I do love it.  I’ll keep track of my goal, but I may not post updates.

Happy writing!

Word Count Update #3: Daily Writing Sucks!

Back again, exposing my shortcomings for your amusement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  (My daughter, too shy to draw a monkey for last week, decided to help this week.)

  • Day fifteen.  Still considering picking up one of the rough drafts to give me something daily to sit down and work on.  Don’t want to use my most productive time for the day job, but mornings are so much better for writing, too.  Evenings are just not happening. No word count, so fail.  Published #1 of the updates, despite nausea at the idea of people reading it.
  • Day sixteen.  Why can’t I just sit my ass down and write?  Surely there is a half hour somewhere that isn’t filled with job/household/family obligations?  I’ve had this!  I’ve done this!  I want this!  Why can’t I do it again!!!!!  FAIL!!!!!
  • Day seventeen.  Ok, calm down.  One, you are adding something difficult to an already full life, it’s going to take some time to adjust.  Two, publishing is still a long shot, so there isn’t anything to help you feel the writing will pay off–eventually–except self-belief.  It may be delusional to believe in yourself, but most writers are, so you are right on track.  Anyway, word count fail.
  • Day eighteen.  Spent some time putting longhand blog ideas into my drafts files.  It’s technically re-writes, but at this point I’ll take it.  As the old writer adage says, you can’t expect water without turning on the tap.  Word count at 526, so that’s a win.
  • Day nineteen.  Job, family time, and general life stuff was like a tidal wave.  No word count.  Fail.
  • Day twenty.  Typed up some random thoughts from my blog idea notebook totaling 608 word count for the day, so that’s a win.
  • Day twenty-one.  More random thoughts turned into blogs, one is a list of things I’ve learned about social media, the other about gladiatorial slugs.  Word count 700, so winner, winner, chicken dinner!  I can’t really imagine publishing them, but that’s not really the purpose of this goal.  Feels good to be putting words into strings that somewhat make sense.  Yay, Me!

Ok, there is some strange and random thoughts recorded here, but you are just getting the thoughts that are directly related to the daily writing goal.  (My blog, my rules.)  Any way, if you are keeping score, that’s three wins to four fails, so some progress is being made.  Starting a daily writing goal SUCKS!  (And here would have been another good place for the bendy straw pic.  Oops!  I’ll get to it.)

I actually felt good at the end of the week that I seem to be hitting the goal when I can actually sit to write, but the hard part is carving that time out of my day.  And late evening writing (the last chance saloon of the writing highway) has started working for me instead of against me.

If you are wondering how this all started, or are interested in starting a daily writing goal, check out this post, and the #1, #2 and #4 updates.  (Didn’t you expect some self-promotion by now?  Don’t you like my blog?  My very amateurish photos?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy favorite bit.  “Nope.”   Thank you, Sweetpea.

Word Count Update #2: Dance, Monkey, Dance!

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So, I guess I’ll continue this series for a bit.  I hope it is helping someone, and not just me dancing for the like button.  Dance, monkey!  Dance for the likes!

  • Day eight.  Rounded out miscellaneous blog posts for about 146 words, and posted the original Word Count Rant.  No other writing.  This is frustrating.  Can’t seem to find the groove.  Embrace the stink of failure. 
  • Day nine.  Stupid comments on Facebook and Twitter is all I seem to write.  Writing IS a pit of despair.  Maybe 40 words.  Another day of failure.
  • Day ten.  Tried to write a post about women warriors, but my blog rants are rambling and non-sensible.  For fuck’s sake, I’m 49.  Surely I’ve figured out something about life by now. (You haven’t, and stop calling yourself Shirley.)  Still, it’s 604 words so I’ll count it as a goal win since I didn’t delete it right away.
  • Day eleven.  More snarky comments and pointless conversations while wasting time on Facebook.  Trying to help a new friend launch a Dyslexic writers group, but not many bites.  Re-read some of my WIP character bios, but can’t seem to force myself to start the next revision.  That’s fine, because I really want to recapture the freedom and joy of writing a first draft.  Revision is a slog, but you can’t get published until it’s ready!  Word count fail.
  • Day twelve.  Another rambling/ranting blog, this time about slurs, both gendered and racially motivated.  I just want to help people find a way to convince themselves to write, not become a ranting social troll.  Yes, I want to promote social justice, but honestly, humans can’t even agree on what is basic human rights.  Still, it’s 504 words, so I will win the goal today.  I’ll decide later if anything can be salvaged from it.  Mornings still seem to be the best for new writing, when my brain is fresh.
  • Day thirteen.  Maybe I should clean up and publish my rants.  According to my WordPress stats my most looked at post was the rant-y The Hidden Hero.  (Yes, that got turned into a shameless plug.  Bite me.)  But, jeez, there is sooooooo much random ranting on the internet these days.  To tired from family stuff to think of something to write other than catching up on this log.  Word count is 80.  Fail!
  • Day fourteen.  Maybe I am relying on passion too much for daily writing, and trying to rough draft things that just aren’t ready to be written.  Maybe a long project would work better, like taking one of the longhand novels and typing it up into a second draft would get me back into the habit of daily writing.  Anyway, another day of FAIL!

 

It’s not pretty folks.  Two days of Win, five of Fail.  Making the decision to write everyday is just the first step.  Don’t treat it like a New Years Resolution, and drop it the first day you screw up.

If this rambling post confused you, here is the daily word count post where I decided to encourage other writers to try it while pushing myself, and update #1.  (More shameless plugs!  Yay!) Here is update #3.

Meanwhile, I still haven’t caught up on months of email backlog, or checked out the new people who follow my blog (Hey, everybody!), posted reviews for a couple of books/stories (Sorry Sarah, Alice, Matt and Joe!), or done the beta read of the two new chapters for an incredibly patient writing friend (Sorry, Orlando!), but I’m trying, and that’s all anybody can ask.

And, yes, I know that’s a Chimchar, not a monkey.  Work with me, people!  Sheesh!

Word Count Update #1: This is Normal…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a follow-up on last week’s post, here is week one of my word count goal of 500 words per day.  I chose this number because I thought it would not be too hard since I spent over a year with a 2,500 goal (a couple of years ago), but it’s high enough you must set aside some time or fail to meet it.  I’ve decided to post a log so people new to daily writing can see that this is a fluid goal.  Be flexible and bendy.  Be the bendy straw!  Or a plant that doesn’t need a garden, just a bit of dirt in a crack of a path. Do me a favor and be more like that plant, because I don’t have a picture of a bendy straw and don’t feel like taking one before I post this.

  • Day one.  Exceeded goal while writing a blog!  Win!  Didn’t publish it because it needs revision.  (Why am I using “should” and “need” and “must” in advice meant as helpful?  That is the way to send writers skulking off to social media instead of starting a daily writing goal.)
  • Day two.  Couldn’t write during day job, can’t ignore family, and realized I hadn’t written anything by the end of the day.  Oops!  Completely failed to reach goal.  Spent an hour on revision before bed.  (Still something wrong with the blog post.)
  • Day three.  Figured out Blog post, revised it, but had Wi-Fi trouble and didn’t post it. Kept sitting down to write, but family interrupted each time.  (None of us are used to this, yet.)  Failed to reach goal, but had some word count progress during revision.
  • Day four.  Hand wrote a page of revision ideas and scenes for novel-in-progress (about 140 words). Had an idea on posting a “difficulties of starting a word count goal” type article and started writing it at lunch break. (229 words).  Took another look at blog post, and decided to wait to post it. (Why?)  Failed goal by 131 words, but still vaguely please with progress
  • Day five.  Having second thoughts of usefulness of Word Count Update post.  Could it really help anyone or simply make me look like a fool.  (Uncomfortably aware that people may read what I am typing right this second…  Decide I can fix it in editing.) Added 60-ish words to this post, but did no other writing.  Work and family time left me too dysfunctional for anything but social media browsing.  Ignored the blog post.  Hard fail on word count goal.  <shrug>
  • Day six.  Revised verb tenses on original Word Count blog, but still not happy.  Dug into notes for a new blog post about vampires, to save as backup for when I’m back to posting regularly.  (Also hiding in the world of words from crappy life stuff.)  Word count for the day is 574.  Win!
  • Day seven.  Nothing written today except this entry. Life crap is at a new low.  Word count fail. I suck.

For the week that gives me two days of meeting the goal, three of failure, and two of some progress.  That is more than two days worth of writing that pushes me toward being a better writer that I didn’t have before.  I am pleased, even with the failures.  They show me where I need to work to get daily writing back into my life.  Don’t be afraid of your failures. Use them.

Also, you are a writer.  You don’t fear words–even words like failure–you command them. 

If you found some use for this, either as inspiration or just amusement, click the like button here or on Facebook, and I’ll continue the series.  Here is update #2.

Need A Kick In The Writing Pants?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you have trouble finding the motivation to write everyday?  A lot of people do.  Life happens; jobs, family, chores, pets, social media, books, movies, chocolate…  (Mmmmm, chocolate.)  My point is, writing every day can be a hard habit to cultivate.  You are doing homework for the rest of your life.

Homework as a hobby.  Let that thought sink in.

Ok, now that the sobbing has stopped, let’s figure out a way to make it relatively painless.  Writing is habit forming.  Unleashing that part of your brain on a regular basis can be not just habit forming, but also pleasurable.  I’m not going to compare it to drugs.  Maybe it’s closer to a good exercise or meditation high.  Anyway, there is an event coming that may help you develop the habit.

If you have been trying to write for more than a year and have not heard about NaNoWriMo, you really should get out from under the rock once in a while.  Take a walk through their website, or, if you prefer, “Google it.”

The premise is simple. Write a novel in a month.

The devil is in the details, and there are plenty of them.  I’ll hit the highlights as I understand them.  Write 50,000 words between Nov 1st and 30th.  That averages to 1,667 words a day.  There a tons of rules to follow if you want to officially “Win” the event, and you get a whole community of support online. It also is during the start of the Holiday season.  (Seriously, why during November?)  The percentage of participants finishing out the months is only about 20%, which is not too surprising, considering the high word count expected each day.  That’s getting close to full-time writer word counts. Even assuming you are really just writing a crappy first draft,  that’s a lot of words if you haven’t gotten that far in your writing.

There are also lots of writers who just write alongside the event.  They do the word count, but it’s to work on an existing project.  Or they write poetry, so they try to write one a day.  You could try that with limericks, too, if your writing leaned that way.  Some try a 500 word count, or 1,000. Some people know they simply can’t produce that word count, but they set aside a specific time a day to apply butt to chair and write.  Or they just carry the project with them , everywhere they go, using spare moments to write.

I spent a year and a half with a word count goal that high.  Five handwritten pages would average me 1700 words a day.  It took a couple of months to hit that consistently.  I learned to shrug off the one or two page days, then chuckle gleefully when I’d have some ten page days.  Some days it was on a completely different project than the one I was trying to finish, but I took those days, writing everything down into a different notebook, and thankful for the inspiration.

I still write rough drafts this way, pen to paper.  I find it soothing to the persnickety parts of the brain, letting the ideas play in the mud.  No red spellcheck line yelling at me, or the blue what-the-crap-is-wrong-now lines.   I’m able to cross out, and jumble together, or leave arrows, asterisks. and alternate words anywhere I damn well please.

My brain was a different shape by the time I finished that project.  The self-imposed cooling off period, while I wrote whatever came into my head and got set up with a newer laptop to type up the second draft,  was filled with a strange euphoria.  I had finished a project.  Something some writers struggle with their whole lives.  No matter what, I had that.  A properly finished pile of crap.  My crap.  My own crap that I would figure out how to fix.  (It’s called revision and editing in more polite groups.)

My point is, you won’t be ready to publish Dec 1st.  You will still have a lot of work to do, but if you spend that month developing that writing habit, don’t stop when it’s over.  Continue it.  Embrace it.  You don’t have to “Win” or officially finish, but you might find those spaces in your brain and schedule that are built just for writing.  And if you are a writer looking for those spaces, it’s pretty damn wonderful.

The sublime feeling of finishing a project never gets old, and sustained word count is an experience not to be missed.  Both are worth working toward, and I spend a fair amount of daily thought on how to get myself back to that place.  I want you to have those feelings, too.  So give yourself permission to write, whether it’s by joining the ranks of NaNoWriMo or a more solitary  program.  Give yourself permission to have bad days, then forgive and move on.  You can do it.

Happy Writing!

Grammar is Hard, and That’s No Joke!

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A writer attempts to take a picture of a book page.

Grammar is hard.  It’s not brain surgery, or rocket science, but it only seems to comfortably fit inside certain shapes of heads.

I do not have the right head shape for grammar.

Take the above list.  It is found in “My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me?” by Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines (The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY 2009).  This is not a book review because I am only on page thirty-seven.  It did, however, illustrate to me how my particular type of brain reads things.  Again.

I didn’t get the joke until number six.

The shame.

The embarrassment.

Four tingled my spider-sense.  Five waved a red flag.  But it was on number six that my brain made me stop reading for content and pay attention to the grammar.  “Wait, is this a joke?”  I started back at the top.  By number three I was grinning.  Eight, nine, and ten all made me laugh out loud.  (Luckily, I was alone.  Grammar books shouldn’t make you laugh!  Nerd!)

I’ve seen this phenomena described somewhere in all of the articles on writing and self publishing that I have read in the past year.  There are readers who never complain about mistakes because they are too deep in the content, and other readers who complain about every mistake (real or not) that you make.

I’ve gotten better.  Study has helped me become a more efficient writer, but there are still lots of things I can’t seem to hold in my memory.  Mnemonics and funny anecdotes only get me so far.  I still have to rely on the internal “sound” of a sentence, and that can really get you in trouble if you are too deep inside storyland.

Reading for pleasure–and as a beta–has highlighted this tendency.  If grammar and punctuation yank ME out of the story, the writer might need to take a reeeealy close look at their work.

I am a content reader.  As a writer, I will have to be militant with proofreading until I can afford a professional.  I will make a list of things to check for, culled from these grammar books, and reflecting my own blind spots.  The proofreading stage of my current work-in-progress will be later, since I am still in the content editing stage, but forewarned is forearmed.

If you have the same kinds of blind spots, keep an eye on this blog.  I will eventually get the grammar edition of my Low-Budget Writing Program published. Here is the first of the series.

The more you know…

The Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 4 When the Manuscript Goes in the Garbage…

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When the manuscript is going to the garbage can, what do you save?

I’ve been lucky enough to have writer friends who will loan me books they think will be helpful to me. It’s amazing how timely these incidents can be. My observations of synchronicity in my own life make me more aware when my instincts tell me to do things–random things–even when I don’t know why.  Even if I will never know why.

So, I am going to insert a passage from a book I’ve just read, and I’m not going to tell you who the author is, or what the title is, yet.  Just play along, as if it’s your manuscript…

On impulse, I held up her manuscript.  “Okay,” I said.  “We both know there’s a problem and we don’t know how to fix it.  Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m going to throw this manuscript into the garbage.”

She leaned forward in her seat, hands gripping the arms of her chair.  I dropped the manuscript onto the floor beside me.

“It’s gone.  Into the garbage.  You’re never going to be able to write it now.  You’ll never see the characters again.  I want you to think about that.”

I could feel her thinking.

“If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story, just one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?”

Did you come up with anything?  Instinctually, did you grab for something in your own WIP?  I sure did. Hold on to that thought.

The book I got that from?  “Writing Romance” (Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, WA 1997) by Vanessa Grant.  It’s written in the workbook style and full of helpful information, and I have found it far more useful than I thought I should.  Since it is nearly twenty years old some of the information is outdated because publishing and the internet has changed, but the Romance genre still has a lot of the same expectations.  Vanessa Grant has a soothing but insightful way of picking apart what makes a good, satisfying story.  She cautions, throughout her book, that anything not working for the entire story must be cut.  (My Sci-fi Romance has some issues I can’t afford to ignore.)

But tucked into that genre specific writing book was THAT little gem.  The Vanessa Grant Garbage Can Test.  Brilliant.   There is a formal exercise included in the book, but I found the narrative  of the original incident far more helpful.  Since my blog is geared for newer writers, like myself, I couldn’t help but pass on that little bit of insight.

WHY are you writing your particular story?  You need to know.  If you lose what is important to you, how can you hope to make it important to a reader?  Anything that doesn’t serve the core of the story will be cut out (and filed away for another story).

Anyway, my own copy of this book will go into the permanent collection of my after-the-rough-draft revision guides.  The rest of the books in that helpful collection are in this article, safely tucked next to the rescued manuscripts that took part in the above nerve-wracking photo shoot.

Back to my revisions.  Good luck with your own WIP.