Weekly Digest, Episode 5

Familiar Lies. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1/24: 1,219 words
  • 1/25: 1,667 words
  • 1/26: 1,214 words
  • 1/27: 1,140 words
  • 1/28: 1,104 words
  • 1/29: 458 words
  • 1/30: 1,357 words
  • Total new words: 8,159

Sunday’s word counts aren’t included here (my weeks “start” on Sunday), but I only wrote enough to keep my streak going (maybe 150 words). Instead, I spent nearly nine hours revising Out of the Badlands so that I could get it out the door and off to my editor.

There’s a lesson here (for me, at least) and that is to not put revisions off until the last minute. My days of making eight or ten passes over a manuscript are behind me, but I still need to do at least one proofreading pass to find typos and make sure what I meant to say is actually what I said. Copy editing, by definition.

These days I do it as I go (something Dean Wesley Smith calls cycling). I’ve mentioned it already, but it bears repeating. Before I start writing for the day, I go back over and proofread what I wrote the day before. Then I get back to writing new words. This eliminates the need to do one massive pass over the entire manuscript after it’s complete.

Well, I have three manuscripts sitting around that haven’t had anything resembling a second pass, so I have my work cut out for me.

I hate revising manuscripts, so I put it off for Out of the Badlands. That bit me in the ass because I had to cram to get it done. Not a good way to do things.

That said, the book is out the door and with my editor, so I don’t have it looming over my head anymore. My other two manuscripts won’t go to the editor for another couple of months, so I’ll have time to proofread those along the way. One bite at a time, like eating an elephant.

With Out of the Badlands out of the way, I can focus again on my current novel. Familiar Lies is coming along nicely. So well, in fact, that I might actually publish it next, before the other books I have currently waiting in the wings. We’ll see.

Twelve Days Into Familiar Lies

I thought it might be effective to show the progress on this novel, mostly to illustrate how an hour a day of consistent work adds up:

 

I’m twelve days in and writing at a respectable but not astonishing pace. Not even two weeks and I’m already 20% into this 75,000 word novel (around 60 pages).

I’m on schedule to finish this one probably mid-March and with my proofread-as-you-go approach, I won’t have any tedious rewriting left on it when the book is finished. I wish I’d started this rewriting approach sooner than halfway through the last novel. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

By the way, this godsend of a technique is due in no small part to this article by Dean Wesley Smith. And a nod to Lawrence Block, who also does it this way.

And now I’m off to watch the new X-Files before bed. 🙂

 

Weekly Digest, Episode 4

Another good week with a lot of progress. As of Saturday I found myself nine days into the new novel, Familiar Lies, and having more fun writing this book than I thought I could have without an outline. I don’t know what Max’s son may or may not have done, I don’t know what’s going to happen next and I surely don’t know how it’s going to end.

And that’s okay.

As I write my tenth novel, I’m starting to feel a confidence level that I haven’t before had. I’m trusting the process and trusting that my subconscious will cook up what I need as I go. I’m familiar enough with good story structure these days to know if the book is going off the rails or not and my style is settling into patterns with which I’m comfortable.

In other words, I think I’m getting the hang of it.

As for the past week, here’s the word count breakdown of January 17th through January 23:

  • Sun: 1,368
  • Mon: 1,668
  • Tue: 811
  • Wed: 1,427
  • Thu: 1,343
  • Fri: 905
  • Sat: 1,350

Total: 8,872 words

On Tuesday I only managed one sprint, so that 811 number is actually a pretty good pace. Friday was exactly the opposite; two sprints netted me only 905 words. That happens.

Averaging it out, I hit 1,267 words per day, a number I’m noticing more often than not these days in my spreadsheet. I think I’m slowing down because I’m being more deliberate with what I put on the page. I’m much more concerned with getting it right the first time now, even if that’s slower. Outside of circling back the next day and giving what I just wrote a quick proofread, I won’t rewrite those words again. This is changing my pace, but ultimately since I’m not rewriting things to death I’m spending less time overall. A net gain in time and I don’t have to suffer through rewriting (which is the worst).

I’m 69 days without a miss as of today, including up through this morning. Writing every day has had a tremendous impact on me, keeping me in the story, allowing the words to accumulate at a pace I’ve never before seen and it has created a habit that I can hardly consider breaking now.

And writing is more fun than ever.

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Purple basically on infinite repeat since it came out in December.

This one really nailed it for me, taking me from casual listener to super fan. What’s even better is that I’ve gone back and listened to the older albums with a new ear and realized how spectacular they all are.

The second half of my weird western novel was written almost exclusively while listening to Purple. Each morning at 4:30 a.m. I’d wake up, put on this album and fire up the word factory.

Good times…

So if you’re into eclectic, original rock n’ roll check these guys out.

Weekly Digest, Episode 3

Looks like I forgot to do last week’s update. It just never registered at all on my radar for some reason. I’ll have to set up a weekly reminder for the future, I suppose. For now, I’ll just cover the last two weeks in this update. Maybe I should take out the “weekly” part of the title, should I forget again. 🙂

Here are the totals for the last two weeks:

  • 1/3 – 1/9: 9,195 words
  • 1/10 – 1/16: 8,510 words

My unbroken streak continues; 60 days without a miss as of yesterday. I also finished up the weird western book and I suppose I’m sticking with the working title: The Saint, the Sinner and the Coward.

It’s worth mentioning that I can now see why so many people advocate writing every day. Even though it’s only an hour a day that I spend on it, I’m so much more engaged and plugged into the stories I’m writing by spending a little time each day with them. And I’m getting much better at the craft by doing it every day. I suppose it’s a form of immersion, similar to what folks do when they want to learn a foreign language.

In other news, I started a new novel a few days ago, as I mentioned here on the blog. I’m looking forward to it.

As for the sprinting technique, I’ve been doing it for more than five months now. It seems so long that it no longer bears repeating. I’m confident enough to say that I’ve developed the habit and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I suppose a major life event could derail me, but barring something of that nature I’m committed and plan to be for the foreseeable future.

I now have four novels in the can, waiting for copy edits. I’ll be sending over Badlands #3 to my editor by the end of this month, after which I’ll send her my Mothman novel in February. That’ll get two of them out of limbo, leaving only the extra Badlands novel and the weird western in need of edits. After that, I think I can maintain a regular release cycle of every other month. That would be ideal and would allow me my goal of publishing six books this year. And I’m super excited about that.

Now it’s back to work for me. I still have two sprints to get in today to meet my quota (and a pizza to get into my belly).

 

Weekly Digest, Episode 2

The week was good. It started off right with The Hateful Eight, the new Quentin Tarantino film. I won’t go into a review or spoilers here, but I’m again impressed by his use of dialogue and his ability to keep me invested in the story and the characters. I learned a lot from it (and was entertained). A win-win.

The week started with me missing one writing sprint, so only 30 minutes of writing on Sunday. But I wrote 800 words, which wasn’t a bad clip. Sunday was the only day this week that I did less than two sprints per day. I took vacation from my day job, so I had a long weekend. Nice, but it got me out of my routine and a few of those days it was touch and go with getting both sprints in. But I did, even with New Year’s Eve and all that. Getting them early makes a big difference.

I won’t break it down by day to keep from boring you, but total words written last week hit 8,734. That’s an average of around 1,250 per day. Progress was a little slow since I got bogged down in the story for a while.

Let’s talk about that for a bit. Everybody gets bogged down at some point; some detail about your story isn’t working, some plot line isn’t tying out or you hit a brick wall in terms of the dreaded question: What Happens Next?

It happens. The solution? Write through it.

I know that sounds like I’m being flippant, but I’m not. When I get stuck I sometimes take a short break. I get up and walk around or listen to music. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I watch TV. The key is that it’s only a short break. I can’t keep up production if I’m constantly fretting about how my critical voice is reminding me that I’m not a special snowflake. I can’t worry that my prose doesn’t sing like McCarthy or my characters don’t engage like Tarantino’s or my story doesn’t seem real as real as Stephen King’s. That’s self-doubt coming through. Critical voice. As Dean Wesley Smith says, critical voice is there to stop you. That’s its job.

After I’ve taken a few minutes away, I sit down and start typing again. Sometimes it’s sloooooow, but eventually it picks up and I’m back on track again.

Or I could sit and fret and not produce a goddamn word. That gets me nowhere fast which, by my definition, is dumb. Nobody ever wrote anything by not writing.

Case in point: I’m working on a weird western novel right now. I got to a point in my pseudo-outline where something was supposed to happen a certain way. I had it all planned out and then I started to bog down and lose interest.

Eventually I remembered a cardinal rule of mine: if I’m getting bored then the reader is surely getting bored too.

So I scrapped the outline, hopped in the shower and got to thinking. I surprised my characters with something I didn’t see coming, hence they didn’t see it coming and–you guessed it–the reader shouldn’t see coming either. Suddenly the story was fun again and trucking along full speed.

As of today I’ve written for 47 days unbroken. Not a bad streak. Looks like my estimate for December’s totals was a little too high: I hit 37,634 words for the month, not the 39-40k I’d hoped for. Again, probably because I got bogged down there for a bit.

Estimates are this weird western novel will hit around 75k words, which means that I’m around 80% through it. That feels about right. That’ll put me finishing around mid-January. I don’t force a book to a particular word length; rather I forecast how long I think the story might be, which means it could change. Probably will.

Either way 2016 is off to a great start.

Resolutions

It ain’t gonna be any easier come Monday.

That said, I do look at the new year as a clean slate of sorts. More of a planning timeframe, if you will. An accounting period.

I wrote more than a quarter million words in 2015, with 75% of those words written between August and December. In other words, I fucked around for the first seven months of the year before figuring out how to be productive.

But that’s all good now because it’s given me a blueprint for the future. I write 1,500 words per day and at that rate I’m on track to write more than a half-million words by year end. Crazy to think one can do so much by working on it an hour a day. That’s why I always say that it’s about consistency and not speed.

The theme for 2016 is writing. Write better. Write often. Write more.

I’m not sure exactly what I’ll have completed by year end since I work on projects that suit my mood at the time. So when a book is done I consider what mood I’m in, pick an idea, and run with it until it’s complete. After that, I do it again.

What I write depends on the mood. That I write is predetermined.

I’m considering doing some short fiction and packaging it up in a collection for next year. I have an idea for six short stories, all unique but built from the same inciting event. That’s a short story every other month…pretty doable.

I’ll be publishing Badlands #3, my Mothman book and my weird western this year. Probably the next Yesterday In Black book too. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that sci-fi book I’ve been thinking about or a sequel to The Crossover Gene. It’s a blank slate, after all.

So check back later and I’ll keep you up to date. Sign up for my newsletter if you like; you get a free book after all. And don’t forget to buy my crap while you’re at it.

(Cross-posted from Return to Writing)

Weekly Digest, Episode 1

Well, look at that. Here’s the first weekly post. I’m one for one, right out of the gate. 🙂

Let’s talk about the last several months to get up to speed here. Here are my word counts, totaled by month, since I started Chris Fox’s “sprint” methodology (August is low because it’s not a full month; only 20 days):

  • August: 31,275
  • September: 46,523
  • October: 42,226
  • November: 42,597

December is sitting at nearly 34,000 words (I’ll probably hit 39-40k by end of month).

Let’s talk about this past week’s counts (12/20 – 12/26):

  • Sunday: 1,203 words, 2 sprints
  • Monday: 1,418 words, 2 sprints
  • Tuesday: 1,015 words, 2 sprints
  • Wednesday: 1,556 words, 2 sprints
  • Thursday: 1,485 words, 2 sprints
  • Friday: 751 words, 1 sprint
  • Saturday: 930 words, 2 sprints

Total: 8,358

Friday was Christmas, but I wrote. How did I do it? I only did one sprint instead of two (it was Christmas, after all), but 30 minutes is easy to fit in. My wife took a nap and the kids were busy playing with their new crap. I sat down for 30 minutes and worked, simple as that. Then I took the rest of the day off.

If you didn’t read my other posts about sprinting, here are the Cliff’s Notes: a sprint for me is thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time. I close the office doors, put on some music, figure out my next scene, set a timer and start writing. (In a later post I’ll go into more detail on what a typical day looks like for me, but for now this gets the point across.)

You can see some days I struggled with the words. Some days are harder than others. Just a fact of life. It doesn’t excuse me from putting in the time and hitting the quota.

See, my quotas are sprint counts, not word counts. That’s critical to remember.

I set a quota of two sprints per day. Rarely do I ever miss. I gave myself a break on Christmas, for example, but I still wrote. I strive to write every day. I’m currently at 41 consecutive days without a miss, my longest streak  yet.

I used to set a quota of 1,000 words per day. Once I hit it, I’d quit it. That produced fewer words in the end. By setting quotas around sprints (duration) I don’t artificially limit myself to a word count.

I break my sprints into 30 minute intervals. That’s about the longest I prefer to sit and peck away at a scene or chapter. Yours could be longer or shorter. I get up in between, usually to take a shower and think about my next scene, then I sit back down and get sprint #2 finished. After that, I’m done for the day.

Why only two sprints per day, you ask? With my schedule that’s good for me. It keeps me productive while not burning me out. I tend to be a workaholic, so if I don’t put a cap on things I’ll burn too hot and too fast. Two sprints nets me an average of 1,500 words per day. That consistency is key, but that’s a topic for another post.

How did you do last week? If you wrote more than 8,000 words then congrats, you’re better than I am. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you wrote a thousand or so. Less? Maybe you didn’t write at all.

But…but…the holidays…family…work…responsibilities…porn…[insert excuse here].

That’s okay, let it go. The past is gone, so focus on the future. Remember, your future starts tomorrow; not next year, not next month. Tomorrow. Hell, today if you like.

Regardless of when you start it, your future should not include excuses. We’ll talk about that later too.

I’ll be back next week with more rambling, word counts and random crap. Until then, if you read, keep reading. If you write, keep writing and reading.

(Cross-posted from Return to Writing)