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.

It’s Not About The Word Count…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaily writing.  It’s a surprisingly controversial topic for writers, but only because the word “writer” applies to everyone who wants to use it, and that as it should be.  Writers are as varied as something with lots of… variety.  Like plants.  And pop up randomly, like…

Ok, it’s spring here!  How can you not be inspired by spring!  Sheesh!

Daily writing is just a way to attune your mind to use words effectively.  Establishing this habit was the way I learned to feel like a writer, and to make words my every thought. My point of view became different from before.  I began to think about the words my thoughts used.  Random conversations I heard become models of dialogue. While noticing a transient moment of natural beauty, I reached for words to preserve it, and then I could transmit the fleeting moment to another.  Life’s travesties and joys became plot points for me to harvest.  I was the observer of the universe, noting the contrasts of chaos and order, and how they exist side by side.  The entire spread of time and existence were my writing prompts.

The painter never learns to paint without learning the way of the brush.  And the paint.  And the canvas.  Or the mouse and pixel. One thing I am certain of, and it is Art Finds A Way.  Very much like nature.

We all have obstacles in our path, and some of us have obstacles the size of the world. Real, everyday life sucks out our creative drive, burning it up for a bit more energy to just survive.  But a lot of us–I suspect–have obstacles exactly the size of our egos.  If we want to write, we find those obstacles and name them.  Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being judged. Fear of sucking, despite our best effort.

I am asking you to put those fears aside and just write.  Write every day.  Find a way.  Ignore publishing for now.  Ignore peer review, and beta readers, and editing.  Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo. Don’t wait for the new laptop, or writing class, or whatever it is that is stopping you.  Form words into sentences and put them down on paper, or the screen, or the voice recording.  YOUR WORDS.

Give yourself an easy word count goal.  How long does it take to get down fifty words, or five hundred?  If time is limited, use that as your marker.  How many words can you put down in a fifteen minute break?  Can you do better tomorrow?

It’s just like anything else you have to learn.  You MUST practice, and if you don’t cheat yourself, you will get better.  Faster.  More coherent.  And when you figure out there is a missing technique you need, you research it and work to apply it.

Lots of people will tell you the word count doesn’t matter.  And they are right, the numbers don’t really matter.  It’s the effort behind the numbers that is the important bit.  Numbers are just a simple marker of effort expended.  Be proud of it.  Give yourself the gift of watching the goals being met and exceeded.  Pat yourself on the back, or have some chocolate.  Reward yourself.  Shrug off the awful days, the days you simply can’t meet your goals, and try again tomorrow.  Momentum is the key; keep moving forward.

And try to avoid sounding like a greeting card, or motivational poster, like I just did.  Not everything you write will bloom gloriously.  Just keep shoveling those words.  Spread them like manure.  Something will grow.

If you haven’t figured it out this is mostly a reminder for myself, since I am starting a daily word count goal, TODAY.  Updates on my progress start here.  I apologize for the wide distribution of a bit of random rambling, but I also hope it will find its way to those who are struggling. You are not alone.

Am I going to count this in my word count goal for the day?  You bet your sweet ass, I am.  Then I’m going for a walk.

Sometimes You Need A Writing Break

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve already taken several breaks from writing this blog but here comes another one.  Like a lot of people 2016 brought major changes for me, and 2017 is starting no differently.

I have enjoyed the learning process of writing a blog.  Trying to figure out how to write catchy titles with insightful content (hopefully without being unbearably long-winded)about my writing-to-publishing journey has been a real eye opener.  I understand a lot of things better; widgets, tags and links.  Promotion.  Social media.  Time management.  I’ve had moderate success sustaining weekly content, while also finding my personal hard line about adding more unnecessary and rambling opinions to the shit-storm of free content available on the internet.  (The only reason I am posting this notice is because I don’t want to keep dropping off the planet for my few followers.)

I’m moving.  Packing my life into easy to move boxes.  “Moving” is one of those layered words.  It’s a simple concept everyone knows, and a huge shift in everything that I consider normal in my life.  I’m moving to another state, into the home of my parent, bringing my family with me.  Squeezing two households together.  We all get along, much better than the horror stories of many families, but it’s still going to be a major adjustment.

There is a limit to my mental energy.  I’m guessing that my focus will be on my family for the next month or two.  Free time will probably be reading as escape.  Hopefully, I will be catching up on reading and reviewing the books I’ve picked up from other writers, along with the beta work I’ve promised.  Since I don’t have a current daily writing habit, I will not be starting one until things settle.  I’ll write when I have to, of course, since that’s not really something I can stop myself from doing.  I will also continue my research into how to be a better writer by digging into the wisdom of those who have gone before me.

So posts will be sporadic, at best, but that is better than multiple posts about how tired or frustrated I am.  I don’t want to spread more negativity; we had a bumper crop in 2016.  Good things may be shared, or funny/weird stuff,  along with the hope that this move will ultimately result in even more writing time.  In the meantime, Happy Writing, and I’ll see you on the other side!

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!

Write Every Day, Unless You Can’t

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI guess this is the other side of the coin for last week’s blog.  Some days you just can’t write.  Even full-time professional writers have days they can’t write, and those of us working toward that profession should expect those days, too.  Family events.  Medical emergencies.  Life-changing moments.  A new video game/movie/series/book drops and you just can’t wait to start it.  Or maybe even the lack of a basic comfort item–like toilet paper or coffee–forces you out of your personal hermit’s cave.

Or, maybe you just…can’t.

We both know the secret.  You are still writing.  You are drawing inspiration from your environment like reaching for dust motes in a patch of sunlight, and ideas are just as prevalent as those little floaty things.  Characters.  Scenes.  Body language.  Tension.  Emotions.  Plots.  Twists.  You even watch yourself.  Your reactions to things.  Your feelings.  Your feelings about your feelings.  It’s inescapable; your secret shame.  Even if you haven’t put a word to paper or screen in years, you are still crafting stories.

Just remember that there is a part of you that knows you should be writing.  It is giving you THAT look.  The one my cat is giving you.  Writer’s Cat is not impressed with your reasons and excuses.  Writer’s Cat wants to know when you are going to sit down and write.  Mostly she’s looking for lap-nap time, but Writer’s Cat also believes in you.

So, take care of things.  Take care of your people.  Forgive yourself for distractions and  procrastination.  Get yourself some breathing room, then sit down to write.

Writer’s Cat is waiting…

I Promise to Write Every Day

A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.
A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.

There is an article traveling through the Facebook writing pages about an author that wrote a book, quit the day job to write a second, then panicked when it didn’t happen.  She went back to  working day jobs, still unable to write, because…lots of reasons.  Why?  Because working two jobs sucks!

Writing–whether it is full-time or just during your lunch break– is a job.  A hard job, that you can’t leave behind when you go home for the day.  It’s in your head, ticking away, plotting, noticing characteristics of the people around you, keeping track of stories, watching TV with you, and playing with your dreams.  You can ignore it, stop writing for “reasons”, but it’s still there.  You can try to switch to another hobby.  (Good luck with that.)

Or you persevere.  You edit, revise, edit, submit, revise, submit, etc…  At some point you get accepted, or push that publish button yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are done.  That’s not the way an artist’s brain works.  We’ve all seen the warnings; the wise advice from prolific writers.  Don’t ignore the danger signs, like the author from that article did.

This is why you try to write every day, people!  Finished that manuscript?  Find another project the very next day.  Write anything.  Don’t lose that momentum.  Find the next thing you are excited to write.  Even if you type random words for days, even if everything is a steaming pile, keep going.  Carve time out of each day that you can.  Revise as much as you need, just don’t forget to play with fresh thoughts.  New thoughts.  Exciting thoughts. Scary thoughts.

Family crises?  Journal it.  Short of ideas?  Find daily prompts.  Sick of novel length?  Try flash fiction.  Can’t stick with it?  Try a writer’s group that will poke you.  Blog.  Tweet. Engage in pointless Facebook commentary.  Jot limericks on napkins.

Do I write every day?  No.  I suck at it.  I’ve fallen between projects, so I know exactly how hard it is to get up and get going again.  You have to forgive yourself, and push yourself harder.  Eventually the mind starts working again.  A couple of years back I did write every day, for a year and a half, so I know what it is like, and it was good.  Damn good.  I want it back.  I crave it.  Food, drink, air, & words.

Place your hand on whatever book you respect and say it with me.  “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Wait.  Wrong promise.  Let’s try that again.

“I promise to find a way to write every day.”

Find.  Write.  Every.  Day.

Do it for you.  You deserve it.